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Just be fair and open-minded


The Byron bashers may get what they want this weekend. This is just a hunch, but I can't deny the feeling I have that David Garrard is going to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback against the Eagles.

If that's what happens, then the Jaguars will be in good hands. Garrard is an accomplished veteran quarterback. He was down this road late last season when he produced a 5-1 record in Leftwich's stead.

I don't know what the fans' overall expectations are for Garrard on Sunday, but mine will be very fair. As I said late last season when Garrard took over at quarterback, I will, again, keep an open mind. If Garrard is, in fact, the Jaguars' starting quarterback on Sunday, I'll watch him and I'll compare him and I'll use what he does as a measuring stick toward an evaluation when the season is over.

Clearly, the Jaguars are heading toward some kind of judgment day at the position. Leftwich's contract will have only a year left on it when this season is over, and the Jaguars will have to make a decision as to whether they should begin negotiations on a new long-term deal, or let the current deal go into its final year.

The upside of allowing it to go into its final year is the Jaguars will have bought another year of evaluation time. The downside is that should Leftwich have a big season in that final year, the Jaguars will either have to dig deeper on a deal that's been inflated by that success, or "franchise" Leftwich and take a whopping one-year salary cap hit.

Option number two is the safer approach. Option one would only be the right call if Leftwich achieves a higher level of performance.

Should Garrard be the starter for any significant amount of playing time this season, he would be playing for a chance to be considered a candidate to become the Jaguars' long-term starter or another team's starting quarterback. Garrard's contract with the Jaguars will have two years remaining on it when this season is over. That's to his advantage.

Could the Jaguars win with Garrard? Well, they already have, but could they do it over a whole season and do it against top competition? In the sake of fairness, Garrard didn't beat anyone last year worth mentioning. Arizona, Cleveland, San Francisco, Houston and Tennessee represented the dregs of the league.

Leftwich has measured some top opponents. He's beaten Pittsburgh a couple of times, Indy a couple of times, Cincinnati, Seattle and Denver. He's beaten top quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, Trent Green, Carson Palmer and Matt Hasselbeck. That's to Leftwich's advantage.

This appears to be a season that's going to be dedicated, to a large degree, to the "Great Debate," again. Leftwich or Garrard? It's never ending.

I'm not going to attempt to sway you one way or another but I will say this: In my opinion, Leftwich's backers were very fair in their support and evaluation of Garrard last season, and I have no doubt they will be the same this Sunday, should Garrard be under center. Leftwich supporters kept an open mind about Garrard and their main concern was for winning the game, not the position. I can't say the same for the Byron bashers, a large percentage of which became Garrard supporters only because it was their primary means for expressing dissent.

Byron bashers have not kept an open mind. Byron bashers have not been fair in their evaluation, and that's why I remain skeptical of their claim to be fans of this team.

Form any opinion you wish. You are entitled to it. All I ask is that you have an open mind and that your evaluation is fair and objective.

Is that too much to ask?

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