Now it's time to find out if, in fact, David Garrard can lead this team to the playoffs. It's time to find out if he can take a team coast-to-coast in a division that includes one of the game's top two quarterbacks, last year's rookie of the year and this year's hot-new quarterback.
We need to know if Garrard is the real thing and we're not going to find out by shackling Garrard to the philosophy that incompletions are better than interceptions. The truth is that neither one is going to win a division title.
If any player should be saddled with the responsibility of being a playmaker, it should be the quarterback. He's "The Man." He's the guy who usually initiates the plays that decide games. The best teams have the best quarterbacks and the best quarterbacks throw touchdown passes, not incompletions.
What I'm trying to say is that it's time to stop harping on Garrard's three interceptions in Tennessee late last season. It's time to understand the best quarterbacks also throw interceptions and Garrard has to be allowed to throw his share.
It's time to saddle Garrard with the responsibility of moving the ball up and down the field and scoring touchdowns, and in exchange for that kind of explosiveness he should be permitted the privilege of an occasional errant throw and mistake.
Mark Brunell was afforded that privilege, was he not? Brunell was an interceptions machine in 1996. He threw 20 of them; five in one game. So what happened? Brunell led the Jaguars to the AFC title game and, to this day, the '96 Jaguars are the most popular team in franchise history.
All great quarterbacks have been allowed to go through the interceptions phase of their career. They have to be allowed to get it out of their system. If they are shackled too tightly, they become robots. They become quarterbacks who try not to lose, instead of quarterbacks who play to win.
So, in this, my first "10 things the Jaguars must do to win" column of the season, my number one thing is:
- Turn him loose—Because it's time to find out what Garrard's upside is, instead of trying to limit his downside.
Here are the other nine things:
- Do it to them—The Titans ruined the Jaguars' season last year. Send them on their way to a fall in 2007 with a loss on kickoff weekend.
- Make him be a passer—Vince Young beats you with his legs, not his arm.
- Empty their tank—It's supposed to be very warm, which should work to the Jaguars' advantage. Get into and out of the huddle quickly; snap it with 10 seconds left on the play clock.
- Then run it—Once their tank is on empty, mow 'em down with a steady flow of fresh-legged running backs.
- Know the importance—The Colts are off and running. A loss would be crippling.
- Stop first down—The Jaguars defense must dictate personnel usage by winning on first down and defining run-pass situations on second and third downs so Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith can get his pass-rush specialists onto the field in obvious passing situations.
- Excel on special teams—Intense effort has gone into this area. It needs to return dividends.
- Catch the ball—Jaguars wide receivers need to send a message that this group is, in fact, improved.
- Listen to Billy—Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan spoke to the Jaguars on Friday morning on the topic of belief and trust. It worked for the Gators so it should work for the Jaguars.