Welcome to the Devil's Advocate. This is the series that explores key issues from around the AFC South with a contrarian viewpoint.
The entire purpose of the piece is to argue a point of view which is the exact opposite of what I really believe. I try to do so using arguments which are as valid as possible, but the conclusion runs counter to my actual position.
Everyone knows that I've been hard on Blaine Gabbert, but it's undeniable the Jaguars' season rests on his improvement. However, starting Chad Henne wouldn't be the worst thing for the team or for Gabbert if the Jaguars do it correctly.
1. Gabbert Is a Rookie in This Offense
The Jaguars don't want to "ruin" Gabbert. If they see that he's struggling to adapt to the new offense, there's nothing wrong with bringing him along slowly.
Forget last year for a moment. Jack Del Rio never gave Gabbert a chance to be successful. The Jags could easily claim that this is Gabber's first real offseason, and it's a new offense. No one bats an eye when rookies sit. In many respects, Gabbert is still a rookie. Treating him like one is wise.
The team would have to be careful not to sell it as a demotion or express frustration in doing so. It could shift all the blame on Del Rio by saying he pushed Gabbert too fast to save his own job. It's not Gabbert's fault, and he's not being "benched." He's being groomed correctly for the first time.
2. The Offensive Line Isn't Ready
Gabbert's greatest weakness is taking sacks. Until he's confident in his reads, he'll have a ridiculously high sack rate. The coaching staff can say, "Our line isn't ready for the new offense. Blaine needs time to get comfortable. We don't want him to get killed like David Carr was with the Texans."
Again, if the team takes blame for the offensive line, starting Henne won't create a firestorm. The Jaguars are just protecting the health of their franchise quarterback by holding him back until he stabilizes a few weeks into the season.
3. It's Only Temporary
The Jaguars can sell the move as a stopgap solution. They can announce that the plan is to transition Gabbert back in as the starter a couple of months in.
Then if the team is winning and doing well, no one will care that Gabbert isn't playing. If the team isn't winning games with Henne, the Jags can play Gabbert with the confidence that they didn't ruin a perfectly good season by starting the wrong quarterback.
To be clear, I believe Gabbert will remain the starter through camp, but I think the Jaguars wish they could have a mulligan on 2011. If they could have kept Gabbert on the bench, they wouldn't be forced to play him in 2012.
It's fine if a quarterback wins a starting job, but when one is handed to him without having earned it, it puts the team in a bad spot. Gabbert could do well in camp and be much improved, but if Henne looks amazing, the Jaguars won't be able to start him without embarrassing Gabbert.
A plan like this would at least allow the team the flexibility to play Henne without humiliating a player who has taken enough lumps already.