It’s the closing of a circle for David Garrard, or at least the completion of a long lap up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
The 35-year-old quarterback (no, not 38 or 37 as some have speculated) was born in East Orange, N.J., about 20 minutes from the Jersey Meadowlands in February 1978, which was about 6½ years before the Jets even moved there.
Now after his upbringing in Plainfield, N.J., and Durham, N.C., his college ball at East Carolina, and his nine-year playing career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, plus a small stop last offseason with the Miami Dolphins, Garrard has signed on with the Jets to provide competition for Mark Sanchez and the rest of the Green & White QBs.
“I definitely think it’s the ideal situation,” Garrard told SiriusXM NFL Radio last week about the Jets after his visit. “It was a great workout. Every drill they had me do, I did great in. I felt like my old self again.
Word of Garrard’s possible signing grew cold publicly for a while, because it was reported the Jets had to do some cap work if they wanted to bring him to their roster. Whatever had to happen has been done because the team announced the signing late this afternoon.
New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had his first conference call with Jets reporters today at 1 p.m. ET and was not asked about Garrard. But about competition in general for Sanchez, et al, MM said that while “Mark will probably have a little bit of a leg up, it would appear,” he also said, “We like competition at all spots, and certainly at that spot. Competition just makes everybody better.”
When Garrard was at the peak of his game, he was nicely competitive for the Jaguars. From 2005, when he finally started to get playing time, through 2010, he assembled a portfolio that sported a 38-35 record as a starter, 62.1% completion accuracy, and a decent 22.0% touchdown drive rate (the NFL average is about 18.5%).
Garrard faced the Jets exactly once since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2002 draft by the Jaguars out of East Carolina as the eventual successor to, yes, Mark Brunell. That meeting was at the old Meadowlands on Nov. 15, 2009, and it was a microcosm of his only Pro Bowl season that year. On a cloudy, cool fall day, he completed 16 of 26 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for an 11-yard score.
And after the Jets, led by then-rookie Sanchez, had come back from a 21-10 first-half deficit for a 22-21 lead on a Thomas Jones power TD with 5:04 to play, Garrard led the Jags on an 11-play, 80-yard drive with 4-for-6 passing — including that crushing 33-yard catch-and-run by TE Marcedes Lewis — and Maurice Jones-Drew’s clutch kneeldown at the Jets 1 with a minute to play, setting up Josh Scobee’s game-winning chip-shot field goal as time expired.
Even though Garrard’s ’09 season was one of his better showings, it wasn’t his best. He took the Jags to a 9-3 record and a playoff road win at Pittsburgh on the strength of such skills as his 64.0% completion percentage and 18 TD passes to just three interceptions.
That 6.0 TDs/INTs rate, by the way, is the fifth-best season in NFL history among qualifying QBs, trailing only Kansas City’s Damon Huard (11.00, 11/1 in 2006), New England’s Tom Brady (9.00, 36-4 in 2010 after 6.25, 50/8 in 2007) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (7.50, 45/6 in 2011).
Many Jets fans are skeptical as to how much competition a QB out of the NFL for the past two seasons could give a fifth-year incumbent and several more signalcallers this offseason and summer. But just keep in mind that he had that strong tryout with the Jets recently, and some say he was poised to begin last season as the Dolphins’ starter — that is, until he injured his knee, missed the entire preseason schedule and was released as the ‘Fins began the Ryan Tannehill era quicker than maybe they had planned.
All of this is tank-half-full/tank-half-empty talk, of course. Is DG the catalyst to getting the Jets offense back on its feet? Or will he be one-and-done, whatever “one” is defined as? Will No. 9 beat out No. 6 in the coming offseason/preseason competition, or will Sanchez be spurred on to new professional growth? What about Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy, and whoever may arrive in the draft?
We’ll learn a little more Tuesday, when Garrard is scheduled to talk with reporters on a conference call, and then as the veterans return to the offseason conditioning program, OTAs and the veteran minicamp from mid-April to mid-June.
For now, though, assuming Garrard’s health and competitive juices and considering what we know of the Jets’ situation, it looks like a good fit as an able body has been added to help with the ongoing construction project.
Tags: David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mark Brunell, Mark Sanchez, Marty Mornhinweg, Tim Tebow
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