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Jags may face tough call


It may be a memory that will forever impact James "Shack" Harris' draft-day decision-making: Don't pass on a franchise-caliber quarterback.

That's what the Baltimore Ravens did in 1999, when they selected cornerback Chris McAlister with the 10th pick of the draft. One pick later, the Minnesota Vikings selected Daunte Culpepper, who would become the team's quarterback of the long-term future.

Harris was the Ravens' pro personnel director at that time, which means he shouldered no culpability for the mistake. Mistake? Yeah, McAlister is a pretty good player, but he's not a player of the value of Culpepper.

It was a major mistake. If the Ravens had drafted Culpepper in '99, they almost certainly would've made more than a one-year run at the Super Bowl. Had they drafted Culpepper in '99, they wouldn't have had to play with Jeff Blake at quarterback last season; they wouldn't be desperate to draft a quarterback this year.

Harris, the Jaguars personnel director, may face the same situation this Saturday. A franchise-caliber quarterback may be available to the Jaguars and Harris will lead a three-pronged decision-making process that will either commit this team to the future, or maintain status quo at sports' most important position.

If one of the draft's top-ranked quarterbacks is available to the Jaguars, the decision will come down to this:

• Do you draft that quarterback and go young at the position, which would clearly announce an emphasis on the future and would neutralize much of what the Jaguars did in free agency this spring, when they spent more than $12 million in bonus money to upgrade the roster and patch glaring holes in the lineup, all with the intent of becoming a playoff contender in year one of this new era in Jaguars football?

• Or do you pass on that quarterback and run the risk of regretting it for the next 10 years or more?

The most difficult aspect of drafting a franchise quarterback is the commitment it requires. In the Jaguars' case, it would be nearly impossible to select a franchise-grade quarterback and maintain Mark Brunell as the starter while the new guy develops his skills. The message it would send would damage Brunell's status as the team's leader. Such a circumstance would not promote team chemistry.

No, if you're going to go young at quarterback, it's time to move on. And that's where the Jaguars' decision would get real difficult. Nobody likes to wave a white flag for the next season, but how do you turn over the position to a rookie and to a second-year player who has only made one pro start and not embrace rebuilding?

One way or another, it would seem the Jaguars are facing a most courageous decision this Saturday. Go young, or stay old?

What would you decide?

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