Naming Chad Henne the starting quarterback over Blaine Gabbert based on performance is a huge mistake.
Sure Henne played superb against the Houston Texans Sunday and had the Jacksonville Jaguars in position to win, but that was due to an injury -- not because he outperformed Gabbert.
Henne came in and gave the offense a spark, no doubt about it. Would Gabbert have thrown for 350 yards and four touchdowns against the Texans? Not likely – but that doesn’t mean Henne should be named the starter.
I have a couple reasons why Head Coach Mike Mularkey made a bad decision.
What has Henne done that Gabbert hasn’t?
There is no doubt about that that Gabbert has had a less than stellar season. He has gotten better compared to a horrendous rookie season, but that progression hasn’t been at the rate the coaches and fans expected.
Nonetheless, has Henne really outplayed him in his limited playing time? Several quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have had one-hit wonders of games and seasons that they have parlayed into a starting job elsewhere (ala Matt Cassel) and major pay days (ala David Garrard.) And I think Henne is no different.
I know what you are going to say: “But look at the throws he made against the Texans defense!” Yes he made some good throws Sunday. But Gabbert has made those same throws – particularly that same skinny post that receiver Justin Blackmon used to torch the defense Sunday. The difference is the receivers have caught the ball for Henne. The Jaguars had the second most drops in the NFL heading into Week 11.
Much more can go into this simple debate but let us move on.
This move delays Gabbert’s final evaluation
Making the move at quarterback when, for all intents and purposes, the season is essentially over is usually the right thing to do. But it isn’t when the guy you are benching whom you called your franchise quarterback.
Is it a motivational ploy by Mularkey to light a fire under his ass? Maybe. The argument can be made both ways.
But when you say you are committed to a young quarterback, you need to let him take his licks. These first few seasons will determine whether Gabbert is going to be a David Carr, and be physically and mentally destroyed by the NFL game, or if he will develop into a franchise caliber signal caller.
After all, I would rather he take his licks and flop out of the league than bench him and bring him back in as the starter in a few weeks.
You do not draft a quarterback with a top 10 selection and then bench him year two. You obviously saw something in him that warranted the pick, and you must ride it out and find out as soon as possible if you are right or wrong.
Inconsistency be dammed
Both quarterbacks have proven to be wildly inconsistent. One minute they look like world beaters and the next they look like JV backups.
The difference here is that Henne is a veteran quarterback that has plenty of starts under his belt. If he isn’t consistent by now, they he likely never will be. Stranger things have happened though.
And Gabbert’s inconsistencies, on the stat sheet at least, are not always his own faults. Again, the team has the second most drops in the NFL and made a handful yesterday that may well have changed the game. For a young signal caller, especially one that proves to be inconsistent, he needs players around him to make the plays to calm his nerves and give him a sense of confidence.
The Jaguars do not have that.
The change can signal the white flag
Gabbert is less than two full seasons into his starting career and while he has shown progression, albeit minimal, by benching him you are effectively throwing up the white flag for the rest of the team – this is especially profound when the team is 1-9.
Athletes in general are very finicky and are easily influenced. When your quarterback, who is their leader, is benched and he is still healthy – it sends a message to the rest of the team that the coaches don’t believe in the decision they originally made in the first place.
It still remains to be seen how injured that right forearm is, but the move can cast a shadow of doubt over the entire locker room.
The endgame is not pretty
The endgame for the entire situation is not going to be good because if Henne stinks it up, which I think he will, then the coach looks like a moron for making the switch after just one good game.
Conversely, if the switch pans out the general manager looks like a fool for drafting the bum quarterback in the first place and wasting a top draft choice.
Either way, the endgame is not going to be pretty in Jacksonville and a few more rebuilding years are on the horizon.