Not long after his season kickoff introduction as the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback to a lunchtime crowd of 1,540 business leaders, David Garrard was cut from the team.
“I can say this decision was pure football,” said head coach Jack Del Rio in a 4:15 p.m. news conference.
Del Rio and other Jaguars leaders, including team Chairman and CEO Wayne Weaver, attended the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce lunch event.
“There was never any pressure from Wayne in any way to make this anything other than a pure football decision,” Del Rio said at the news conference, denying that Garrard‘s $8 million base salary had anything to do with the decision.
Garrard, the Jaguars starting quarterback the past four years, which included the team’s last playoff appearance in 2007, was notified of his release after the lunch.
The chamber event has come to signal the start of the regular season for the Jaguars. It is held before the first regular season game to provide business leaders an opportunity to mingle with the players, coaches and management.
Few there knew it would be Garrard’s last public appearance as a Jaguar.
The Jaguars named Luke McCown as the starting quarterback with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert as the backup.
“We seek to play the best players, and, as I have said before, I think it is imperative that we have the courage to do what is best for the football team,” said Del Rio.
Del Rio said McCown had the best training camp as a quarterback and earned the opportunity to start.
Del Rio said he and Garrard couldn’t pinpoint a reason for Garrard’s lackluster training camp when they talked Tuesday.
“He just wasn’t able to get it going this preseason. He even admitted that when we talked today. For whatever reason, he has not been able to find the rhythm, not been able to be his old self, and so, with that being the case, we had to make a football decision,” said Del Rio.
Garrard did not attend the news conference, but posted a thank you to the fans on his Twitter feed: “Thank you Jaguar fans for an awesome ride! You are the best fans ever. You’ll always have a special place in my heart and my family’s heart!”
Del Rio had the support of General Manager Gene Smith in stating that McCown gave the team the best chance to win in Sunday’s season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
“It’s the one position that impacts winning the most,” said Smith.
“When you look at that position, you try to study the full body of work, and I think we did that,” he said.
Owners Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver attended the news conference, sitting to the side of Smith and Del Rio. They did not comment on the move until asked by reporters after the news conference.
“It was a football decision, so we left the decision to” Smith and Del Rio, said Wayne Weaver. “They visited me this morning to discuss it.
“It was an awkward time having to release David, but Gene and Jack felt that Luke and Blaine gave us the best chance to win,” he said.
Weaver said the situation might have been different if the league had a full preseason to prepare.
“Clearly, the lockout took away a lot of preparation time. It set the entire league back,” said Weaver.
The shortened preseason didn’t cause Weaver to step back from his prediction of playoffs for Jacksonville.
“We are still a playoff team with Luke as our starter,” said Weaver.
Garrard, a fourth-round draft pick by the club in 2002, played in 86 games with 76 starts over the past nine seasons. His career totals include 1,406 of 2,281 passing for 16,003 yards with 89 touchdowns and 54 interceptions for an 85.8 passer rating. He also rushed for 1,746 yards and 17 touchdowns.