Click the BGA link at the top of the page to look back at some of the scouting work I've done on some of the other signings the Jets have made since the end of the season.
The 35-year old Garrard is a one-time Pro Bowler who has a 39-37 career record in 76 career starts, all with the Jaguars. He did not play in 2011 due to a back issue and missed last season after a minor knee injury suffered a couple of days before preseason. Prior to that, he had a QB rating of at least 80 and a completion percentage of over 60% (two numbers Mark Sanchez has never achieved) in five straight seasons. He signed a one-year, $1.1m contract with just $100K guaranteed back in March and will be competing for a job with the Jets in camp.
After the jump, I'll briefly review his career so far and looking in detail at some of the footage from 2011 to try and evaluate what he could provide the Jets with this year and going forward.
Who is David Garrard?
Garrard was a fourth round pick out of East Carolina in 2002 and backed up Mark Brunell and Byron Leftwich early on in his career. He started three games over his first three seasons, then the last five games in 2005 and the last 10 games in 2006 following injuries to Leftwich. In 2007, he became the full-time starter, missing four games in the middle of the season, and led the Jaguars to a 9-3 record in his 12 starts with a career best 102.2 passer rating. He then led the Jaguars to a playoff win in Pittsburgh, setting up the game winning field goal with this memorable run on fourth down. The Jags fell short in New England the following week, despite a strong performance from Garrard who had a QB rating of over 100. Garrard started 46 of 48 games over the next three years and went to the Pro Bowl after initially being named as an alternate in 2010, but the Jaguars failed to make the playoffs again in those three seasons.
In 2011, he was the starter in preseason, but was dealing with a back issue and the Jaguars took the decision to roll with Josh McCown (who had played well in preseason) and Blaine Gabbert, who they had just drafted in the first round. Releasing Garrard also saved them $9m. Garrard almost signed with a couple of teams, including the Raiders in October, but then announced he was going to opt for surgery to get ready for the 2012 season instead (prompting the Raiders to trade for Carson Palmer, just a few days later).
In 2012, he signed with the Miami Dolphins, who were installing a West Coast offense that may have similarities to the scheme the Jets will run this year. He was playing well enough in camp that he was scheduled to start the preseason opener ahead of Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill. Unfortunately, he suffered a freak knee injury while playing with one of his kids in a swimming pool at home. This injury was reported as likely to affect him for 4-6 weeks, so the Dolphins took the decision to release him, again leaving another veteran option and a rookie picked early on in the draft to fight for the starting job. (Note: This saved them $2.25m of cap room). It was first reported in November that Garrard was 100% healthy (although he may actually have been fully healthy earlier than that), but he was unable to find a team who would take him into a new system at that stage in the year.
He therefore joins the Jets having missed two seasons in a row. However, he did play in the preseason in 2011, so that's the most recent footage we can look at to get an insight into what he's still capable of.
Let's look into some of the footage from 2011...
Week 1 - at New England
Garrard missed this game with a back injury.
Week 2 - v Atlanta
In his first start of the preseason, Garrard was 7-for-12 for 99 yards with an interception. He also ran for seven yards on two carries and was sacked once.
- His first drive opened with a simple three step drop and a quick slant for nine. You'd expect the timing and accuracy on such a straightforward throw to be perfect, but Mark Sanchez was inconsistent with these kinds of passes last year.
- He then took a five step drop and was under pressure almost immediately, throwing deep down the right sideline. The receiver got two hands on the ball, but Brent Grimes broke it up. This was a timing pattern, but the receiver didn't get any real separation.
- On 3rd and short, he picked up the first down on a QB sneak.
- The next series opened with a five yard loss on a counter play. A safety had sneaked up to the edge on this play and I wonder if Garrard should perhaps have audibled out of it. Having said that, maybe they didn't have that as an option in preseason.
- On the next play, he was flushed out of the pocket and checked down to his tight end for a short gain on the move.
- On third and 11, he slid to his right to avoid pressure up the middle and drilled a 30-yard strike down the middle. He was nailed as he got this throw off. This was a great throw.
- On the next play, they took a shot to the endzone and the receiver wasn't able to get beyond Grimes, who intercepted the overthrown ball easily in the end zone. This pass carried 60 yards in the air and was little more than an arm-punt ... although Grimes returned it into Jags territory, so he out-threw his coverage.
- The next drive was pretty short lived. On the first play, he faked a handoff and rolled out to the right but nobody was opened so he ran for six yards and stepped out of bounds. They ran for a first down on the next play.
- He then handed the ball off to rookie Cecil Shorts on an end-around, but Shorts fumbled the hand-off and the Falcons recovered. The replay shows that the left side of the Jags line did an awful job and Shorts saw two guys in the backfield and looked up, causing him to drop the hand-off.
- His third and last drive of the day was impressive, although they immediately ended up in a 3rd and 10 situation after a run for no gain was followed by Garrard, with the pocket collapsing, throwing the ball a little too far out in front of his receiver on a crossing route.
- On third and long, he had to deal with a low snap and was hit as he threw, but still got enough on his throw to Shorts on a long out to get the first down. This wasn't a tight spiral, but the accuracy was perfect and he did well to get enough on it.
- After three straight runs picked up another first down, he faked a hand-off on first and ten, but was under pressure immediately. He did a good job of extending the play and getting back towards the line of scrimmage, actually breaking four tackles before being brought down for a short loss.
- On 2nd and 11, he threw a screen pass that went for 26 behind some good blocking. Again he was hit as he threw this.
- On the next play he threw for another first down inside the 20, with a well-timed throw to the receiver coming back to the ball. He didn't wait on the receiver to break back to the ball before throwing this.
- On first down he tried to squeeze a pass into a tight window to his tight end at the goal line, but Sean Weatherspoon was in blanket coverage and able to break it up. Garrard got enough on the throw that it wasn't in danger of being picked off.
- On second down, he picked up seven on a quick out, again delivered as the receiver was making his break.
- On third and three, he overthrew his H-back who ran a quick out pattern just beyond the marker at the five. It was the right read, but the ball sailed on him, although the replay shows that he was hit low as he released the throw and knocked down.
Until that last drive, he'd really only made one routine throw and one spectacular throw, but he drove the team 71 yards to set up a field goal with some nice plays. His decisiveness was good, leading to good timing on most of his throws, but he also impressed with his ability to extend plays. On his 12 throws, he was pressured four times and hit four times, as well as being sacked once. These pressures were mainly as a result of linemen getting beaten one-on-one, often badly.
Week 3 - at Buffalo
Garrard played the entire first half (five drives) and one drive at the start of the second half, completing 11-of-21 passes for 106 yards and rushing three times for nine yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked once.
- The first drive opened with a run for a loss, but on second and 11, he threw a slant for 12, with the pass delivered comfortably in between the cornerback and safety.
- After a holding penalty, Garrard threw underneath for eight as the defense dropped off, conceding the middle. He was hit as he got the throw off while falling backwards.
- The next play was a designed slant, but was batted down at the line. This was on the right guard, who allowed himself to get driven back into what should have been the passing lane.
- Finally, on 3rd and 12, the receivers ran clear-out routes and Garrard dumped the ball off to his back in the flat, but the cornerback read it and stopped him for no gain.
- On the next drive, he dropped back and initially had time, then stepped up into the pocket, but still couldn't find anyone so he tucked and ran. After momentarily contemplating a risky shovel pass to his back, he kept it and gained a couple.
- On 3rd and six, he again stepped up into the pocket and threw a deep out beyond his intended receiver. An incompletion, but a safe incompletion.
- To open up his third drive, he was pressured up the middle and smartly threw it into the ground at his running back's feet to avoid a sack.
- He stepped up into the pocket again on the next play to make a deep throw down the right sideline, dropped more or less perfectly in between the cornerback and safety. Unfortunately, Jason Hill short-armed the catch as he perhaps sensed the safety coming over.
- On third and long, the Bills rushed six and - after initially extending the play - Garrard was swarmed under for a sack.
- At this point, Garrard's offense had gone three and out twice in a row and the Jags trailed 17-0. However, they started to find their rhythm on the next drive.
- After three runs and a facemask penalty had the Jags already into Bills territory, his throw down the seam to his tight end was broken up by a safety and wasn't really open.
- On second and ten, he dumped it off to Shorts into the flat and it was dropped.
- On third and ten, despite being hit as he threw, Garrard zipped a first down throw to his tight end. This throw was actually slightly behind the receiver breaking to the outside, but still safely delivered in front of the defensive player.
- After two runs, Garrard threw a touch pass over the top and drew a pass interference call, although this looked harsh.
- After another run, Garrard was about to be sacked, but somehow broke several tackles and scored a spectacular touchdown which you can see here.
- The Jags got the ball back and ran a two minute drill just before the half. Garrard opened the drive by hitting his receiver on the outside for nine as he broke back towards the ball.
- On the next play, he threw a quick release slant to his receiver on the left, enabling him to put a move on the slot corner and gain 17.
- He then made a throw to the outside for five. The timing was a little off on this play, as the defensive back was able to close and make a hit as the ball arrived, so it perhaps could have been delivered a beat sooner.
- His fourth straight completion went for 19 as this time the receiver broke off his route and Garrard looked to him as a secondary option. He put good zip on this throw to enable the receiver to beat the defensive back who was only a couple of yards off him when it was delivered.
- The Bills rushed two defensive backs on the next play and Garrard was flushed from the pocket, so he checked down to his tight end on the roll but it was dropped.
- On second down, he stepped up and checked down to his tight end for seven.
- On third and three, he extended the play but nobody was open so he threw the ball away out of bounds and the Jags settled for a field goal.
- Garrard's final drive opened with a short run and then he hit his receiver breaking to the inside for seven. The Jags ran for the first down on third and short.
- He then hit his receiver for a short gain on a designed QB screen.
- On third and three, he threw deep down the sideline. His receiver got separation, but the ball was thrown too far ahead of him and fell incomplete.
- On fourth and three, he threw a touch pass over the top and again got a pass interference call. This time, the cornerback clearly grabbed the receivers hand to slow him down, although it may not have been catchable.
- After a short run, they ran a screen pass to the right side, but the linebacker read the play and jumped into the passing lane to blow it up. Garrard read this well and didn't make the throw, instead tucking and running to set up third and four.
- On third and four, he hit his receiver over the middle at the two and the Jags ran for a TD to tie the score on the net play.
Until the two minute drill, the Jags again didn't do a very good job of protecting Garrard and again it appeared to be linemen losing matchups rather than blitzes not being recognized and picked up. The quicker passing game helped Garrard get into a better rhythm. Although he was only 11-for-21 there were three or four incompletions that should have been caught. It was also good that he brought them back from 17-0 down.
Week 4 - v St. Louis
As is the norm in the final preseason game, the starters didn't get many reps in this one. Garrard ran two drives completing just one-of-five passes for 11 yards. He was also sacked once.
- The first drive opened with two runs and then Garrard made an accurate deep throw that led to another pass interference call for 35 yards. He was hit as he threw and got a lot of air under the ball, but it was dropped in nicely over the cornerback's head as he turned to look back at the ball.
- After a run went for a loss, Garrard pump-faked and then threw the ball low out to the flat just to get rid of it. He was again hit as he threw.
- On third and long, the Rams sent a five man rush which Garrard initially stepped up to avoid, but then was sacked for a short loss.
- The next drive began with the Jags back at their own six, although they gained 14 on the ground on the first play. At last with some time, Garrard overthrew a pass down the middle with his receiver running a post-route. This was basically double-covered and Garrard may have thrown it over the top on purpose.
- On the next play, Garrard made a great throw just beyond the marker for a first down. The receiver broke off his route with the ball already on the way and Garrard was hit as he threw.
- After another run went for a loss, Garrard had time and made a throw to the outside, but it was incomplete. A linebacker hit the receiver as the ball arrived and the replay showed this should have been pass interference.
- Finally, on 3rd and 13, Garrard just missed with a wide throw to the outside. He was absolutely nailed in the back by Chris Long as he released this throw, which may have exacerbated his injury issues.
Despite only going one-for-five, Garrard actually did make a couple of good throws in this one, but didn't have much chance. He dropped back to pass seven times and there were only two where he didn't get hit.
I hesitate to read too much into preseason numbers, but overall Garrard completed just 50% of his passes and had a QB rating of 56.5. However, there were mitigating circumstances - three thrown away, four dropped. Also, he was hit as he threw several times per game and you couldn't say that he brought this pressure on himself. The Jaguars featured Will Rackley (PFF's worst rated guard in the NFL in 2011) at guard and Guy Whimper (gave up a league-high 14 sacks in 2011) at tackle and both were badly beaten in one-on-one situations many times.
Garrard might be getting a familiar feeling as he heads into the offseason program with an established veteran and a high draft pick to compete for the starting job with. He was good enough at camp to actually win that battle in each of the last two years, only for his injuries to thwart him. Obviously although he was winning the competition, he wasn't winning it convincingly enough that the team felt it was worth keeping him on the roster and instead decided to bank the cap saving and get younger at the position. The cap saving is only $1m this year if the Jets don't keep him on the team, but if he is unable to stay healthy for the third straight year, it's hard to imagine the Jets will keep him around.
Watching the footage of Garrard from 20 months ago does show a guy who still has the mobility and pocket presence to extend plays, is accurate on short-to-medium passes, is unafraid to take a shot downfield and fearless in the pocket. While you can't read too much into preseason numbers, what's apparent from watching footage of Garrard after having watched Mark Sanchez all year is that he trusted his receivers and trusted his arm. And, while he had no reason to trust his protection, he did have the confidence in himself in the pocket to make throws under pressure and to move well within the pocket to create passing lanes.
This may not be a situation that is feasible, but Sanchez could actually learn a lot from Garrard. If that happens, whether as a result of Garrard passing off some of his wisdom and experience or merely by him seeing some of the things Garrard can do and learning from them, then the Garrard move could prove positive even if, as some believe, he isn't physically capable of winning a role this year.
I do like Garrard and if he is healthy, I see him as a competent starter, capable of leading a team like the Jets to a winning record and serving as a solid stop gap for a year, if not longer. Sanchez's confidence and that of the fans and his teammates in him seemed to have eroded to the point where a return to form seemed implausible as recently as a few months ago. However, maybe the new coaches and personnel around him will represent enough of a fresh start that he could yet redeem himself. I suppose anything is possible and it should certainly be fun to watch unfold.