Now lets look at our veteran newcomer, David Garrard. The best part about veterans is you have a pertinent history to look at. We know a great deal about how Garrard stacks up against NFL level talent. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in the 2009-2010 season (and deservedly so). The year before is when people started to really notice him after he won the AFC wildcard game against the Steelers. He managed to unseat Byron Leftwich, who was a seventh overall pick. In the NFL, it is rare for a relative unknown to beat out a top 10 draft pick so maybe we should let that concept marinade in our minds a bit. Unfortunately for Garrard, his play dropped off right after his significant contract extension in 2008 of 6 years/$60 million. He came back a bit from the bad numbers in 2010, but not enough to keep the Jags from draft Blaine Gabbert.
So what about this missing hole of the last three years? What happened to cause the decline and overall more sporadic play? Well, we do know that Garrard suffered a back injury and in fact had to essentially take a year off to correct it with surgery. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out when this issue started to bother him. It is documented that he was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2004 and had to have part of his intestines removed due to the inflammation. Crohn's Disease is chronic with flare ups, so how much has this been an issue for him over the years? The truth is that I doubt we will know the reason for the decline until this thing plays out. He claims to be healthy, so now we have to see how much health played a role in his decline.
What I have been pleased to learn is that he seems like a really good guy, and fairly smart at that. Look up some of his interviews if you haven't seen for yourself. If nothing else, he appears to be an excellent teammate and representative of the organization. Early camp reports claim that he is a quick decision maker and understands the offense well. If Matt Moore hadn't performed so well last year, it seems evident that Garrard would be the clear cut leader to start the season. But Moore did play well and appears to be doing all he can to retain his status of starter for the team.
Finally, let's really get down to the real issue with Garrard (in the minds of many). The real issue is that he isn't named Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. This is purely a psychological issue that many casual fans aren't going to deal well with. Is Manning the better quarterback, historically? Absolutely! But Manning cost a fortune and only has a couple years left in him, if any. The price for Manning would have crippled our ability to get or retain other needed talent on the team. Matt Flynn is a totally different case. Flynn made sense to the fans because of his association with Philbin, but that is about it. He racked up some awesome stats in a game where his receivers managed to kill a bad Lion's secondary after the catch. I will give Flynn some credit in the last few minutes of that game, but I don't know if it was a future of the franchise type performance when you take away the exaggerated stat line. Still a lot of questions to be answered on Flynn.
Garrard has some tools and if he shows enough in practice, I could see him starting week one. But I really think Moore has the leg up in the battle considering his contributions to the team last year. You have to imagine that Philbin would want to show the team that good performance gets rewarded. With Moore's performance last year, it is hard not to give him the edge.