As Jack Del Rio saw it, the time for waiting and hoping was over.
Del Rio, in his ninth season the Jaguars' head coach, said the decision on Tuesday to release starting quarterback David Garrard and move veteran Luke McCown into the starting role had nothing to do with money and everything to do with reality.
The Jaguars, Del Rio said, waited throughout the preseason for Garrard to show he should remain the starter. Del Rio said realistically that didn't happen.
"He just couldn't get it going," Del Rio said. "We were hoping for some sign of life, for him to pick it up and get it going. We went to the 11thhour in hopes of having that happen.
"It was obvious it wasn't going to happen, and this was the right decision for us moving forward."
The 11thhour came Tuesday at 4 p.m., when the team announced at a press conference EverBank Field that Garrard had been released after nine seasons with the team, the last four as the starter.
McCown, who joined the Jaguars via trade with Tampa Bay in 2009, will start the team's regular-season opener against Tennessee at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, will open the season as the backup.
"He (McCown) had the best camp out of our three quarterbacks," Del Rio said. "He's earned this opportunity. His teammates have confidence in him. We feel he's our best option to win Sunday. Blaine is a promising young quarterback who has done a nice job in the five weeks he has been here. It's an awful lot to process and become comfortable with in five weeks, but he's coming.
"We like both of them. We feel Luke gives us the best chance to start the year."
Of Gabbert, Del Rio said, "His time will come, but right now, he's in a position where he has to earn it."
The Jaguars for now will not sign a third quarterback.
"At this time, we'll stay with the two we have," Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said. "We feel good about the health and where we're positioned with these two quarterbacks."
Del Rio said Tuesday's decision was a combination of McCown playing well and Garrard's preseason performance.
"Luke has come on," Del Rio said.
McCown has played 16 NFL games, starting seven, but has moved the team well during his appearances with the Jaguars. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns in two preseason appearances.
McCown completed 11 of 19 passes for 120 yards in a backup role in a loss to San Diego early last season, a game that ended for McCown when he sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Smith, like Del Rio, thanked Garrard for his career in Jacksonville.
"He's left a tremendous mark on this franchise," Smith said, adding that Garrard took the news of his release "like a man."
"He has been a tremendous example of how to handle adversity since he has been here," Smith said.
Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver and Del Rio each said finances were not a factor in the decision. Garrard was scheduled to make $8.075 million this season.
Del Rio said Garrard was not asked to take a pay cut.
"There was never any pressure from Mr. Weaver to make this anything other than a pure football decision," Del Rio said. "Money was not a factor in this decision whatsoever."
While Garrard missed the preseason with a back injury and left the preseason finale holding his arm, Del Rio said Garrard said he felt fine physically.
"He just hasn't been able to get it going," Del Rio said. "He's healthy. That really wasn't an issue."
Del Rio said the Jaguars waited until five days before the regular-season opener to release Garrard after spending training camp and preseason because of a desire to give Garrard "every opportunity to show us what we had seen before, what made him the starter in the first place."
Garrard, who set a franchise record with 23 touchdown passes last season, completed 19 of 38 passes for 216 yards and no touchdowns with an interception this preseason. He had a passer rating of 56.5 in three preseason games.
Garrard finished his Jaguars career having completed 1,406 of 2,281 passes for 16,003 yards and 89 touchdowns with 54 interceptions. The Jaguars went 12-4 in his first season as a starter, following that with seasons of 5-11, 7-9 and 8-8.
"He just wasn't able to get it going this preseason," Del Rio said. "For whatever reason, he just has not been able to find the rhythm, has not been able to be his old self. With that being the case, we just had to make a football decision.
"We decided to let him go, let him pursue interests elsewhere if he has that desire. . . . We're moving forward and that's really it."