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Blaine Gabbert's last stand in the NFL starts tonight

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Tonight may mark the start Gabbert's last quest to find a home as an NFL starter.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-OTA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The journey of Blaine Gabbert has been one filled with disappointment.

Since being drafted 10th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 NFL Draft, he has made only 40 starts, been traded for pennies on the dollar and been called the worst quarterback ever.

Now, he stands at a crossroads.

It seems unlikely that Gabbert will be cut, unless he's abysmal during the preseason and there is a precedent for that. Yet, what will Gabbert’s career be?

Is a player that was dealt a bad hand on multiple occasions?

Starting in Jacksonville is never a good thing based on their history over the last decade, but it would seem removing any blame for their shortcomings in the times he was there would be unfair. He never had a chance to be successful, but also never found a way to be successful.

The failed time in Jacksonville seemed to take all the pressure off of Gabbert in San Francisco. He was the clear cut back up heading into 2015, he would be able to work on his craft on the sidelines for a bad team that was out of the spotlight.

It led to the best stretch of play in his career when he was called upon:

https://www.ninersnation.com/2015/11/11/9711588/all-22-blaine-gabbert-surprisingly-effective-in-49ers-debut

https://www.ninersnation.com/2015/12/3/9837738/blaine-gabbert-all-22-coaches-film-breakdown-vs-seahawks-cardinals

Calling that the best stretch of his career also goes to show you what little had been achieved prior to this (per game average):

22/35 62.8% 254 yards 1.2TD 0.8INT 86.6 QB Rating

Over 16 games that's: 4064 yards 19TD 13INT

That's a really average year for a quarterback, especially a starting one, but it's not a bad year by any means.

The problem became, he won the starting job in 2016, he began the year in Chip Kelly's offense, which is one of the most quarterback friendly in the NFL, and he reverted back to historically bad Gabbert (per game average over five starts):

17/30 56.7% 178 yards 1TD 1.2INT 68.5 QB Rating

Over 16 games that's: 2848 yards 16TD 19INT

Gabbert was replaced by Colin Kaepernick who outperformed him at a significant clip and the Gabbert experiment was done.

Now, he's in Arizona. Now, he's starting game one of the preseason and will get an entire half to show what he is. I and many others can live with a performance like 2015. It would show that he's on the right path.

The problem is, can he find that again?

In Arizona he is not up for a starting position in 2017, but he's playing to have the opportunity to be the successor to Carson Palmer.

In Bruce Arians offense, the key to winning is winning from the pocket. Arians loves to work the deep ball, which means sitting in the pocket and waiting for a receiver to come open.

Can he learn to sit in the pocket when there is pressure?

Can he learn to take advantage of his significant athletic gifts and convert them to the field?

In theory, Gabbert should be the best player on the field in the first half of the game tonight against the Dallas Cowboys. He's a veteran, he's been around and he knows how to perform in games. He's going up against rookies, second and third stringers and players fighting for a roster spot.

Yet, when you look at it, he's not just fighting for a roster spot, he's fighting to show he still belongs in the NFL.

What does he have left?