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Garrard silences critics


This will be a relaxing week for David Garrard. If he wants, he can even read the newspaper or listen to the sports talk shows.

"Mike (Shula) and I tell David don't read that stuff," Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter said following the Jaguars' 30-27, overtime win over Houston on Sunday.

No, problem, coach; not this week. No one could possibly be stupid enough to criticize Garrard this week.

His performance against the Texans was one of the best of his young career as a starting quarterback. Garrard picked up the Jaguars, put them on his powerful shoulders and carried them to victory.

Trailing 24-20 with 7:06 to play in the game, Garrard drove the offense to what most thought would be the game-winning touchdown. On the final two plays of that drive, he called his own number, his calling-card play, the quarterback draw. The weary Texans defense didn't stand a chance.

Garrard, however, would have to do it again. After the Jaguars defense failed to protect the lead for the second time in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars won the overtime coin toss and Garrard made sure the Jaguars defense didn't have to play another down.

He converted a critical third-and-five pass with a perfectly-thrown ball to Matt Jones' back shoulder. Then a short sideline toss to Greg Jones gained 22 yards and sent Josh Scobee onto the field to do the honors for the second consecutive week.

"He played awesome," Koetter said of Garrard. "He was sort of willing us there for awhile. His accuracy was impressive."

A slow start to the season, which saw Garrard's passer rating dip nearly 40 points beneath last year's number, resulted in a lot of media and fan criticism. They called him a one-year wonder. They said the Jaguars signed him to a new contract too soon; should've waited, they said.

Well, what Garrard did against the Texans is why they paid him all that money. There's no regret within the walls of One Stadium Place.

"I know how Dave is. I've never seen Dave down. Dave has a smile on his face all the time," Koetter said. "This is the guy who's the leader of our team."

Yeah, that's what came shining through on Sunday. If you didn't already know it, Garrard is the Jaguars' leader. How could you not know that? How could you deny it after he led the Jaguars to victory for the second consecutive week by driving the team to the winning points in the final possession of the game?

The Texans were daring the Jaguars to throw the ball. "Absolutely," Koetter said.

They routinely employed nine men at the line of scrimmage to stop the run, and they were successful. At halftime, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew had combined for just 13 yards rushing.

Yeah, the game was on Garrard's shoulders again. That's the way it's going to be this year. Teams are going to dare Garrard to be the difference-maker, for the obvious reason that opponents are much more afraid of Taylor's and Jones-Drew's big-play abilities than they are of the Jaguars' receivers.

No quarterback in the league faces more pressure. He has to be "The Man." There's no denying that he was.

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