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"I wasn't sure we'd be able to get him"


Dirk Koetter didn't spend an extreme amount of time before the 2011 NFL Draft considering whether or not the Jaguars would select Blaine Gabbert.

Not that the Jaguars' offensive coordinator didn't want Gabbert.

He just wanted to be realistic.

When Gabbert, a quarterback from the University of Missouri, on Thursday became the Jaguars' 2011 first-round draft selection, Koetter learned of the news like pretty much everyone else. He was watching television in his office, and trying to figure out if Gabbert would make it to No. 16.

Then, the Jaguars' quarterback situation changed.

The Jaguars traded their second-round selection and the No. 16 selection to the Washington Redskins in exchange for the No. 10 overall selection. With that, they selected Gabbert, a two-year starter at Missouri and a player Koetter said possesses the skill set of an elite-level quarterback.

"They definitely got the right kind of guy," Koetter said, adding, "As a player, he has the skill set to be a very successful, top-tier NFL quarterback."

Mike Sheppard, hired in February as the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach said he, like Koetter, doubted before the draft Gabbert – projected by some as a potential Top 5 selection – would drop far enough for the Jaguars to have a chance to move to select him.

"I wasn't sure we'd be able to get him," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said Gabbert possesses "a lot of the qualities I call critical factors" at the position: accuracy, velocity, height, intelligence, "ability to process."

"The more I learned about him, the better I liked him," Sheppard said.

Koetter said when the Tennessee Titans took Washington quarterback Jake Locker  at No. 8 he began to seriously consider the possibility of the Jaguars selecting Gabbert. Minutes later, the news flashed across the television that the Jaguars had traded with Washington.

"I was watching ESPN and the cameras are showing Blaine," Koetter said. "I'm thinking, 'Is there any way he gets past Minnesota at 12?' About the time my brain says that ESPN says, 'The Jaguars are on the clock.' I said, 'Oh my God, we're going to select Gabbert.'

"It happened that fast. It was so fast. . . . I was watching it like everyone else was, and all of a sudden, the Jaguars are on the clock."

Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said Thursday part of Gabbert's adjustment to the NFL will be becoming accustomed to a pro-style offense. He played in a shotgun-oriented offense at Missouri, throwing 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions as a senior.

"The only question is, 'How long is it going to take to adjust from his college offense?''' Koetter said.

Gabbert during his press conference with Jacksonville media Friday noted that he threw the ball 500 times a year at Missouri and that he was still asked to make quick, accurate decisions.

"I thought that was a great answer," Koetter said.

Sheppard said he doesn't believe it will be a difficult process.

"I can't remember a time in my career where a guy who was a shotgun guy had trouble going under center," Sheppard said. "It's an easy thing. They're good athletes. Most of those guys are great golfers, so they're athletic. Those are easy things."

Koetter reiterated a point Smith and Head Coach Jack Del Rio made on Thursday – that Gabbert will begin working behind starter David Garrard.

"From where I sit, we have a good quarterback in Dave," Koetter said.  "I think it's an ideal situation – to get a guy for the future."

Koetter, entering his fifth season as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, attended Gabbert's Pro Day leading to the draft. He said he came away impressed with many things about Gabbert, including good natural mechanics, touch, anticipation, size and "escapability."

"I love him as a scrambler -- not only as a runner, but as a guy who throws the ball down the field," Koetter said, adding, "The people surrounding the program at Missouri rave about this guy. They can't say enough good things."

Koetter, who said Gabbert's arm strength was impressive at his Pro day, said he had Gabbert as the highest-rated quarterback in the draft, ahead of Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall selection Cam Newton. Still, Koetter said Gabbert wasn't on his "wish list."

"It wasn't even a wish list, because I just thought, 'No way this guy makes it to 16,''' Koetter said. "I wasn't expecting to trade up, and I didn't see any way he made 16."

Koetter said while he was surprised with the move, it made sense.

"If you look at what people give up in order to get that kind of guy, to give up one second-round pick to get a quarterback who might be here . . . hopefully, he's the next Peyton Manning. Who knows?" Koetter said. "There are only so many guys a year who can come in and be your quarterback for the next few years."

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