NFL starting QB released 5 days before opener

NFL starting QB released 5 days before opener
September 6, 2011, 8:52 pm
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From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, September 6, 2011
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars released veteran quarterback David Garrard on Tuesday, a stunning move that will save the franchise 9 million this season. Whether it saves coach Jack Del Rio's job remains to be seen. Team owner Wayne Weaver has said Jacksonville needs to make the playoffs for Del Rio to stick around for a 10th season. Del Rio made it clear late last season that he had grown tired of Garrard's inconsistent ways, but the coach remained steadfast through training camp and the preseason that Garrard was his starter. That changed Tuesday, when the Jaguars scheduled an afternoon news conference to discuss their decision. Del Rio will turn the starting job over to Luke McCown, who outplayed Garrard and rookie Blaine Gabbert in the preseason. But McCown played mostly with and against second- and third-teamers. McCown completed 12 of 18 passes for 133 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks. Garrard missed the preseason opener because of a sore back, but started the final three games. He completed 50 percent of his passes for 216 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked three times. Del Rio's quarterback swap is similar to what he did in 2007, when he released Byron Leftwich in favor of Garrard after the preseason. Garrard played well that season, throwing 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He has been average since, with 53 TDs and 38 INTs over the last three seasons. He also has been sacked 117 times in that span. His performance late last season was one of the final straws. With running back Maurice Jones-Drew sitting out against Washington, the Jaguars put the game on Garrard's shoulders and he struggled to handle the load. He struggled to read Washington's cloaked defensive schemes and nearly ended the day with five turnovers. The Jaguars responded by drafting Gabbert with the 10th pick in April's draft. Gabbert might have had a chance to win the starting job, but the NFL lockout denied him a a summer filled with meetings, film work and organized team activities. Gabbert was dropped to third on the depth chart last week. McCown moved up to second, although no one knew he was actually auditioning for the starting job. Garrard was hit repeatedly in last week's preseason finale against St. Louis and had an animated exchange with his offensive line on the sideline. That, too, had become an issue inside the facility, with Garrard pointing the finger more often than taking the blame. He blamed an interception against Atlanta on receiver Mike Thomas and then ripped the line for Thursday's problems. Del Rio called Garrard a middle-tier quarterback after the 2009 season, and Weaver challenged the quarterback to do more with teammates that offseason. Garrard did. He responded by setting the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season (23), enjoyed five of the best eight games of his career, and led the Jaguars to several late wins. But he struggled down the stretch. It became clear Monday how teammates felt about Garrard. They declined to vote Garrard a team captain, instead choosing Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis as offensive captains.