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Signature win for Del Rio


It was a simple and fair question, but Jack Del Rio predictably declined to answer it. Coaches don't like to reflect. They don't like to live in anything but the moment.

So where does this win in Denver rank among high moments in Del Rio's time as coach of the Jaguars? Here's the answer: Right up there with the win over the Colts last season and the one in Pittsburgh the year before and any other win among the 36 he's collected as a head coach.

This was a signature win. This is a signature season and it bears Del Rio's signature.

It's all of that because Del Rio had the courage nine days before the season began to do the unthinkable. He cut his starting quarterback.

The coach was skewered nationally. He was ridiculed and assailed. Smart coaches don't do things like that, it was said. What his critics failed to consider is that maybe, just maybe, the coach knew what he was doing.

They failed to consider the courage it takes to make such a bold move. The downside risk was fantastic. He was putting his job on the line.

Now, a little more than three weeks since that infamous day the quarterback was cut, Del Rio's team is 2-1 and its arrow is pointing up. Why? Because the quarterback Del Rio dared to make the starter is playing at a near-elite level.

"He's a humble young man. He's got some talent. He's taken well to the coaching. He's worked at his trade. It makes you proud as a coach to work with a young man like that," Del Rio said of his quarterback, David Garrard.

All around the Jaguars postgame locker room, Garrard was being praised.

"He's surprising y'all and he's surprising the league. He's not surprising me at all," Mike Peterson said.

Life's never been better for Garrard. His wife, Mary, gave birth to the couple's first child, Justin Thomas, earlier this week. He's one of the league's top-rated passers and he has two weeks to savor his fast start.

Garrard's numbers on Sunday weren't gunslinger-like. They were workmanlike: 14 of 20 for 154 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 109.2 passer rating. More importantly, he made key plays at key moments. He rushed for 52 yards; drove the Broncos crazy with his feet as Mark Brunell had done a long time ago.

He did something else; something most people thought he didn't have the ability to master. He ran the offense, beating the Broncos with several opportunistic audibles.

"We did a lot of audibling here with the noise. He was able to get us into a lot of plays. That's something you've got to be able to do in this league. You've got to be able to get out of disastrous plays," Del Rio said.

Garrard leaned on one audible in particular; the quarterback draw. When he saw the Broncos playing two-deep safeties, he called his own number.

"There were times when they were in two-man. It puts a smile on my face. I've been blessed with the ability to run and I thought I did a pretty good job today," Garrard said.

The challenge he now faces is to continue to play at this level. If he does, the win in Denver will be just one of many signature victories, and Del Rio's signature will be all over all of them.

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