With a new season comes new changes, and possibly the most stunning took place on Friday, as the Jacksonville Jaguars held a press conference announcing that they have a new quarterback – David Garrard, and that former starter Byron Leftwich would either be traded or released before Saturday night’s 6pm deadline to make roster cuts. “He’s proven to be a playmaker for us : a threat throwing it and running with it and I think he’s earned the opportunity,” Del Rio said of Garrard at a Friday presser. “He’s a player with a quick release. He’s been totally unselfish. He’s continued to work at his trade and not get discouraged when I’ve gone back to Byron. I feel a real sense of conviction about this decision.”
The move has sent shock waves around the Jaguars organization as well as around the entire league in general. It was just back in late February that Del Rio stated that Leftwich was the teams starter, and while people were surprised at that, the shock was even greater when Friday’s news was announced. “Byron was given every opportunity to lead this football team. In Feb. I named him the returning starter because we felt he gave us the best chance to win football games. It became apparent David gave us the best chance,” Del Rio said. Leftwich was set to make $5 million this season, and many felt that he would get the shot to play this year, which was the last of his deal with the Jags, and then the team would see how he performed and make a decision about his future after the season.
Del Rio told Leftwich about his decision about 3:15 Friday afternoon. He didn’t say how Leftwich reacted, but you’d have to think that he would be upset, considering that he felt all along that he was going to be the starter in 2007. “Our team has really shown signs of embracing my message,” Del Rio said. “They have thrown their full support behind David because he’s our guy. The team is going to embrace the message I give them and the direction I provide.” This decision will be the make or break of Del Rio’s coaching career. If Garrard comes through and play well, then he likely will save his job and get an extension. If Garrard fails, Del Rio will be looking for work in 2008. For now, he stands by his decision. “We selected him for a reason and we gave him four seasons and a fifth offseason,” Del Rio said of Leftwich. “We’ve seen enough.”