Garrard has look of starting QB

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His passer rating said he was an 84.0 quarterback. David Garrard's coach said the passer rating was misleading.

"I don't think the rating reflects how well he played," Jack Del Rio said of his quarterback.

Let's put it this way: Garrard was in complete control, at all times. He took command of the game early, struggled to deliver the knockout punch, then used his legs to make one of the big plays of the game in salting away a 26-10 win on Monday night against the visiting New York Giants.

This was a special game for Garrard. It was against the team he cheered growing up in north Jersey, and it was against the coach who drafted him five seasons ago.

It was also a game played on the eve of ankle surgery Byron Leftwich will have in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday. It's surgery that re-affirms Garrard's status as the Jaguars' starting quarterback and, for that reason alone, Garrard needed to respond with a solid performance against the Giants.

He did just that. He threw for a workmanlike 249 yards by spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. Garrard converted nine of 18 third-down plays and effectively managed a ball-control offense that posted 414 total net yards and a whopping 40:19 time of possession.

Garrard didn't throw a touchdown pass, but neither did he throw an interception. He was exactly what Del Rio wanted of his quarterback on this night. He was efficient.

"I thought offensively we were very sharp tonight. I thought David Garrard was very sharp tonight. With Byron having surgery (on Tuesday), that's a big lift for our football team," Del Rio said.

Six games remain. They are six games that'll determine whether the Jaguars will play in the postseason for the second consecutive year. They are six games Garrard will use to develop into the playoff-caliber quarterback the Jaguars must have to have any chance of winning in the postseason.

"All of that stuff is going to be determined. The more of those you see," Del Rio said of Monday night's game, "the more confident everybody gets. I really like the fact that mentally he's really dialed in to what can I do to help the football team?"

What Garrard is doing is all of the little things required of a winning quarterback. He's a manager of the game. He's not a gunslinger, and that's just fine for the coach of a team that's built on defense.

"I feel like I played pretty decent. I left some plays out there. I'm still learning. I'm still trying to be a better NFL quarterback," said Garrard, who improved his record as a starter to 8-4.

In the process, he's establishing himself as a true starting quarterback, and that's what's most important to Garrard. He wants to be identified as a starting quarterback.

"I felt bad for him. I know he wants to be on the field. I hope he has a speedy recovery," Garrard said of Leftwich, "but I hope I continue to play well and prove I can be a starter in this league."

Does he believe he's worthy of the title?

"I definitely do feel like a starting quarterback," Garrard said. "When a play needs to be made, I feel like I can step up and make that play."

He stepped up at critical times against the Giants. On third-and-five at the Giants 38-yard line in the third quarter, with the Jaguars clinging to a lead that had just been cut to three points, Garrard appeared to have been sacked for a loss that would've surely forced a punt. All of a sudden, however, he was running with the football, all the way to the Giants 21-yard line. It led to a field goal that stretched the Jaguars' lead to six points.

"Without a guy who can run, that play just doesn't happen," Del Rio said.

Garrard understands what's at stake for him. It doesn't take a genius to understand that he's auditioning for his future with the Jaguars. He's playing to become the Jaguars' starting quarterback beyond this season.

"What makes me feel good about tonight was bouncing back from last week," Garrard said, referring to a four-interception performance in a loss to Houston. "This was a chance to show where I'm at."

Those chances now are weekly.

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