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Garrard offers option


Now the drama begins for Mark Brunell and David Garrard. This is their winter of uncertainty.

Garrard heightened Brunell's anxiety Sunday when Garrard capped his rookie season with his first professional start, then performed with enough poise and promise to possibly cause those in the decision-making process this winter to believe Garrard is the Jaguars' quarterback of the future, and that the future could begin as early as next season.

Not too many years ago, it would've been the unthinkable. Since he burst onto the scene in 1995 and '96 with pass-and-run skills that earned him comparison to Steve Young, Brunell has been the very identity of Jaguars football.

He was the symbol of a bold, new team in a young city on the rise. Jacksonville reflected in his eyes. It was his town. He was its quarterback. And now we wonder if all of that won't end this offseason. Brunell wonders.

"There's a lot of uncertainty. There are a lot of question marks. It's part of the game. You wait," Brunell said following the Jaguars' 20-13 loss to the Colts.

If this was to have been his final game with the Jaguars, it will have been spent on the sideline, standing on a sore right hamstring and watching the future unfold for Garrard and what was always Brunell's team.

This can be a very cold game.

"I want to be here, but I'm going to be somewhere. If the decision is made to make a change at the quarterback position, then I'll move on," Brunell said.

You could feel his pain.

How do we explain this? How do we explain that the man who delivered that great playoff win in Denver a short seven seasons ago no longer has the spring in his legs to run around and away from defenders twice his size?

Age and seven seasons of pounding would seem to be the only explanation.

Making matters worse for Brunell, Garrard possesses the youth Brunell has lost. And that obvious fact could cause the Jaguars' decision-makers this winter to cast their lot with Garrard and the significant salary cap savings Brunell's departure would offer.

"I always want to be competing for the starting job," Garrard said following Sunday's game, "but I still have a year or so in which I could definitely learn. If I'm number two, it's all right. It'll only be my second year."

Obviously, Garrard learned more about professional football this year than how to read defenses. He learned the art of diplomacy, which he clearly lacked on draft day. Then, Garrard awkwardly all but challenged Brunell to a duel for the starting job. It was laughable, then. Now, it is not.

"I think people know who I am now," Garrard said of what he accomplished with his performance against the Colts, which was far from spectacular but certainly encouraging. "I didn't have a Vick performance, but people will think one day I'll be a great quarterback, like I think I will," he added.

He didn't "have a Vick performance," but neither did Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, and that's not acceptable for a guy whose cap number next season will exceed $15 million and force the Colts to mortgage their future in a contract re-structuring.

The fact of the matter is a lot of teams in the league are winning games with bargain-basement quarterbacks, and you could certainly make a point that the position has become overvalued and that the smart teams are the ones who are winning without investing 15-20 percent of their salary cap in one player. The Jaguars' decision-makers will certainly consider that information when they evaluate the position this winter.

"It allows me to go into the offseason and know I can play in this league," Garrard said of what he accomplished in the regular-season finale.

And it will help the Jaguars' decision-makers -- whoever they are to be -- know they have an option. All of a sudden, Brunell's career with the Jaguars is in doubt.

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