By Ernie Palladino
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The only thing you need to know about the Jets’ future at quarterback is that they recently worked out David Garrard and would apparently like to sign him in the coming days.
Even if Garrard goes elsewhere — inexplicably there is some other interest for the 35-year-old, twice-injured thrower — the Woody Johnson-John Idzik combination have apparently shown their hand. After publicly declaring starter Mark Sanchez will have to compete for his job, they are trying to lure a quarterback who may present no competition at all.
Garrard is a decent individual, no doubt. And lord knows he must have a strong constitution to have stuck it out with the woeful Jags through 2010. A herniated disk and knee surgery cost him the last two seasons and makes one wonder how much rust is covering that 6-foot-1, 235-pound chassis of his.
He’s got some credentials, but those appear well in the past by now. He wound up in the Pro Bowl in 2009 despite a 7-9 record, having completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 3,597 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. A year later he threw for 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as the Jags went 8-8.
His only trip to the playoffs as a starter came in 2007, but he was pretty impressive in going 9-3 in 12 starts, missing three with a sprained ankle, and throwing for 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions. That pick mark tied an NFL record for least interceptions in a season, and he finished that year with a 102.2 quarterback rating.
He even led a comeback over the Steelers in that season’s wild card game before the undefeated Patriots dispatched his team in the next round.
Put a younger Garrard on the Jets’ roster and, sure, he’d probably beat out Sanchez. But at 35, and two years off the gridiron, one has to assume that signing Garrard will only amount to a token move — kind of a wink in Sanchez’s direction that they’ll do everything possible to ensure him winning the job short of handing it to him.
If Garrard is back to 100 percent, the Jets could be signing a strong armed thrower who can run. But it’s a big if for anyone his age.
Then again, perhaps Idzik has something else up his sleeve — if he’s thinking about moving up from No. 9 on draft day to grab West Virginia’s Geno Smith. According to one scouting service, the Raiders at No. 3 could be in the market for a trade partner if they decide to hang onto Carson Palmer and not take Smith themselves. If that’s what Idzik is hoping for, then taking Garrard would make some sense. Let him or Sanchez start for a while. Turn the page with what you hope is your new franchise quarterback, and hope for the best. Take the lumps along the way, like the Giants did with Eli Manning.
They could also look at USC’s Matt Barkley, but they’d probably have to swallow hard to draft that kid. They’ve already gotten burned with one USC quarterback, so why go to the same well again?
The veteran Idzik should have gone after was Alex Smith. He would have been an expensive pickup — probably the same second-round compensation Kansas City is sending over, and the pickup of his contract — but it might have been worth the gamble. He’s a lot younger than Garrard and had good success in San Francisco the last two years before Colin Kaepernick struck Jim Harbaugh’s fancy. Instead, the 49ers quarterback is set to become a Chief when the NFL calendar starts March 12.
It’s not like the Jets can afford to stick with the other quarterbacks on the roster. Tim Tebow is on his way out of town one way or another. Greg McElroy and Matt Simms aren’t exactly ready for prime time.
Signing Garrard won’t fix the Jets’ quarterback problem. But for a team that had to do something, as much for a dissatisfied fan base as a rickety offense, the old guy might be their best option right now.
At this point, that’s not saying much.
If not Garrard, who? Be heard in the comments!