Stakes high for Henne, Jaguars over final six weeks

Posted Nov. 21, 2012 @ 9:48 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

Chad Henne’s electric relief appearance in place of injured starter Blaine Gabbert at Houston in Week 11 has reenergized the Jaguars’ season.

While Gabbert’s constant check-downs and flinching in the pocket had become very depressing for fans and the media alike, Henne’s ability to make plays downfield provided Jaguars fans with hope.

Now, with Gabbert on injured reserve with forearm and shoulder injuries, Henne has a chance to revive his career, and perhaps save a few others along the way, namely those of GM Gene Smith and head coach Mike Mularkey.

Mularkey didn’t mince words when he said sustained success from Henne in the final six games would result in him entering the 2013 season as the starter.

We hear Henne is clearly the best current option for the Jaguars — our sources were lobbying for him to start several weeks ago — the question is, can he be a long-term solution?

To be fair, Henne wasn’t a better quarterback than Gabbert in the offseason, when many expected the veteran with 31 career starts (13-18 record) under his belt to seriously threaten the second-year player coming off a horrendous rookie campaign.

Whether it was rust — he spent the final three-quarters of 2011 on injured reserve with a shoulder injury — or perhaps just a much-needed wakeup call, Henne helped the same group of receivers and linemen that Gabbert couldn’t produce with play undoubtedly their best game of the season in Houston.

The 27-year-old with a big arm showed glimpses of being the guy during four seasons in Miami. His physical tools were never questioned; it was the mental part of the game he was slow to grasp.

After signing a two-year deal worth $6.75 million in the offseason, Henne could potentially become one of the league’s better values at the QB position next year. That would give Smith some options with Gabbert, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal.

The Jaguars’ remaining schedule is hardly daunting. They have two left with the Titans, as well as all four AFC East clubs. With the exception of a Week 16 home game against the Patriots, there are no other games the Jaguars shouldn’t have a good chance to win.

It’s still too soon to call Gabbert a bust. He should definitely be further along after 24 career starts (5-19 record) — and our sources have serious questions about his passion for the game and leadership skills — but he is too young and talented to write off.

Still, if Henne seizes this opportunity and continues to provide the offense with a spark, Gabbert’s days as a starter in Jacksonville could be numbered.

If Henne fizzles, the optimism in Jacksonville will be short-lived.