It’s no secret I think Dirk Koetter, who holds both those roles now, is a good football coach. But the offense and pass offense are last in the NFL, and the right thinking is that the team needs a complete revamp, including a new offense, tailored from the start for Gabbert, and new voices for him to listen to.
Still, Koetter's thoughts on Gabbert are of value. He talked today with the Jacksonville media about Gabbert’s progress. And he pointed out something significant, beyond the fact that guys like Steve Young and Troy Aikman hardly started out gangbusters when they got to the NFL.
“There’s even guys playing in the league right now that were anointed superstars that aren’t playing like superstars right now, that maybe started fast and then aren’t playing as well now,” Koetter said. “You can fill in your own blanks.
Let’s fill in those blanks: The two most obvious examples of guys who played well early and look very human right now are Sam Bradford on St. Louis and Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay. If they can go from "great" to not great, Koetter is suggesting, then someone like Gabbert can go from not great to "great."
“There are other circumstances besides just the guy playing quarterback,” Koetter continued. “How good is his protection? Who is he throwing to? How good a defense is he playing against? How much do they blitz him? Is he getting knocked around? Is he getting balls tipped? There’s just a lot of moving parts there and time will tell. All I can say is Blaine is making progress.”
Pocket presence is Gabbert’s biggest issue, which isn’t a big surprise considering the system he was in at Missouri.
“One of the toughest things for any quarterback is to stand in the heat of an NFL rush and know you are going to get hit, and stand in there and deliver,” Koetter said. “I think that’s a very difficult thing. And I think that’s one of the biggest transitions that quarterbacks coming from the spread type system in college to a pocket system in the NFL, I think that is going to be one of a guy’s biggest adjustments.
“Blaine is definitely working on that, I think he’s making improvement in that area but that’s an ongoing process. I know I use it a lot but I think experience will cure whatever ailments might be there.”
Is the progress he's made so far with it sufficient? It's super-easy to say no, but this team is hardly going to give up on this quarterback at this stage.
General manager Gene Smith will have a hand in hiring the new head coach. That coach and his staff, in concert with the front office, have to prioritize three things: getting Gabbert weapons, playing to his strengths and giving him protection he can be confident in.