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Pirate Notebook No. 262
Friday, January 20, 2006

By Denny O'Brien

Garrard now a proven commodity


In the market for a quarterback who can lead your team into the playoffs? The solution could be a phone call and a few draft picks away.

Standing apart from the growing ranks of mediocre field generals, a proven one awaits in Jacksonville for his turn to man someone’s huddle. And he’s done his waiting patiently, despite clamoring from many fans that his performance down the stretch this season warranted the anointment as the Jags’ No. 1 signal caller for the playoffs.

His name is David Garrard, and he quietly emerged as one of the league’s most steady quarterbacks over the last third of the season.

In the bottom line business of professional football, Garrard delivered a 4-1 record as a starter. Make that 5-1 if you count his appearance in long relief against Arizona (which I do), a 24-17 Jacksonville victory in which he received the bullpen call midway through the first quarter.

His numbers — 1117 yards passing and 172 yards rushing — weren’t too shabby, either. While he may not have rivaled Peyton Manning or Tom Brady — then again, who does? — Garrard did display a unique combination of skills that few NFL quarterbacks possess.

His comfort both in the pocket and the open field make him the type of hybrid QB that seems like the perfect compromise between Byron Leftwich and Michael Vick. He’s more mobile than Leftwich, and far more accurate than Vick.

And though he’s started only a handful of games at this level, it doesn’t take an orthopedic surgeon to detect that Garrard is more durable than both.

But perhaps the most intriguing aspect about Garrard’s game is his character and demeanor in the locker room. Though he entered the league pronouncing his readiness to contend with a proven veteran, he has been seasoned to the point where he not only accepts his role within the team, but also relishes the importance of putting its best interests well above his own.

Garrard’s statements prior to Jacksonville’s loss to New England in the first round of the playoffs prove that much. When asked whether or not he was upset about not getting the start, Garrard said his primary concern was being ready in case his number was called.

That’s the type of attitude NFL GM's need running their huddle. It’s also what makes him a fan favorite who is marketable within the community.

Of course, none of that has ever been a question mark with the former East Carolina standout. Whether or not he could win big at the professional level has — until now.

Garrard’s performance during Jacksonville’s dash to the playoffs has erased any doubt of that.

Celebration penalties excessive

The East Carolina coaching staff didn’t take too kindly to Aundrae Allison’s touchdown flip in last season’s spring game. Most fans gave it a standing ovation.

Both were justified in their actions.

Had it been a regular season game, the Pirates would have been flagged for excessive celebration, a bittersweet flavor of the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. But the touch of acrobatic flair also would have added a welcome element of entertainment to the college game.

If the NCAA was interested in improving the fan experience, it would cease from strong-arming players from having fun on Saturday. As long as players aren’t taunting opponents, what’s the big deal if a receiver puts his best foot forward in a brief rendition of Riverdance?

College football needs more snow angels. Trips down the fire pole and a quick ride on Trigger never hurt anyone. Neither has a quick game of putt-putt with the pylon.

Instead, NCAA officials are more inclined to penalize an uncontested end zone plunge or a simple salute to teammates. That mentality may have cost Vanderbilt a victory in the Swamp.

Uniform replay an upgrade

Instant replay will receive a needed facelift in college football.

Instead of rivaling Baskin Robbins with its number of flavors, the NCAA will serve one scoop in the college game. That’s a good thing considering how replay was fumbled throughout the postseason.

With one set of rules and the governing of them at a higher level, replay will be installed more fairly nationwide. Not only will that benefit the postseason, but also regular season games among non-conference opponents.

Now if the NCAA will do something about that silly rule which stops the clock after every first down, we might be in business.

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02/23/2007 02:02:47 AM

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