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Garrard era coming to an end in Jacksonville

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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush

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Posted Dec. 27, 2010 @ 2:47 p.m. ET
By Arthur Arkush

Following the disappointing Week 15 loss to the Colts, in which Jacksonville handed its playoff destiny to Indianapolis, the Jaguars returned to EverBank Field to finish out the home schedule against the reeling Redskins. A team that has shown its resiliency on several occasions this season, Jacksonville needed to have a very short memory and take care of its business, while also getting some help from the Colts.

Neither of those scenarios occurred on Sunday, leaving the Jaguars' slim playoff hopes on life support.

Without the services of RB Maurice Jones-Drew (knee), who was inactive for the first time of his career, QB David Garrard and the Jaguars came out flat, leading to costly mistakes early in the game. The ground game was a nonfactor for the second week in a row, putting the pressure on Garrard to carry the Jaguars. He was able to tie the game at 17 on a 20-yard QB draw late in the fourth quarter, but a costly interception on the first series of overtime allowed the Rex Grossman-led 'Skins to escape with a 20-17 victory.

The PFW Spin

The Jaguars' run of five wins in six games to put themselves in position to earn their first AFC South title seems like a distant memory. The running game has hit the wall, and Garrard has proven yet again that he is not the quarterback who is going to lead this team to the next level.

Facing a 3rd-and-4 at the Jaguars' 17-yard line in the opening series of overtime, Garrard dropped back and looked right for TE Marcedes Lewis. But blitzing LB Chris Wilson hit Garrard just as he released a side-arm throw for Lewis, which was picked off by Kevin Barnes. The ill-advised pass never should have been thrown. It was one of those rare cases where a sack truly would have behooved Garrard and the Jaguars. Live to fight another day. Instead, the 'Skins ran the ball twice before Graham Gano's 31-yard chip-shot field goal sealed the deal.

The interception, Garrard's second of the afternoon, was a microcosm of struggles throughout his career; a costly mistake while under duress at the most inopportune time.

Garrard had difficulty all afternoon reading defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's disguised blitzes. Washington sacked Garrard four times, forced him to fumble twice and prevented Garrard from ever getting comfortable. His first interception led to Washington's first touchdown and put the Jags in a quick 10-0 hole in the first quarter. In fairness, the offensive line played poorly, as did RB Rashad Jennings and the special teams that had been so good this season, but it boiled down to Garrard's turnovers and inability to make enough big plays to win.

We have seen all season that, when the running game is popping, Garrard can be a nice game manager who occasionally makes a great play. When he gets in rhythm, he is actually a very dangerous weapon thanks to his ability to beat opponents in different ways. But the running game can't always be great, and that is what separates the "middle-tier" QBs, as Del Rio called Garrard in the offseason, and the elite; the ability to put the team on his back when things aren't ideal and find a way to win.

Garrard has had arguably his finest season in 2010 and it still has not been good enough to take the Jaguars to where they want to be.

GM Gene Smith will start looking for the quarterback of the future in next April's draft. It is inexcusable that the club has not drafted a QB since Byron Leftwich in 2003, but Smith will make sure it does not go another offseason without addressing the position. In his first two years of rebuilding, Smith has had the opportunity to rehaul both sides of the football, concentrating on bolstering both lines. And while there is still work to be done, there is no ignoring the fact that he still has not hand-picked the most important piece of the puzzle. With plenty of picks that he has acquired in the later rounds, Smith should have the ammunition to move up or down in order to match a pick with the appropriate value.

Thanks to a surprisingly weak AFC South, the Jaguars are still clinging to a small hope of getting into the postseason. But it will take an Indy loss at home to the Titans, which isn't going to happen given the way Peyton Manning and the revived Colts are playing — not to mention the way Tennessee has gone in the tank — and a Jaguars' victory over the Texans on the road for the Jaguars to sneak in the back door.

One thing that is clear regardless of the outcome is that the Jaguars need a quarterback who can win games without the luxury of one of the best running backs in the league constantly bailing him out. Garrard proved again on Sunday that he is not and is never going to be that guy.

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