Through an entire offseason, he was the reason the Jaguars didn't make the playoffs last season. David Garrard was assailed, even ridiculed for his three-interceptions performance in Tennessee that began a three-game collapse that left the Jaguars out of the playoffs, and he never once deflected blame.
Well, he's not the reason for the Jaguars' most recent loss to the Titans, 13-10 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Sunday. In fact, had the Jaguars won, Garrard would've probably gotten the game ball. Frankly speaking, he's the only thing the Jaguars had going for them.
All of a sudden, they couldn't run the ball or stop the run. Their pass-protection would've left most quarterbacks on their back half a dozen or so times, a potential seven points were left on the field in the form of a fumble at the Titans' eight-yard line, four points were left on the field in the form of a dropped would-be touchdown pass, a fourth-quarter drive was sabotaged by a dropped pass along the sideline, and if all of that wasn't enough to overcome, the Jaguars field goal kicker blew out his leg in pregame, causing three more points to be left on the field in the third quarter.
His critics will claim Garrard came up empty in two fourth-quarter possessions with the Titans leading by three points. He did.
A more thorough assessment of Garrard's afternoon will show that he completed 17 of 30 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and an 88.8 passer rating. That was as good as it got for the Jaguars on Sunday.
"David played pretty well; made some plays. He started the game extremely sharp. There was a drop or two that come to mind," head coach Jack Del Rio said.
The big drop that comes to mind was by Matt Jones, who had a perfect lob in the back of the end zone land in both of his hands, but Jones was unable to tuck the ball away.
"From my perspective, I would hope he would catch any ball that hits him in the hands, but that defender's going to make plays, too, and he's going to do his best to knock balls out. I think he did a good job of making it a tough catch for Matt. I would've loved for him to come up with it and know he would have loved to catch it," Garrard said.
It was a play that could've staked the Jaguars to a 14-3 lead.
Garrard's big play of the day was his 47-yard touchdown toss to rookie wide receiver John Broussard. It was a thing of beauty; a perfect spiral that dropped into the diving Broussard's arms in the end zone.
It was big because it erased a 3-0 deficit in the first quarter and gave the Jaguars a big lift. It's the kind of play Garrard was criticized for not making last season, when he was largely packaged as a don't-screw-it-up caretaker quarterback. On this day, he was a playmaker. He was the best weapon the Jaguars had in their huddle; either one.
"I wanted to perform at a high level, but under control. I felt like I made decent decisions when I did move around and use my legs. I thought I did a good job not trying to force balls into any tough situations. I really did feel comfortable. I felt very relaxed," he said.
As the noose began to tighten late in the game, he made a few dangerous throws. At that point, the Titans had reduced the Jaguars to a throw-only attack and the passing lanes became crowded. On several occasions earlier in the game, Garrard was the perfect mix of aggressiveness and discretion.
"I was happy to go out and have a decent performance, take care of the ball and have no turnovers and show this is moving in the right direction," he said.
Had he gotten the kind of support he got from his teammates last season, victory would've easily been the result. This could've been a glorious season-opener for Garrard and the Jaguars. Now, they face the challenge of recovery.
Don't hang this one on Garrard.