MIAMI (Reuters) - The Jacksonville Jaguars surprisingly released veteran starting quarterback David Garrard Tuesday, just five days before their opening game of the National Football League season.

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio told a news conference that Luke McCown will start at quarterback Sunday against the Tennessee Titans with rookie Blaine Gabbert as back-up.

"We made a decision to release David Garrard. As always we seek to play the best players. As I've said before, I think it is imperative that we have the courage to do what is best for the football team," Del Rio told a news conference.

Despite the fact that Garrard was reported to be expecting a salary of around $8 million this year and had three years remaining on his contract, Del Rio said money was "not a factor."

He added: "This decision was pure football...David had a nice run here, we have been joined at the hip since the time he was made starter. We had some good times.

"He just wasn't able to get it going this pre-season and he admitted that when we talked today. For whatever reason, David wasn't able to find a rhythm, to be his old self.

"And so with that being the case, we had to make a football decision and let him pursue interests elsewhere if he has that desire," the Jaguars coach said.

The 33-year-old Garrard was drafted by the Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2002 draft and played 86 games in 10 seasons, passing for 16,003 yards and throwing 89 touchdowns and 54 interceptions.

Garrard's agent Al Irby told the Florida Times Union's website that three teams had already made inquiries.

"He's gotten some calls, they know there's some interest," Irby said. "David can still play, it's obvious. He knows he's going to have options and he's just going to sit back and let the offers come in and make a decision."

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)