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Garrard emerged


The 2007 season will forever be remembered as the year the Jaguars found their quarterback, and Saturday's 31-20 playoff loss to the Patriots only served to underscore Garrard's emergence.

In a head to head battle against the best quarterback in the game, maybe the best quarterback to ever play the game, Garrard more than held his own. Had it not been for two dropped would-be touchdown passes, the outcome may have been different.

Well, no; that's an exaggeration. Brady was unstoppable. That was the difference in the game. Brady was unstoppable; Garrard was nearly unstoppable.

Go back to each team's opening drive of the game. On a fourth-and-one play at the New England 43, Garrard threw a 34-yard completion to tight end Marcedes Lewis. Three plays later, Garrard threw a touchdown pass as he was being pulled down, and the Jaguars led 7-0.

How did Brady respond? As you would expect. On fourth and five from the Jacksonville 40, Brady completed a 14-yard toss to Randy Moss for a first down, and four plays later Brady found tight end Ben Watson for a score that tied the game at 7-7.

It was that kind of game. Brady went ahead 14-7, and then Garrard tied the game at 14-14 before halftime. Heading to the locker room, the Jaguars felt great. They were tied with the undefeated Patriots and the Jaguars had a quarterback who was standing toe to toe with the incomparable Brady.

You know the rest. It didn't turn out well. There were those two drops, one by Dennis Northcutt at the two-yard line and one by Matt Jones on an alley-oop in the back-left corner of the end zone.

That was it. You can't drop would-be touchdown passes and expect to beat Brady. Frankly, you can't expect to beat Brady even when you can catch touchdown passes.

All of that is meaningless now. The Jaguars' excellent season ended in Gillette Stadium, against a team nobody can beat. We'll see if that holds true.

What's important to the Jaguars going forward is they have their quarterback. They have the man to lead them into their future. Garrard, clearly, is their man.

"I think I established that I can play when the lights come on. I relied on my skills and my preparation. We showed we can score points," Garrard said.

Garrard completed 22 of 33 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 100.3 passer rating. He also rushed three times for 14 yards and lost a fumble.

Not bad, right? Yeah, but those stats aren't indicative of how well he played. The interception was on fourth down at desperation time. His choices were to either throw an interception or turn the ball over on downs.

Now add in the two drops as completions and you've got a quarterback with four touchdown passes and more than 300 yards of passing. Yeah, he was that good.

Garrard is the good news going forward. Every team has to have a quality quarterback to consider itself a championship contender, and the Jaguars have one.

"You have to find a quarterback to advance in the playoffs. David showed tonight he's ready," Del Rio said.

At some point during the upcoming offseason, the Jaguars have to make a decision on whether or not they'll seek to sign Garrard to a long-term contract. He has a year remaining on his current deal.

Have they seen enough to make him the official future of the franchise? That's the big question heading into the offseason.

"I would love to," Garrard said when asked if he'd like to sign a long-term contract during the offseason. "I hope and pray that can happen. I want to be here a long time. I don't want it to be a one-year thing. I hope the Jaguars do the right thing. Whatever that is, I'll live with it."

His performance against the Patriots was a strong finishing sales pitch.

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