After patiently waiting for an opportunity in Jacksonville, Garrard ceased the moment until injuries took its toll. Garrard’s release from the Jaguars was not a surprise, just the timing as he received his walking papers a week before the 2011 NFL season began.
Garrard signed a one-year incentive laden deal with the Miami Dolphins March 19. Clearly, the New Jersey native approved the contract, but not for the money. Instead, it was to use the opportunity to prove he has a lot of football left in him.
Garrard spoke in his press conference saying:
“Yeah, well I don’t think I have anything to prove. I think I’ve proved a lot of things as a starting quarterback, but I just want to go further than I’ve gone before. I want to go deeper in the playoffs. Get a taste, a shot at winning a championship. So those are things I want to prove to myself. I want to make sure that when my career is done that I poured everything I had into it."
“That was one thing I was thinking about all season last year when I was sitting home on the couch."
“Not knowing if I’ll get a chance to play again that I really didn’t empty my tank. I have a number of years of football left in me. I wanted to make sure that I left it all out there on the field. I leave this game with no questions on whether or not if I have anything left. That’s definitely fueling my purpose and getting to that championship glory. That’s the number one thing for me.”
When Garrard was drafted from East Carolina University, he was looked to replace the aging, veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, until a new coaching staff and management took over in Jacksonville the following year.
Quarterback Byron Leftwich was drafted as the seventh overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Jaguars, and Garrard’s waiting process continued.
Four seasons later, and tons of duct tape and bandages used by Leftwich due to injuries, Garrard finally received his chance as the team’s full-time starter in 2007, after having a solid campaign in 2006 when he took over for Leftwich in Week 8.
Despite sustaining injuries himself, as he tried to tough it out, Garrard signed a six-year, $60 million extension in 2008 and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2009.
Sadly, the organization was not totally sold on Garrard as their starter and his injury problems did not help the 6'1", 236-pound field general case either.
Apparently, Garrard is healed from the herniated disk injury he sustained in 2010, and is healthy to play now if the season started today.
“I feel great. I’m 100 percent ready to roll,” said Garrard. “I feel like I’m back to myself if not better. I’m excited to be back in the game and get back on the field.”
In 2010, Garrard finished with a 90.8 quarterback rating (good for being 13th best in the NFL) and averaged 7.47 yards per attempt. He completed 64.5 percent of his passes, totaling 2,734 yards, 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 14 games.
Garrard is in familiar territory in Miami for not being the automatic starting quarterback. He understands he has to compete against Matt Moore for the starting job, who has proven that he can lead the Dolphins.
Moore, 27, finished the Dolphins’ 2011 season with a 6-6 record and completed 60.5 percent of his attempts, for 2,497 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Garrard will have a fight on his hands for the starting job in Miami, but the proven-winning veteran is up for the competition.
“They said it was going to be a competition,” said Garrard. “A healthy competition is great for everybody. That’s what was presented to me. I wouldn’t expect anything else.”
Most specifically, Garrard recognizes that his timetable is ticking.
The St. Louis Rams were interested in bring Garrard in as a backup quarterback to Sam Bradford. With a better chance to start elsewhere, Garrard turned down a visit to St. Louis because according to the quarterback, “the Rams kind of have a guy already in place there not that I discounted being a solid backup somewhere. But with not being in my early years in my career, I want to give another shot of at least competing for a starting job.”
Not to dismiss an opportunity of being a backup quarterback in the NFL, Garrard, like any signal caller who experienced success on the field, likes his chances to start in Miami and is familiar with head coach Joe Philbin’s West Coast Offense.
“That’s definitely the type of offense that they’re planning on running, but that’s right up my alley,” said Garrard. “I was in it for a little while when Bryon (Leftwich) was the starting quarterback. I didn’t have a full year of it, but it’s perfect for me. I love getting the ball out of my hands fast, moving in the pocket, bootlegs, all those things are right up my alley and the style and scheme that they’re running will be great.
“A lot of the terminology is similar to what I was already running,” he added. “So that’s going to be a nice, easier transition. It’s all not the same, but a lot of it is so that’s usually the hardest part with playing the position is getting all the terminology down and being able to sing it. So that’s great it’s already familiar to me. That’s a system I really wanted to be in again.
“I think Coach Philbin is a great mind and a great coach. He really understands I believe what it takes to put together a great team,” he continued.
“He’s a great vision, a great purpose it seems like to me. Everything he said kind of sounded like it was already in my head. I felt that was really one of the deciding factors for me in joining the Dolphins here, that and talking to him. You can just look at his history of what he’s done in the past. Hopefully that can continue over with the Dolphins and with us and really get that offense down there kind of upbeat and rolling.”
Is there a chance that the Dolphins will draft a quarterback in the 2012 three-day event? Yes.
Do these issues bother Garrard? No way.
The opportunity to start fresh and health is all that matters to Garrard, and since the Dolphins has opened their doors to him to further his career, to prove he can still lead, the humbled quarterback will take on his competition with Moore in strive, in hopes of being the team’s full-time field general.
“Be able to start somewhere else. I still have that ability,” said Garrard. “I wanted to go with it and talking with my agent, and talking with my wife, they thought the same thing too. It was just the best case scenario. It’s still here in Florida. It’s a great organization and it really was the place I had a chance to really compete for a starting job.”
Barry Barnes is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.