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Gabbert the guy


Gene Smith didn't expect this scenario, necessarily.

Blaine Gabbert didn't, either.

But as Smith sees it, when you get an opportunity to select a player who can shape the immediate and long-term future of a franchise, you don't let that opportunity pass, particularly when that player is a quarterback.

Gabbert, who played collegiately at the University of Missouri, not only became the Jaguars' first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday when the Jaguars took him with the No. 10 overall selection, he became the first quarterback selected by Jacksonville in eight years.

 "We feel like we have a guy here who can lead us into the future," Smith said.

Smith, entering in his third season as Jaguars General Manager, traded the Jaguars' second-round selection in this year's draft – the No. 49 selection overall – to Washington and swapped first-round selections with the Redskins.

Gabbert becomes the second quarterback ever taken by the franchise in the first round.  The team took Bryon Leftwich with the No. 7 overall selection in 2003.

"We were very happy to acquire a player we had a strong feeling about," Smith said.

Washington used the No. 16 selection to pick the player many believed destined for Jacksonville, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.

The Jaguars' trade talks actually began a selection before it happened.

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said while many scenarios were discussed, "going up was one of the least likely scenarios for us."

Smith, who said before the draft he and Player Personnel Director Terry McDonough talked to every NFL team about trade possibilities, said he first began seriously discussing trading up in the first round with the Dallas Cowboys on the clock at No. 9.

"We started with Dallas," he said.

The Cowboys, he said, were focused on selecting Southern California offensive tackle Tyron Smith, and Gene Smith then turned his focus to talking with Washington.

'I don't feel like I'm a gambler," Smith said. "I'm a calculated risk taker. With every decision there's a risk involved.

"I'm very happy to have Blaine here as a Jaguar."

Smith and Del Rio each reiterated what they said often before the draft – that veteran David Garrard will remain the Jaguars' starter.

"David is our quarterback," Smith said.

"It's very much our intention to have David be our quarterback and have Blaine come in and push David to develop," Del Rio said.

Smith said Gabbert will spend time early in his Jaguars career adapting from a shotgun "spread" offense in which he played at Missouri to a pro style offense.

"This guy's got the physical skills, certainly the mental skills," Smith said Gabbert, who completed 301 of 475 passes for 3,186 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions this past season.

"This guy has some talent," Del Rio said.

Gabbert, who said he did not visit Jacksonville during the pre-draft process, said he spoke extensively with Jaguars officials at the combine. He said his approach as a rookie will be simple.

"I'm going to come in and learn as much as possible and compete in training camp," he said. "That's all you can do. Whatever the coaches determine is best after training camp I'm willing to do."

Gabbert said he learned of his selection in the moments after it was announced that the Jaguars had moved up to No. 10. The telephone rang, and his agent game him "a little wink."

With that, the future of the Jaguars was altered, too. Smith, speaking moments after the selection, spoke of quarterback as he often has in recent weeks, as a "unique position," and spoke of the chance to select a potential franchise player as a unique opportunity.

He also spoke of the uniqueness of using the first-round selection on a player who might not play as a rookie.

"We have a guy coming in to the mix who is attempting to play the most difficult position," Smith said.

Smith said while he didn't necessarily expect Gabbert to be in a position at which the Jaguars could move up to obtain him, he also said the reality is there are surprises in every draft. Speaking after the selection, he referenced a similar situation in which the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. He spoke extensively of Gabbert's mental and physical tools, and what made him confident of making a bold draft-day move, but mostly on Thursday, Smith spoke with the seriousness of a man who had just made a decision that will shape a franchise for the immediate and long-term.

The decision without question is a critical one.

And how it will be judged, he said, only time will tell.

"The future will dictate whether it's the right move or not, just like any other player," Smith said.

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