Saturday, July 3, 2010

Former ECU quarterback still the No. 1 guy in Jacksonville, Jags GM says

There has been a lot of talk in the football world that former East Carolina quarterback David Garrard may lose his job as starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After all, the Jags were 7-5 going into the final four games and needed to win two of them to guarantee a playoff spot. They lost all four (including two games by four points and one by six).

I suppose it's possible that backup Luke McCown could overtake Garrard in training camp but Jaguars' General Manager Gene Smith told me yesterday without hesitation that Garrard is the No. 1 guy.

I had dinner with Smith and his family (they are friends of my in-laws) and we of course talked football. Smith, who lived in Southern Pines when he was scouting for the Jaguars, started with the team at its inception in 1994 and he worked his way up to General Manager a year ago. While I got some insight from Smith, it was a social occasion and I don't feel comfortable talking about our conversations, especially in light of the fact that we weren't talking on the record.

But I am confident that he is confident in Garrard and the offensive abilities of the Jaguars this season. The Jaguars scored only 18 points per game last season, which was 24th in the league. But Jacksonville got some good young talent on the offensive line during Smith's first draft as the final decision maker on personnel.

This past draft was rated as average by most NFL experts and Smith took a bit of a pounding for his first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu, the defensive end out of Cal, who many called a stretch that early.

Some experts have the Jags going 7-9 again this year while others have them going to the playoffs as a wild card team. If Garrard lives up to expectations and the offensive line improves, the Jaguars should go 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs.

If not, time could be running out for Coach Jack Del Rio and Smith, and possibly the town of Jacksonville as well. Attendance has been dismal and that means TV blackouts. The Jaguars have lowered ticket prices and have an advertising campaign going that stresses the importance of Jaguars' fans.

Those North Carolinians who have remained Redskins fans tend to have a soft spot for the Jaguars, who came in the league at the same time as the Panthers. Since the Panthers took the Redskins off TV in North Carolina, many Skins fans have wanted the Jags to do better than the Panthers. The Panthers have been to the Super Bowl but the Jaguars hold the edge in head-to-head matchups.

Smith is a nice guy who loves it here in North Carolina. He has fond memories of his time here and is loyal to the friends he made while living in NC. He has a smart and engaging wife and two little girls who are not only sharp but are respectful and mannerly. I wish him and the Jaguars well this season - and a lot of it rides on an ECU guy named David Garrard.

(To jog your memory, Garrard led the Pirates to a 9-3 record in '99, a season that included a 27-23 come-from-behind thrilling upset of Miami in a game played in Raleigh because of devastation in eastern NC caused by Hurricane Floyd.)

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