JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- How can you get rid of a starting quarterback nine days before the season opener?
Here's how: The head coach wants him on the bench and the owner doesn't want to pay $5.1 million to a backup.
That's how the Jacksonville Jaguars came to the decision Friday to release quarterback Byron Leftwich, provided they don't work out a trade before the Saturday deadline for roster cuts. David Garrard takes over as the starter now.
|After four seasons, Byron Leftwich gets the cold shoulder from coach Jack Del Rio and the Jaguars. (AP)|
That decision led to a strained relationship between the two men. The joke inside the building was that Harris, a former NFL quarterback, thought of Leftwich as his son, seeing himself in the quarterback.
So when Del Rio benched Leftwich last season -- and it was a benching despite the talk that an ankle injury led to his being sat down -- Harris wasn't happy. The tension could be felt in the building by all.
But after Garrard struggled in losing his last three contests, the Jaguars decided to give Leftwich another chance as the starter. Last February, Del Rio announced that Leftwich would be the starter in 2007 and stated he gave his team the best chance to win.
New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter raved about Leftwich, and Koetter's film evaluation of the two quarterbacks was a big reason why Del Rio decided to keep Leftwich.
So the Jaguars passed on signing a veteran. They also passed on drafting Brady Quinn, even though he fell to their spot in the draft. When Daunte Culpepper became available, they told him he could come but only as a backup.
So we all thought. We now know that Del Rio still had his reservations.
After a good offseason, the word is Leftwich reverted back to some of his bad mechanics in recent weeks, and he struggled in his last two preseason games. He wasn't terrible -- there were no interceptions -- but he didn't light it up, either. He was 19-of-38 passing for 226 yards.