Published June 14, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, Pa – When you introduce competition into any environment, things tend to get better.
That's why Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell recently said a guy who just got cut to make room for Tim Tebow has a chance to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in 2013.
Caldwell's narrative was cobbled together with an eye toward creating competition for his two incumbent signal callers, Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.
The Jags were awarded third-year quarterback Mike Kafka off waivers from New England earlier this week shortly after the Patriots jettisoned the former Northwestern star in favor of Tebow.
"I'm really thankful to be here, and I'm happy to be here," Kafka said after being picked up by Jacksonville. "Now, it's time to get to work. Nothing really surprises me in this league. That (signing Tebow) was (the Patriots') decision and now I'm happy to be here. I'm looking forward to getting to work."
The 6-foot-3 Kafka has decent size and instincts for the position, but his arm strength isn't exactly going to remind you of John Elway or Brett Favre.
Originally a a fourth-round draft pick by Philadelphia in 2010, Kafka didn't show much in a cup of coffee with the Eagles, playing in four games and completing 11-of-16 passes for 107 yards before finally being beat out by Trent Edwards for the Birds' third spot before the 2012 season. He compiled a dismal 23.1 passer rating in preseason play.
Let's just say an established quarterback wouldn't exactly sweat if Kafka sauntered into the locker room.
Gabbert and Henne, though, would be wise to take any bluff from Caldwell -- no matter how empty -- seriously.
"Kafka has just as good an opportunity (as Gabbert, Chad Henne or undrafted rookies Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers)," Caldwell recently said on Sirius XM Radio, likely in an effort to light a fire under the QBs, especially the underachieving Gabbert, who was the 10th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars are now one of only two teams currently in the NFL with five quarterbacks on the roster.
All of Gabbert's antagonists in this drama have some nice qualities. Henne has extensive starting experience (31 games in Miami and six last season when he took over for the injured Gabbert), while Kafka once scored a 35 on his Wonderlic test and is considered a bright signal caller with the ability to read defenses.
Scott is an athletic, read-option threat, and Rodgers, the baby brother of former MVP Aaron Rodgers, has genetics on his side although he is currently recovering from sports-hernia surgery.
The 6-4, 233-pound Gabbert remains the only one with a plus-ceiling as a player, however, and is straight out of central casting when it comes to quarterbacks, so developing him remains the most sensible option for the Jags.
As poorly as Gabbert has performed in his NFL career, remember he has had little to no continuity at the top of this organization.
During Gabbert's rookie season, Jack Del Rio was in the midst of his last stand after nine years in Jacksonville and the Mizzou product started 14 games, was sacked on 40 different occasions and fumbled an NFL-high 14 times. His 50.8 percent completion percentage was second-worst in the NFL, besting only Tebow's laughable 46.5 mark, and his 5.4 yards per attempt, along with his 65.4 overall passer rating were dead last.
In came Mike Mularkey, an offensive-minded head coach, and a promising start for Gabbert in 2012, one in which he threw for career-high 260 passing yards with two touchdowns and a solid 96.1 quarterback rating in a season-opening loss at Minnesota, quickly dissipated.
Gabbert went on to tear the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder against Oakland on Oct. 21 before eventually being put on season-ending injured reserve a month later.
"I think I was better last year than I was the year before," Gabbert said. "It's just all about getting comfortable in an offensive system."
Now it's Gus Bradley's turn with Gabbert. A defensive-minded mentor, Bradley brought in Jedd Fisch as his offensive coordinator and Frank Scelfo as quarterbacks coach.
Fisch has 16 years of coaching experience with mentors like Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, two-time Super Bowl champion and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, Super Bowl champion and former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick, and national champion and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
Scelfo is a 30-year vet who recently spent two seasons as quarterbacks coach for the University of Arizona, where he tutored the Eagles' Nick Foles, one of the players who made Kafka expendable in Philly.
"Look at some quarterbacks. It takes maybe more than two years, three or four years," Caldwell said earlier this offseason when discussing Gabbert and his poor performance. "(Gabbert) came out as a junior and he's a very young quarterback and he still has a lot of upside. I always thought Blaine was going to be a long-term project when he came out anyway.
"Look at the quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning, they spent a full five years in college. Blaine should be a rookie coming out this year. Let's work with him."
And work they will, but this time Bradley and his coaching staff will have a heavily populated safety net, one which figures to foster a wide-open quarterback competition.
"We don't feel there's much of a rush," Caldwell said when asked about his crowded QB situation at minicamp. "When it presents itself and we feel good about it, that somebody's the flat-out winner, we'll (name the starter). We've got to go through camp and some preseason games to figure it out."