Set Up to Fail?

I’m not gunning for Dan Pompei, honest.

However, for the second consecutive week, I have to take major exception to something he’s written. This week he argues in The National Football Post that Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert may well have landed in the best possible circumstance to succeed.

Andy Dalton apparently will be the starter on day one. Cam Newton, the first pick in the draft, is expected to move mountains and part seas. At the moment, at least, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder are the No. 1 quarterbacks on their teams’ depth charts.

None of them may be in as advantageous a position for long term success as Blaine Gabbert. The only expectations for him this season in Jacksonville are to get splinters on his rear end from sitting on the bench, and blisters on his index finger from keeping charts on the sideline.

In essence, Pompei thinks Gabbert is primed to succeed because he’ll sit the whole year, and no one will expect anything from him.

I would take exception to Pompei’s assertion.

Gabbert landed in the worst possible position any quarterback ever could.  He went to a team with an unstable coaching situation.

Just seven months ago, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver announced that Jack Del Rio needed to make the playoffs in 2011 in order to keep his job. His contract expires after 2012, and currently Del Rio has just one playoff win and no division titles in 8 years in Jacksonville. 

After the selection of Gabbert, Weaver did soften his stance toward Del Rio, but the fact remains, his seat is hot.

The Jaguars face a ticket crisis every year, and many fans are tired of Del Rio. The Jaguars overachieved in 2010, but are primed for a massive regression back toward 5 or 6 wins in 2011. They were outscored by 66 points on the season, and then used their first round pick on a player they plan on sitting all year.  Simply put, the 2011 Jaguars will likely be a bad team.

This is where the pressure starts.  The more games the Jags lose, the harder it will be on Weaver to retain Del Rio at the end of the season. He’ll be faced with the difficult choice of either firing Del Rio or keeping him as a lame duck coach going into 2012. 

Such pressure will mount as the season goes along, and as the Jaguars lose games, it will be increasingly difficult for the team to avoid playing Gabbert. Jags fans are also quite tired of David Garrard. Jacksonville does feature a great line and run game, so in that sense, Gabbert will have some advantages when he does play, but more than likely the 2011 Jaguars will be a disaster.

If Del Rio does get fired, then the Jaguars will have to bring in a new coach and a new coaching staff. That’s a recipe for disaster for a young quarterback. Now, most of what Gabbert absorbed in 2011 will be meaningless, as he’ll once again have to learn an entirely new system in 2012. Moreover, the new coaching staff won’t be as invested in him as the old one was. The new coaches will be quicker to criticize Gabbert than the regime who selected him was. The best situation for a young quarterback is to land with a first year coach whose future is secure for several years and directly tied to the success of the player. Gabbert is playing for a team with major coaching questions and a lot of pressure on it to keep the fan base happy.

The result could be complete disaster.

I don’t think it matters how good Gabbert is. Unless he has a Roethlisberger/Ryan type of instant impact, I don’t think he can save Del Rio’s job. All statistical signs point to an awful Jags team this year. 

The chain of events that follow could well sink Gabbert’s career before it ever gets going.