TORONTO - Thanks for dropping by, Luke McCown. And, here’s your clipboard back.
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has put his future in the hands of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Del Rio announced on Wednesday that that the first-round draft pick would start in place of McClown (Oops, darn typos! Don’t you just hate it when that happens?) this weekend.
It sets up Gabbert for a matchup against the Carolina Panthers and fellow rookie QB Cam Newton, who has been spectacular in his NFL debut. That success, plus the four interceptions McCown threw last week, all played into Del Rio’s decision.
Gabbert wasn’t impressive in pre-season, but he missed minicamp due to the NFL lockout. On the plus side, he threw 40 touchdown passes as a two-year starter at Missouri and has impressed coaches and teammates with his arm strength, smarts and speed.
The transition was inevitable since the Jaguars selected Gabbert with the 10th pick in April’s draft, nine spots after the Panthers went for Newton.
Del Rio had hoped for a slow transition, planning to give him a year to learn behind David Garrard. But Garrard had his worst pre-season as a starter and was outplayed by McCown, a career backup.
McCown’s success didn’t last long. Despite being well-protected and having the Jags’ succesful ground attack, he was 6-of-19 passing for 59 yards in a 32-3 loss to the Jets that sealed his return to the sidelines.
It was Del Rio’s second-worst defeat in his nine years in Jacksonville and he has been told that the team needs to make the playoffs if he wants to retain his job.
So, now, the Gabbert option doesn’t seem like such a desperate move, particularly if he can come even close to duplicating the early stats of Newton, whose 854 yards passing are the most ever in the first two games of an NFL career. This weekend, either Newton or Gabbert will emerge with their first NFL win, while Del Rio just hopes to emerge with a chance to save his skin.
GIANTS FAKING IT?
Gamesmanship, or a Big Owiee?
Pain, or a pain in the neck?
That’s what the NFL is trying to figure out after the St. Louis Rams accused the New York Giants of faking injuries to slow down the Rams’ no-huddle offence.
The league sent a memo Wednesday to all 32 teams warning of fines, suspensions and loss of draft picks if the league determines players faked injuries during a game. There is no rule to cover the issue, but it has rarely been a problem in a game where players revel in their machismo.
However, there was speculation the Giants’ Deon Grant faked an injury against the Rams, something that Grant fervently denies.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Tuesday that the team notified the league office that it suspected the Giants were feigning injuries in St. Louis’ 28-16 loss on Monday night. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said it was obvious the Giants were just buying time with St. Louis running a no-huddle offence.
“They couldn’t get subbed, they couldn’t line up,” Bradford said. “Someone said: ‘Someone go down, someone go down,’ so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp.”
Grant on Wednesday said he wasn’t pretending when he went down. Grant said he’d injured his knee and that it was still puffy. “I got banged up. My whole thing is when (do) you know (if) somebody (is) faking an injury? ... I’m not no duck or no dummy.
“You look at my knees now, do you see this knee (my right one), this knee is smaller than that one (my left one)? You see the bang up, right?”
Teams are reluctant to use a timeout in such situations, and Grant attempted to get off the field, it could have left the Giants a defender short when the ball was snapped.
CUTLER TRIES TO VOICE HIS DISPLEASURE
The team that gives Jay Cutler the most trouble is the Chicago Bears.
Considering he is the Bears’ quarterback, this is a problem.
Cutler has been sacked 11 times in the first two games. Last year, he was dumped a league-high 52 times and emerged from the playoffs unable to walk. This week, he was unable to talk after another manhandling by the New Orleans Saints in a 30-13 loss. At this rate, there’s some question how long he’ll survive.
“I don’t know,” Cutler said in a raspy voice, the result of a kick to the throat early in the third quarter. “It’s just a little sore. (The voice is) coming back. Yesterday was worse.”
The Saints sacked Cutler six times and hit him 16 more. The Bears host the Green Bay Packers, tied for fourth in the NFL with seven sacks, on Sunday at Soldier Field.
It doesn’t help that Bears’ starting tackle Gabe Carimi is expected to miss the game with a partially dislocated kneecap. “Hips (are sore), I’ll be ready though. I’m not worried about that at all,” said Cutler.
Which may be the kind of optimistic thinking that can happen when a guy gets hit in the head a few times too often.
RECURRING NIGHTMARE FOR HIXON
Good thing Domenik Hixon caught that ball Monday for a spectacular touchdown because he certainly can’t catch a break.
For the second consecutive season, Hixon suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. For the second consecutive season, he will be spending most of it rehabilitating.
“It’s devastating. It’s a long road, a tough road. It still feels like a dream,” Hixon told reporters of injuring his knee on the catch that made sports highlight reels. “There was no pain at all in my knee. That is why I was thinking it was my calf. My calf is the only thing that is sore. My knee feels fine.”
But it isn’t fine.
“It was kind of wishful thinking more than anything,” Hixon added, “but I’m going to be back.” Just not this year.
FLACCO PUT ON HOLD
Joe Flacco is not in the money. Nor does he expect to be any time soon.
When the Baltimore Ravens signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a five-year extension this week, there was speculation that Flacco would be next up at the football ATM. But, no.
“I’m not really expecting anything during the season,” Flacco told Sirius Radio. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
During the lockout, Flacco indicated that he wasn’t happy about having to wait. But, he’s not Tom Brady. Yet. And, with his current contract running through 2012 he doesn’t have much leverage.