Published November 20, 2014
David Garrard has heard the boos, the criticism and the negativity. Now he has someone who can truly empathize.
Garrard insisted he was unfazed by Edwards' arrival. Garrard remains the starter for Sunday's game against Indianapolis, but realizes more poor performances could lead to a change under center.
"They're going to do what is best for the team, whatever they feel like they can do to help make the team better," Garrard said. "I'm fine. We just have to make sure this entire team turns things around. I can't back away from the last couple of games, but that's the toughness of this league. You're going to have tough ones and you've got to be able to bounce back from it. I know I will."
Garrard completed 53 percent of his passes the last two weeks, with one garbage-time touchdown and five interceptions. He also was sacked nine times (an official scoring change resulted in seven sacks against Philadelphia) and botched a pitch to Maurice Jones-Drew.
The result was consecutive 25-point losses to San Diego and Philadelphia — and talk about Garrard's job security. The Jaguars (1-2) probably would have turned to backup Luke McCown, but he tore a knee ligament against the Chargers and was placed on injured reserve.
So when Edwards was released Monday, the Jaguars wasted little time claiming him. They picked up the remaining $1.36 million on his contract and will make him the No. 3 quarterback against the Colts (2-1).
"He's a nice young player at a premium position," coach Jack Del Rio said. "We'll bring him along as quickly as we can, teach him our system and, like all our players, put him in a position where if he is called upon we expect him to play well."
Edwards feels fortunate for a fresh start. He's even planning to cut his shaggy hair for a new look.
But he's still not quite sure what went wrong in Buffalo.
"Obviously it was a shock to me when I was benched and it was a shock one week later to be released," Edwards said. "Definitely been a whirlwind last couple of weeks."
Edwards started the first two games, completing 29 of 52 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions and lost both games, prompting coach Chan Gailey to turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick to spark an inept offense.
Behind Fitzpatrick, the Bills managed 374 yards against New England — more than Edwards mustered in his two starts.
"I felt like I did everything I could have done," Edwards said. "I guess I could have played better on Sundays, but the direction the organization was going didn't include me and that's something I have to handle."
Who knows how long Edwards will stay in Jacksonville. Edwards and McCown are free agents after this season, and the Jaguars are likely to turn to the draft to find a franchise quarterback.
It's clear that's not Garrard, a fourth-round pick in 2002 who overcame Crohn's disease and beat out former first-round draft pick Byron Leftwich to earn the starting job in 2007.
Garrard threw 18 TD passes and three interceptions in his first season as the starter and led Jacksonville to its first postseason victory since 2000. Owner Wayne Weaver rewarded him with a six-year, $60 million extension that included $18 million guaranteed. But he's been mediocre since, throwing 34 TD passes and 28 INTs. He also has been sacked 94 times in the last 35 games.
Del Rio and Weaver even challenged Garrard in January.
"I just think collectively we all have got to play better," Garrard said. "I've got to make sure that I get the ball out faster so I don't put pressure on my offensive line. I've got to get it out faster to the right guys and allow them to make plays and to be explosive. We've got to throw the ball downfield at times, too. We just have to get back to doing what we do and I've got to get back to doing what I do."
Garrard and Edwards have one thing in common: They've heard more jeers than cheers.
"When you lose, the quarterback is going to get the slack, so it's understandable," Edwards said. "It's tough, but I've been through that."