Those of you who read this site often know that there are certain quarterbacks that I frequently criticize, if for no other reason than the fact that I thought they'd suck before they ever even arrived in the NFL and continue to point out their suck at every available opportunity. Rico Mirerez is a notable example, but more recently I've spent a lot of time ragging on Blaine Gabbert.
Now I'm not going to pretend I'm alone in pointing out how much Blaine Gabbert sucks. Everyone's doing it because it's true and it's fun. That said, I've noticed many people still saying things like "it's too early for the Jaguars to give up on Gabbert." This group can range from usual simpletons like Hub Arkush, who of course thought Gabbert would be better than Cam Newton and says you can't judge Blaine yet after 19 starts (but who also all but dismisses Shea McClellin with a wanking motion despite his good production so far as a pass rushing specialist because Hub still totally told you he couldn't be a three down, run stuffing 4-3 end on a team that didn't draft him to do that and has no need for him to do so at the moment) to more scientific sources like Pro Football Focus. While the PFF guys do nothing to defend Gabbert's play, they still say it's "too early" to give up on him. Is it really?
The old standard for measuring a QB's progress was to give them three years. After three years the idea was that you knew what you had in a guy. Drew Brees was a notorious example of a guy who took three years to hit his stride. Even with quarterbacks like Roethlisberger, Flacco, Ryan, Newton, Dalton, RGIII, and Luck impressing from day one, the idea that you need to give some guys three years to develop holds some weight. I'm not going to disagree with this, but there's also a difference between waiting three years for a dynamic but inconsistent top prospect to flatten out his peaks and valleys and become a franchise guy and simply waiting for a guy like Gabbert to do something, anything, to justify his draft stock. It's not like Gabbert is a guy who has flashed a ton of potential and simply forces too many throws or takes too many risks. He's shown no measurable progress or any real potential for greatness. He's never had a 300 yard or 3 TD game. QB rating is a flawed stat, but even then Gabbert has had just 5 career starts with a passer rating of over 80, three of which were games where he had less than 20 pass attempts or 200 yards, or both.
My argument, then, is that the Jaguars should give up on Gabbert now because the likelihood that he'll develop into a reliable starting quarterback in the NFL is damn near miniscule. In order to prove this I've decided to compare Gabbert's stats to other quarterbacks taken in the 1st or 2nd round since 1999 in order to show what company Blaine is actually in.
The stat I've chosen to look at for this comparison is what Pro Football Reference calls "Adjusted Yards Per Attempt." Basically, this stat adjusts a player's YPA with bonuses for TDs and deductions for interceptions. After 19 career starts, Gabbert's AYPA sits at 4.9. The only two passers that managed an AYPA lower than that in their first years in the league? Alex Smith and Joey Harrington. The bottom five? JaMarcus Russell, Kyle Boller, Gabbert, Smith, and Harrington. Drew Brees, the poster boy for the three year model, had an AYPA of 5.28, but had also had four 300 yard games and several 3 TD games. Brees' had a regular YPA of 6.4 during that time period, and also averaged 10.8 YPC during that time, meaning he, unlike Gabbert (5.4 and 10.0 respectively) showed some proclivity for making big plays and had many more of the usual "young QB" struggles, rather than a sheer inability to run an NFL offense.
At this point, the Jaguars are basically banking that the best case scenario (and one could could argue that Alex Smith is a historical anomaly, given that few quarterbacks survive as many unproductive years and as many coaching changes as he has) is a 20% chance that Gabbert may one day be Alex Smith. The far more likely scenario is that he's Kyle Boller or JaMarcus Russell. The suck isn't just going to one day transform into something else. The Jaguars should move on now, just two years into the experiment. The Raiders did that with Russell, and I bet the Ravens wish they would have with Boller. Even a move to Chad Henne (AYPA through first 19 starts: 5.86) would be a better move for the franchise.