Jaguars GM Gene Smith has a popular saying around draft time: "We're not just trying to win next year. We're trying to win every year."
In trading up six spots to select former University of Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick, Smith has his sights set squarely on the future of the franchise. He and head coach Jack Del Rio have stated repeatedly that Gabbert is going to learn from the sidelines while watching starter David Garrard.
And that's perfectly fine with the long-haired, fresh new face of the organization.
"David Garrard, he's a high level quarterback and he's been in this league forever, and having this opportunity, it's really an ideal situation coming in and learning under him and Luke (McCown)," said Gabbert in his introductory press conference Friday afternoon at Everbank Field — his first time being in Jacksonville.
"And those guys are going to help me smooth out this whole process and ease my adjustment period into the NFL."
The top-rated QB prospect according to PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki, Gabbert was not expected to be an option for the Jaguars, who held the 16th overall pick. But the 6-4, 234-pound former Tiger said he had a good impression Jacksonville was interested in him after the two sides met at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
And after several quarterback-needy teams passed on him in the first nine selections, Gabbert sensed his opportunity was on the horizon when Washington dealt its pick to the organization with the longest drought of drafting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Gabbert referenced the golden opportunity on several occasions throughout the press conference.
"Oh, it's a great team to come play for," he said. "You've got two young offensive tackles. A great, great running back and that's the best security blanket a quarterback can have, that and a great tight end, and they have both here."
Another point that Gabbert made abundantly clear: he is ready to go to work and earn the respect of his teammates.
"The biggest thing for any rookie player is you've got to come in and earn your spot on this football team. You've got to come in and put your time in the weight room, the film room and earn the trust of the other players. You can't come in being the vocal leader because you're not credible at that point in time. You've got to put in your work before people start to trust you."
The biggest knock on Gabbert coming out of Mizzou was that he worked exclusively out of the shotgun formation with mostly predetermined reads.
But Gabbert is not worried about making the transition to a pro-style offense, saying he worked under center and took plenty of three, five and seven-step drops in high school.
Gabbert also addressed some of the concerns on how he loses his poise and escapes the pocket at the first sign of pressure — something Jaguars fans are all too familiar with from watching Garrard's questionable decision making over the years.
"We're in a lot of empty formations and I was taught to go through your progressions and run," he said. "We're not just going to sit back there and take unnecessary sacks and lose yardage. We were taught to minimize negative plays and either throw the ball away or try and get the first down."
In the end, the young gunslinger evoked a lot of the same excitement in the press conference that is being felt all over Jacksonville from fans who have waited seven years to see their team address arguably the most important position in professional sports. Gabbert understands the expectations that accompany his particular situation.
"There is going to be pressure in any situation you come into. If you're a first-round draft pick in the NFL, there is always pressure associated with that. A lot of it is we put pressure on ourselves to succeed. We put ourselves in this situation because we want to, we've worked hard at it, played decent football in college and now we're here. We all want to perform at the highest level possible and win a bunch of football games in the NFL."