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Can Blaine Gabbert find his way with the Arizona Cardinals?

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The former first round pick has never lived up to the hype, can that change in Arizona?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Before someone comes for my head, let me use the commonly used Aaron Rodgers sentiment: R-E-L-A-X. I’m not saying that the future will depend on Gabbert, whatsoever, but as a prospect, is he someone the Cardinals could groom? Should Arizona Cardinals get excited about the signing? Analyzing through exploratory conversation, so let’s begin.

The beginning (high school through Missouri):

Originally from Ballwin, Missouri, Gabbert was considered a “must-have” by most colleges. In fact, he was the number 1 ranked high school quarterback in the country by rivals.com (14th overall), so he had the pick of the litter. He was even rated higher then future number one pick Andrew Luck, so obviously, recruiters and college coaches some saw some major talent in Blaine Gabbert.

He was originally signed by the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but after Bill Callahan was fired by the program, he withdrew his intent. Instead, he gave his intent letter to home state Missouri, which at the time, was considered a “bold” move by Gabbert because of the then current starter, Chase Daniel, and Missouri had just two years prior brought in Chase Patton (the number 4 QB in 2005).

Instead of redshirting his first year at Missouri, Gabbert served as the primary backup to Chase Daniel, beating out Chase Patton. In a few blowouts by Missouri, Gabbert served in mop-up duty, and got valuable experience with the tigers.

After Daniel left for the draft, Gabbert took over the starting role (after winning the competition in April), and became an instant benefactor of a well-tuned Missouri offense. Although his completion percentage was a paltry 58.9 through his Sophomore season, he still threw for 24 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

2010, we saw Gabbert bring his A game, as he brought up his completion percentage to a lofty 63.4 (average that season was 59.9), to pair with 16 touchdowns and 9 interception. After that season, he was left Missouri for the NFL draft in 2011.

Benefits of a Weak Class (the Draft):

As we saw this year with Patrick Mahomes II of Texas Tech, some were surprised to see Gabbert leave in 2011 to enter the draft, but he benefited from a poor QB class. There were uncertainties, as Cam Newton wasn’t considered a pure pocket-passer, but because of his unbelievable talent, he made a move for being the top quarterback (and player) taken. Beyond Newton, many believed the class lacked firepower.

In 2010, Jake Locker was considered the top quarterback prospect, ahead of Sam Bradford, but Locker decided to return to school for his senior year. Throughout the entire process, guys like Christian Ponder, Locker, Gabbert, and Andy Dalton kept interchanging for the number two quarterback considered to go after Cam Newton. Let me be the first to say this; I didn’t even think that Cam Newton’s game would translate to the pro game, let alone, he became a league MVP. Oops.

This is how bad I evaluated the class of 2011:

1. Cam Newton - Not at all a pro-style quarterback, is a spread-option quarterback with the best physical attributes I’ve seen since Vince Young, but has the ability to “fake” a defense out with his legs.

2. Jake Locker - Had an unimpressive senior year at Washington, but is a team leader with pretty pin-point accuracy. Also, played in the pro-system for the Huskies. (currently retired)

3. Ryan Mallett - Big, and I mean big, quarterback from Arkansas with very raw technique. Probably a bigger arm then Newton, but needs to develop accuracy. (Wrong)

4. Blaine Gabbert - Tall with precise vision and good, not great, accuracy. Needs to break free from a spread option attack.

5. Colin Kaepernick - A physical quarterback who needs time in the pro-system, but he is a burner with his legs. Probably the highest upside between all the quarterbacks in this class.

As you can see, I completely messed up my evaluations of the quarterback position back in 2011, but in my recognition of being totally wrong, I honestly thought that Newton and Locker would be the only QB’s taken in round 1 (Locker, I thought, would be a Seahawk at pick 25). I thought Mallett would be way ahead of Gabbert and Ponder, and that Kaepernick would be in round 4-5.

The error of my ways, I didn’t even have future starters Andy Dalton or Tyrod Taylor above round 4, so yes, I totally whiffed.

  1. Cam Newton - Pick 1
  2. Jake Locker - Pick 8
  3. Blaine Gabbert - Pick 10
  4. Christian Ponder - Pick 12
  5. Andy Dalton - Pick 35
  6. Colin Kaepernick - Pick 36
  7. Ryan Mallett - Pick 74
  8. Tyrod Taylor - Pick 180

Everything is tough (The Jaguar and 49er years):

When three quarterbacks were taken in the first 12 picks, many thought this was all about potential, and to find franchise changing QB’s. We are focusing on Gabbert though. Gabbert went to Jacksonville at 10, expecting to be the backup to David Garrard, but when Garrard was release in the preseason, the rookie was thrown into the fire.

Things got much worse, as Gabbert had a statistical nightmarish of year (not even his worst), he had a QBR of 24.4, while barely breaking even with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Did I mention he had 5 fumbles that year?

The next year wasn’t any better, as Gabbert boasted a 39.5 QBR, while also fumbling the ball 4 times. By then, Gabbert was already seeming as a bust in JAX, but new coach Gus Bradley wanted to give him one more year.

They even drafted an offensive tackle to protect his blindside (Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, also another bad pick by the Jaguars). That year, he threw for 1 touchdown and 7 interceptions, while having a league worst 4.4 QBR, the lowest mark since Jamarcus Russell.

After the season, he was traded to San Fran for a 6th round selection, and wasn’t even slotted to be the starter with fellow draft-mate Colin Kaepernick. Jim Harbaugh seemed enthused with Gabbert as a backup, so it appeared as if he was going to find a niche being a backup.

I will skip statistics for the 9ers, as a lot of evaluators thought Gabbert would never start in San Fran, but after a few turbulent years, he fought his way to being the starter. Up-and-mostly-down years in the bay area, but Gabbert survived.

We look to now, has Gabbert grown from the experiences? I have no earthly idea, I’m excited to see how he grows, as he needs to make an impression that sticks in the back of the Cardinals heads.

First off, can Gabbert beat out Zac Dysert and/or rookie Trevor Knight? Dysert is probably more like Gabbert, as he is athletic, has a strong arm, but needs to develop touch and velocity. Knight is a dual-threat quarterback who has been in a quarterback competition in every year of college.

If Gabbert can win the third string job, can he beat out the more expensive Drew Stanton? Can the Cardinals save money by releasing Stanton, and keeping Gabbert in the wings? What if Gabbert is someone that enthuses Bruce Arians as that QB who can throw the deep ball, can the QB whisperer give Gabbert an opportunity of a lifetime? Will this article be nothing but crap by the time training camp starts? The answer to all of this is a big fat MAYBE.

Until then, Go Cards!