The Jacksonville Jaguars released veteran quarterback David Garrard on Tuesday, calling the move "purely a football decision."

Cutting Garrard, so close to Sunday's season opener against Tennessee, came as a surprise. Longtime backup Luke McCown will start the game, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said during a press conference.

"As always, we seek to play with the best players and I think it's imperative we do what's best for the football team," Del Rio said in announcing the move. "This is purely a football decision."

Garrard had been Jacksonville's starting quarterback since he replaced Byron Leftwich under similar circumstances before the start of the 2007 season.

The Jaguars' fourth-round pick in 2002, Garrard has spent his entire career with the team, throwing for 16,003 yards, 89 touchdowns and 54 interceptions with a 61.6 percent completion percentage. He has also rushed for 1,746 yards and 17 scores through 86 games -- 76 starts.

He led the Jaguars to an 11-5 record in his first season as a starter and advanced to the AFC's divisional round. It was the only time in his tenure he reached the playoffs, recording consecutive losing records before finishing 8-8 last season.

McCown has spent the last two seasons as the backup to Garrard and has appeared in just 16 games with seven starts over his eight-year NFL career.

He has completed 154-of-260 passes for 1,739 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his career. His last TD pass came in a 2007 game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which he threw for two scores and a pick.

This preseason, however, McCown was more effective than Garrard. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns, while Garrard went 19-for-38 through the air for 216 yards and an interception.

"He's earned this opportunity and we think he gives our franchise the best opportunity to win," Del Rio said about McCown.

McCown will be backed up by rookie QB Blaine Gabbert, who was taken with the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft.