Gabbert unfazed by criticism, offensive problems

Blaine Gabbert is comfortable enough with himself to handle all

the criticism.

So go ahead, pile it on.

Talk about his pocket presence and his errant passes. Ask about

his confidence and his receivers. Blame him for the losses and the

coaching change.

Jacksonville’s laid-back rookie quarterback doesn’t really seem

to care.

”Whatever,” he said Saturday. ”I know we take the brunt of

the criticism. That’s just the position we play, and that’s how it

should be. We’re the face of this team, and the ball goes through

us on every play. We kind of shape it. I know things haven’t gone

well this year and I haven’t played how I wanted to, but there have

been a lot of positive things that have gone on.”

The positives have been difficult to see.

The Jaguars (4-10) rank last in the NFL in total offense and

have scored 14 or fewer points in 10 of 14 games. Gabbert has

completed 50.6 percent of his passes for 1,924 yards, with 11

touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had two costly fumbles in

Thursday night’s 41-14 debacle at Atlanta, giving him 14 turnovers

in 13 games.

Maybe more troubling for the former Missouri standout is that

fellow rookies Cam Newton (Carolina), Andy Dalton (Cincinnati),

Christian Ponder (Minnesota), Jake Locker (Tennessee) and even T.J.

Yates (Houston) have looked better than Gabbert in 2011.

Gabbert has heard about it all season.

”Everybody’s going to be criticized for something, whether you

deserve it or you don’t,” said Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in

April’s draft. ”It’s the way the world works, I guess. It’s

whatever. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I can handle it.”

Gabbert has been so maligned that some question whether general

manager Gene Smith would consider drafting another quarterback in

2012, especially since Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Southern Cal’s Matt

Barkley, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones

are expected to be taken in the first round.

But Smith, new team owner Shahid Khan and interim coach Mel

Tucker insist Gabbert is the guy – for now and for the future.

”I think he can be a successful quarterback,” Khan said.

”This is a passing league. This is a quarterback league. If you

are not doing those, you’re not going to be successful. I care

about playing winning football. What is winning football today?

It’s quarterback, it’s a passing game. With that, comes excitement,

which puts fans in the seats.”

The Jaguars believe their biggest problem is a lack of quality


They waived Jason Hill last month, a day after firing coach Jack

Del Rio, and parted ways with receivers coach Johnny Cox. Rookie

Cecil Shorts and Jarett Dillard have been disappointments, leaving

Mike Thomas as the only dependable wideout on the roster. With

Thomas (concussion) and Shorts (hamstring) out Thursday,

Jacksonville was down to Dillard, Chastin West, newly signed Taylor

Price and special teams ace Kassim Osgood.

The Jaguars are well aware of their deficiencies at the


It’s the main reason they have written off Gabbert’s slow

progress. The Jaguars expect to get a receiver in free agency and

at least another one in the draft, and with a new offensive

coaching staff on the horizon, they are holding off on making any

judgments about Gabbert until all the pieces are in place around


Nonetheless, they realize criticism is inevitable.

”I think that he understands that he’s going to be

criticized,” Tucker said. ”We’re all going to be criticized at

some point, sometimes more than others and that’s part of it. …

He understands his position and I think he handles it well. We talk

about that all the time. I think he’s very grounded, has confidence

in himself and his abilities. He has confidence in his


”I think he’s able to put things in perspective, and that’s

very important.”