Jason Lisk is one of the best football writers around. I've always enjoyed his analytical approach to the game and his willingness to investigate claims with research. His most recent piece sets projections for Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker.
I don't want to dwell heavily on his analysis of Locker, as even he admits it's difficult to draw comparisons. There are three points about Gabbert that merit comment, however.
First, Gabbert's rookie year really was terrible, even using the standard of bad rookie years.
Lisk draws comparisons to 10 rookie quarterbacks similar to Gabbert. The list includes seven abject failures, two future stars and Kyle Orton.
There's been a frequent debate among Jacksonville Jaguars fans about why the media is so hard on Gabbert when many rookies struggle. The reason is that Gabbert was worse than a comparable bin of players who mostly turned out to be awful NFL starters. The NFL is an odds game, and the odds are very much stacked against Gabbert. Yes, his comp bin includes John Elway and Donovan McNabb. It also includes Jeff Komlo, Neil Lomax and Kyle Boller.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath and just admit the criticism of Gabbert is fair and justified. We can argue about how well he develops from here on out, but the warning bells are sounding with good reason.
Second, Lisk agrees we will likely know by the end of this year if Gabbert's career is in trouble.
A few weeks ago, I made the claim that by the end of the second year, we have a pretty good idea if a quarterback is going to make it in the NFL. There are always exceptions, especially for guys who didn't play much, but for a player like Gabbert, we'll have enough reps to judge.
As he lays out his projection for Gabbert, Lisk states:
His comps did show improvement in year two, particularly those that panned out. If you want to know where Gabbert needs to be this year, look at his average projection for 2012 below. At or better than that, and it’s too early to write him off. Another year with numbers below that projection, and it would be pretty unlikely he ever turns into a decent starter in the league.
The idea that we need years and years to judge a quarterback is false. When a player starts early in his career, we can judge him with some degree of accuracy after year two.
Third, if Gabbert can hit Lisk's projections, the Jaguars can be in contention.
Lisk's projections would put Gabbert around league average and give him a passer rating in the upper 70s. As I wrote a few weeks ago, that would likely mean the Jags could finish at above .500 on the season.
The future of the franchise is on him. If Gabbert can hit these numbers and become an average starter in his second year, Gene Smith will keep his job and the Jaguars can stay the course. If he can't hit these numbers and/or loses his job to Chad Henne, the Jaguars will likely be looking for a new general manager and a new quarterback as the rebuilding process will start over again.