Garrard Jostles For the Job
David Garrard trudged out of Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium on Sunday with a stoic look on his face, adhering to the philosophy Steve Logan, his college coach at East Carolina, taught him years ago: Never let 'em see whether you've won or lost. Out to prove he can be a full-time NFL starter, the five-year veteran Garrard couldn't let his four-interception, no-touchdown performance in a 13--10 loss to the Texans deflate him. "We didn't have our lucky rabbit's foot today," he said, summing up his team's offensive failings. Two of his four picks were on passes that went through the hands of wideout Matt Jones, and there were other costly drops.
Still, Garrard has played well enough to stoke a quarterback controversy when starter Byron Leftwich returns from the sprained left ankle that sidelined him on Oct. 29. Over the last two years Garrard has won six of eight starts, including four of five in '05, while impressing opponents with his athleticism. "[ Leftwich and Garrard] are like night and day," says Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. " Leftwich has a big arm, but he might be the slowest [quarterback] in the league. Garrard can throw and run."
The question is which one coach Jack Del Rio will choose once Leftwich is healthy. Leftwich says his ankle is 80% to 90% healed, but he didn't suit up on Sunday and no date has been set for his return. In the meantime Garrard, who was Jacksonville's fourth-round pick the year before the Jags chose Leftwich in the first round of the 2003 draft, will try to prove to Del Rio that he deserves to lead the 5--4 Jaguars in their fight for a wild-card berth. For instance, in an attempt to cut down on the number of dropped balls, Garrard vowed to spend more time this week throwing to his receivers after practice. Said the QB, "I'm sure they're as hungry as I am to go out and make plays next week."
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Jeffri Chadiha goes Inside the NFL every Tuesday at SI.com/nfl.