Chad Henne distanced himself from the competition (or questions about competition) with a 261-yard, two-touchdown performance in the win.
Henne and Blaine Gabbert are about as polar opposite as two quarterbacks could be, as evident in the style of football the Jaguars have played with each one behind center this year.
Gabbert, who was placed on injured reserve last week following a forearm injury and torn labrum that affected both his arms, was still struggling to learn head coach Mike Mularkey’s offense.
He still showed signs of regression once he took steps forward to attempt to be the leader of this team. The lone win of the season (up until Sunday) was under his leadership, but in reality, the game was only won in the closing seconds. Even in victory, Gabbert looked uneasy and sluggish.
Henne is a different story, as he came in to relieve Gabbert when he was injured and now as the starter. The veteran, who was a second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins, looked comfortable under center, in control of the offense and fearless as he has taken hit after hit, most notably the seven sacks given up by the Jaguars offensive line against Tennessee.
While both quarterbacks have connected on long pass plays to Cecil Shorts this season, it is Henne who seems to have a better relationship with rookie receiver Justin Blackmon. Tight end Marcedes Lewis looks more comfortable in passing routes with the more experienced Henne in the game.
Mularkey stated last week that this would be a chance for Henne to prove he could be the starter in 2013 (h/t Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk). After he threw for over 600 yards in two contests, engineered a win this week and led the team to a near-miss in a 43-37 loss to Houston the previous week, it is obvious through his play that this is a team that can win with Henne and has to figure out if it wants to win with Gabbert.
Everything starts from the quarterback position.
At the beginning of training camp, it was reiterated to the media that this was going to be Gabbert’s team and Henne was here to back up and fill in if needed. Now, the roles may be reversed. The Jaguars, who have Gabbert under a guaranteed contract for the next two years, may decide to part ways with him and keep Jordan Palmer as the team’s reliever.
Either way, the proof that Henne is the right call was assured on Sunday, and now this allows the team and fans in the community to feel something they haven’t felt in some time—hope.
Instead of there being questions when training begins in 2013 of who should be starting, the team should focus on getting more offensive weapons to help Henne and continue to find offensive linemen to protect him. The only question about Blaine Gabbert should whether or not to release him or to try to find trade value in a 23-year-old quarterback who may be a decent backup in another city besides Jacksonville.