|Rookie QB Gabbert has had a long season but his head coach has his back. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
Jaguars' first-round pick Blaine Gabbert looks the part: a tall, strapping quarterback with a big arm and plenty of upside. It’s just that, four months into the season -- and 12 weeks into his life as a rookie starting quarterback in the NFL -- he’s looked completely and utterly lost. To the point that Monday Night Football’s Jon Gruden, who never seems to have a sour word to say about anyone during a telecast, has on several occasions wondered if Gabbert has what it takes to make it in this league based solely on his jittery pocket presence.
Granted, the circumstances define extenuating. Jacksonville dumped longtime starter David Garrard days before the season opener and replaced him with Luke McCown. When that experiment failed two weeks later (we were shocked too), Gabbert was thrown in the deep end without arm floaties. To continue the water metaphor, the subsequent 13 games have gone something like this: Gabbert treads water until the point of exhaustion and then he’s mauled by a shark in gruesome fashion on national television.
In addition to Gruden’s observations, NFL Films’ Greg Cosell noted that “[Gabbert’s] issue was never his arm but rather his willingness to command the pocket and deliver the ball with bodies around him.”
The Florida Times-Union’s Tania Ganguli adds that Trent Dilfer has called Gabbert timid, and Joe Theismann said he looked like a shrinking violet. It’s not all bad news.
But Gabbert has a supporter in interim Jags coach Mel Tucker.
"I see Blaine as being courageous in the pocket," Tucker said via Ganguli. "I see him as being super-tough. I see him being very, very competitive and my feeling is that his teammates and his coaches feel the same way.”
And really, what else is Tucker going to say? He’s filling in for recently canned Jack Del Rio, the team has a new owner, and he’d like to be considered for the full-time job. And given that general manager Gene Smith (who signed a three-year extension before Wayne Weaver sold the Jags earlier this month) drafted Gabbert, you don’t need an oracle to predict Tucker’s public stance.
Still, he also understands that Jacksonville’s offense is putrid and no amount of wishful thinking will change that.
"Obviously, yeah, I mean he needs to improve in some areas and he’d be the first to tell you, and I’ve stated that before. He needs to continue to improve," Tucker continued. "I think he’s made some strides, I know he’s made some strides and we have to continue to get better around him."
The first order of business: mandatory mustaches for all players and coaches.
The Tennessee Titans look to stay alive in the AFC playoff hunt when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars this Saturday at 1:00 PM ET on CBS. Join NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz for a preview of this matchup.
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