Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan told local media GM Gene Smith and quarterback Blaine Gabbert were “tied to the hip.” Khan used the phrase again when introducing Mike Mularkey as the club’s new coach — an assertion that the three men will very much be held accountable for the team’s success or failure in the coming seasons.
But the Jaguars would be wise to exercise patience with their young quarterback. In many cases, it takes several years for the game to slow down for young signal callers.
Sure, there are exceptions — players like Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger, and most recently, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton — have excelled in their first or second year.
The majority, however, do not.
Alex Smith, the starting quarterback who led the 49ers to a 13-3 record this season, is in his seventh season. Smith had a superb year, tossing 17 touchdowns versus only 5 interceptions. His rookie season, he threw only one touchdown and 11 interceptions. Smith didn’t developed into a starting-quality quarterback until the 2011 NFL season, at the ripe age of 27, after being taken first overall in the 2005 draft.
Eli Manning, the younger brother of future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, completed barely 50 percent of his passes in his first two seasons. In the next two, he wavered between solidity and erraticism, even in the Giants’ Super Bowl campaign. Manning didn’t complete 60 percent of his passes or settle down as a stable passer until year five.
Even Tom Brady didn’t reach his peak until year seven. Although the Patriots won multiple championships in his early years, Brady didn’t become the profilic passer he is today until 2007, when he tossed a record 50 touchdown passes, nearly doubling his previous career best.
Terry Bradshaw was nearly permanently demoted numerous times early in his career, before leading the Steelers to four NFL titles.
John Elway, as well, didn’t truly evolve as a passer until 1993 — his 10th season in the league. The scrambling southpaw was exciting, but he was also erratic up until that point.
The so-called elite quarterbacks of today are all in their thirties. If the Jaguars’ young quarterback is going to join that group, it likely won’t happen for at least four or five years.
Crossposted on my blog on The Florida Times-Union’s website