It seems as though every coach in the NFL will preach the importance of competition and that the best player will play regardless of outside factors such as a contract or draft status. In reality, this is rarely the case. When it comes to the quarterback position, it seems to be even less likely.
However, the Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be waging a truly open competition for the team’s starting quarterback job between 2011 first round pick Blaine Gabbert and journeyman backup Chad Henne. Gabbert and Henne have been splitting reps with the first-team offense throughout offseason workouts and are expected to continue doing so into training camp.
According to the Jaguars’ official website, Henne believes the competition isn’t just lip service.
“I think it’s a little more competition than last year,” Henne said. “They’re putting me in different spots, allowing me to get the ‘one’ reps and really allowing me to get involved with it. That’s what I’m excited about. My job is to get better from last year and to prove to the guys I can be the leader and quarterback of this offense.”
It’s a process Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley saw pay big dividends as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks last year. Seattle and head coach Pete Carroll had a three-way competition for the starting job between incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, free agent signing Matt Flynn and third-round rookie Russell Wilson.
Conventional wisdom would have made Flynn the starter from day one after signing a sizable deal with Seattle last offseason. Instead, Wilson was given an equal chance to compete for the job and proved to the coaching staff he was the best option as he led the team to the playoffs as a rookie. Conventional wisdom in Jacksonville would seem to give Gabbert the upper hand after being a first round pick just a year ago.
However, while the Jaguars don’t appear to have anywhere close to the same talent as the Seahawks – at the quarterback position or just generally speaking – making sure the best man for the job is the one on the field is important in building credibility as a coaching staff and front office inside the locker room. By opening the quarterback position up for open competition, the Jaguars coaching staff can truly make a statement to every player on the team that the best player will play.
Bradley saw it work for the Seahawks. He’s hoping it will work again in Jacksonville.