PHILADELPHIA—Jack Del Rio asked reporters to wait until the team returned to Jacksonville before he addressed the Jaguars' situation at quarterback. The team's fans, however, are likely to start without the coach.
On the heels of one of the most stunning upsets in Jaguars history, the team's fans are likely to be divided into two camps this week: Those that want Byron Leftwich to be returned to the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, and those who believe David Garrard has earned another start.
As you might expect, the three men at the center of this controversy did their best to dodge the issue following the game. Here are their official postgame remarks.
"I made the decision to go with David today," Del Rio said. "We'll have a lot of time to talk about the quarterback when we get back to Jacksonville. We'll talk about the timetable for Byron returning," he added of the decision he has to make this week between Garrard and Leftwich.
Does Garrard deserve another week at the helm?
"That's not my decision to make," Garrard said. "Whenever my number is called, I'm ready to play. Whatever decision Jack makes, I'll live with it and move on."
Does Leftwich expect to return to the starting lineup against the Titans?
"I think it'll be straight on Wednesday," Leftwich said of his injured left ankle, which kept him out of Sunday's game in Philadelphia but which he expects to be sufficiently healed when the Jaguars begin preparations for the Titans on Wednesday. "I'm just trying to get as healthy as I can before Wednesday."
So, did you get anything out of those comments? Do they give you any hint at what might happen this week? I didn't think so.
Well, I think I can help you out here. I heard a few hints in the postgame remarks and I think I've listened to enough postgame press conferences to be able to offer a translation.
Let's start with this comment from Del Rio: "How many times have I said that over the last four years?" Del Rio said when asked by a reporter if Leftwich is still his starting quarterback. "It's double figures at least, this year, times four. I promise we'll talk about that."
Translation: Without Del Rio making a postgame proclamation, Leftwich remains the Jaguars' "starting quarterback." Whether or not he's under center against the Titans on Sunday would seem to depend on whether or not Del Rio believes Leftwich is fully recovered from his ankle injury.
"Any time I don't play, I'm going to be disappointed," said Leftwich, who was officially the team's "third quarterback" against the Eagles, though Leftwich did not "dress" for the game.
"This may have been the best thing for me. I'm not happy but I'm glad about the outcome. I'm never good about not playing, but any time you win, it helps. You know me. I love Sundays so much. It hurts not to be a part of it," Leftwich said.
Translation: Not playing on Sunday presented an emotional struggle for Leftwich that began last week when he was told by Del Rio to shut it down. He will do everything he can not to have to endure the same situation this week.
Leftwich knows the population of Garrard's camp increased with the Jaguars' 13-6 win over the Eagles. He knows a significant number of Jaguars fans would have him benched permanently.
How does he hold up under the strain?
"I came into a situation from the beginning," he said, referring to 2003 when he replaced Mark Brunell at quarterback. "I'm kind of used to it by now. It's not just starting to get like that. It's been like that since day one."
Translation: Leftwich will not be intimidated by fan dissent or criticism.
So this week begins with a head coach who has to find a way to quiet the controversy at football's most important position, a "starting quarterback" who wants to be returned to the job, a backup quarterback who wants to be a starter, and a fan base that is passionately divided.
This should be an interesting week.