All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew should be well acquainted with the word "futility" by now.
To date, it's been the hallmark of his career. Jones-Drew is one of the best running backs in the league, with 63 touchdowns and 9,401 all-purpose yards over his five-year career. His current team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, don't have much to show for his efforts, though, maintaining a "middle of the pack" record with only one winning season under their belt.
With rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert still adjusting to the professional game, Jones-Drew will rely on journeyman Luke McCown to hand him the ball and prevent teams from committing eight defenders to stopping the run.
Garrard represented Jacksonville's best option at quarterback; while far from elite status, Garrard still posted solid numbers the last four years, including a career-high 23 touchdowns in 2010. McCown hasn't scored a touchdown since 2007 with Tampa Bay.
At this rate, he might go down as the next Barry Sanders, though not in a good way.
Where should Maurice Jones-Drew finish his career?
Sanders watched his best years slip away as the Lions flirted with occasional playoff appearances, but never came closer to a Super Bowl than their blowout loss to the Redskins in 1991's NFC Championship game. Detroit never secured sufficient talent to complement Sanders' elusive, explosive running ability.
Jacksonville provides a similar example of personnel ineptitude. Of the 58 players drafted by the Jaguars from 2002 (Garrard's rookie year) to 2008, only seven remain on the team. The vast majority of these draft picks are out of the NFL entirely.
With two years remaining on his contract, Jones-Drew needs to speak up about the direction his team is going. Gabbert will likely assume the starting role sometime this season with limited results; a reasonable estimate would have Gabbert's breakout year in 2013, one year after Jones-Drew's current contract and much closer to that 30-year hurdle few running backs overcome.
If Jones-Drew wants a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl before then, he needs to demand a trade. Dallas, Pittsburgh or New England would likely welcome a shot at his services. Dallas could use someone to pair with Felix Jones, or Rashard Mendenhall in Pittsburgh. The Patriots would dramatically upgrade over BenJarvus Green-Ellis. What's more, New England has the draft picks on hand to make it worth Jacksonville's while.
Indianapolis would be the ideal situation, but the last thing Jacksonville wants is to face off against Jones-Drew twice a year.
This trade would benefit Jacksonville as well. With Jones-Drew coming up on a contract year in 2012, odds are good that he'd want out unless the Jaguars overachieve in the next two years. With 2011 already looking like another rebuilding year, Jacksonville could stockpile draft picks for next year and target a standout rookie running back, like Arkansas' Knile Davis.
Something's got to give in this. Jones-Drew is too good a talent with too little time to waste away on a team at least three years from competing for a shot at the Super Bowl.