(Nov. 27) TEMPE, AZ—It is the "moment" – in this case the "moment" will be represented by five weeks of high drama – for which David Garrard has spent four seasons preparing. Yeah, he had a mini-moment last season; he went 1-1 in two starts. Nothing about this "moment," however, will be mini or minor.
This is the real thing. This is why they lift all those weights. This is about the playoffs and David Garrard is the guy, "The Man," who will decide whether or not the Jaguars return to the playoffs this season for the first time since 1999.
Pressure? You bet he's got pressure. Quarterbacks get paid to beat it and Garrard already has a plan for defeating the pressure he inherited from Byron Leftwich when Leftwich suffered a broken foot in the first quarter of Sunday's win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"My thing is I can't let anyone put pressure on my shoulders. Don't listen to the media. Don't listen to the fans," Garrard said in his postgame interview with reporters.
Leftwich was already dressed and gone. It was the worst Sunday of his season; maybe the worst Sunday of his life. Just when everything about his career and his team's fortunes were spiraling upward, his season came to a halt. Maybe he'll recover in time to play again. That might, however, depend on Garrard getting the Jaguars into the playoffs.
"He's not in good spirits right now," Jimmy Smith said of Leftwich. "He's not doing well."
At 8-3, the Jaguars are surging toward a playoff berth. If the season ended today, they'd be in. The season, however, doesn't end today. It doesn't end until five weeks from today and history would tell us Garrard will have to lead the Jaguars to a minimum of two more wins to earn a playoff berth.
Two more wins against the Jaguars' soft schedule? That should be more than do-able, but it still has to be done and winning with a backup quarterback isn't that easy. Ask the Steelers.
"Every game is going to be high-profile. I'm going to play every game to win and lead this team to victory. I don't have to be Superman and I'm not going to let anyone make me feel like I have to be Superman. I've got (my teammates') backs and they've got mine," Garrard said.
"This is what you dream about as a kid; the chance to be able to finish a season and take a team to the playoffs. You can't ask for anything more than that," he added.
His dream began unexpectedly on Sunday. All of a sudden, following a 15-yard completion on his second pass of the game, Leftwich limped from the field with what was first thought to be a tender ankle. Shortly after, he was carted to the locker room. Not long after that, the Jaguars announced Leftwich had sustained a sprained ankle and would not return to the game. After the game, coach Jack Del Rio updated reporters with the news that Leftwich had broken his left foot and would probably be out of action for a month. You can do the math.
"He wins games on his shoulders and I know I can do the same. If I have any pressure, it's not letting my teammates down," Garrard said.
He didn't let them down on Sunday. He didn't exactly put the Jaguars on his shoulders and carry them to victory, but he ran for a touchdown and a critical first down, didn't commit any turnovers or costly mistakes, and displayed huddle and leadership skills that will serve him well in December.
"Everybody has to pull together and pick it up a notch or two. I don't want to hurt my team at all. I know I'll get better at things. All of the things I have to do I've done before, but I haven't done them in awhile," Garrard said.
He'll be doing them each week for the next month. How well he does them will probably determine whether or not the Jaguars make the playoffs.