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In Garrard they trust


Sunday's loss to the Colts caused an inevitable reference to the Jaguars' late-season collapse last year. Will the Jaguars avoid a collapse this year?

"We can look back at last year as an example of what not to do," running back Fred Taylor said.

In the Jaguars' favor this season is the play of quarterback David Garrard, who is an improved quarterback in every way over the Garrard who stumbled down the stretch last year. The Jaguars' motto as they head into the final four games of this season would seem to be: In Garrard we trust.

"I think this team has confidence in me. I know I have confidence," Garrard said on Wednesday.

A year ago at this time, Garrard was the "game manager" of a run-the-ball offense. He was expected to do little more than get the team in and out of the huddle, complete a few passes and, most importantly, don't turn it over. Then, the interceptions came.

As the Jaguars turn into the final quarter of this season, Garrard is much more than a "game manager." He is the star of this team. He is the league's third-ranked passer. He is the Jaguars' hope that this season can become something more than one and done.

"We want to win a championship here. There are certain things you have to do to get to that level of play. Our passing game is showing signs. There's more there," coach Jack Del Rio said. "I think it's been proven that the surest way to get into the hunt is to have a quarterback."

Make no mistake about it, the Jaguars are in the hunt.

"We're in position. We're OK. We control our own destiny," Taylor said.

The Jaguars' favorable position, which is to say the leader in the wild-card race, will become even more favorable should they defeat the 5-7 Carolina Panthers this Sunday at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

"If we can get that win, that's all that matters. If we don't beat them, we have a harder battle to fight," Taylor said. "The bottom line is getting in (the playoffs). It doesn't matter who you play. Five seed, six seed; we just want to give ourselves a chance."

The pressure of getting the Jaguars into the playoffs falls, of course, on Garrard. A year ago, that pressure may have affected his play, and that's why he's determined not to let late-season pressure get to him this year.

"I just try to have fun. When I've been in a game and have played well, it gives me more confidence," he said. "I have more confidence now. It's gotten me to the point that I just play and have fun. It's like it was for me in college. The game has slowed down for me. I think I've learned that I don't have to do everything."

Garrard turned in a superb performance in Indianapolis last Sunday, though in a losing cause. The blame in that game fell on a pass-defense that couldn't stop Peyton Manning from converting on third down.

"We've got to play better pass-defense," Del Rio said. "We're not going to change who we have. We just have to play better."

Del Rio announced on Wednesday that Garrard and defensive end Paul Spicer will join Taylor as permanent captains for the remainder of this season. That means Garrard and Spicer will have the "C" insignia added to the front of their jerseys.

"Last year we were in a good position, but we didn't play our best ball and didn't get it done. We're in position to be in the playoffs. It's all there for us. We're at home. We have to take care of business," Spicer said.

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