QB Blaine Gabbert hoping the Arizona Cardinals are the right fit
TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s purely coincidental.
Wearing No. 7 with the Arizona Cardinals is not a nod to quarterback Blaine Gabbert learning a seventh offense in as many seasons since entering the NFL.
In fact, Gabbert didn’t even realize the connection until it was pointed out to him by a reporter.
Signed late last week to a one-year contract, Gabbert took the field with his new team for the first time on Tuesday, just in time for the start of organized team activities.
The Cardinals are his third team, or better yet, his third chance at finding success that so far has eluded him as a former first-round pick.
“I’m always confident. I’ve always been confident,” said Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
In the six seasons that have followed, three in Jacksonville and three in San Francisco, Gabbert is just 9-31 as a starting quarterback. His struggles can be traced to the surrounding talent plus having played for six different coordinators.
And yes, Gabbert remembers them all.
“Dirk Koetter, Bob Bratkowski, Jeff Fisch, Greg Roman, Geep Chryst and Curtis Modkins,” he told reporters, reciting the six in chronological order.
“Consistency is huge in any profession, whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, job in the real world. When you have a consistent surrounding cast, a consistent coaching staff, that’s’ going to kind of breed throughout the organization. I just haven’t been fortunate enough to have that, but I’m always looking for it and that’s what they have here.”
Gabbert called the opportunity to learn under head coach Bruce Arians exciting.
“He’s just had a great track record with quarterbacks,” he said, even though that requires he learn another offensive system. Of course at this point, Gabbert has that down to a science.
“I think I have the way to learn a system done pretty well,” he said, “but the only way to learn a system is to get reps on the field and then just extra study time and kind of really get into the books and watch the film.”
Gabbert is expected to get plenty of reps in OTAs and mini-camp given that the Cardinals are limiting starter Carson Palmer’s throws this offseason. Even come training camp, Gabbert should receive plenty of work. The Cardinals, remember, are scheduled to play five preseason games.
What happens beyond the next four months is anyone’s guess.
Palmer is the starter and Drew Stanton is the backup, according to Arians. That would appear to leave Gabbert competing for the No. 3 job, if the Cardinals choose to keep three quarterbacks, with Zac Dysert and Trevor Knight also in the mix.
“Right now, I’m just competing against myself, trying to improve each and every day, each and every period, just learn the system as fast as possible,” Gabbert said.
Looking even further down the road, the 27-year-old Gabbert is six years younger than Stanton. Both are under contract for only this season. Gabbert is ten years younger than Palmer, who happens to be signed through 2018, but took his time before deciding to return for 2017.
In other words, the Cardinals are staring at a long-term need at the quarterback position sooner rather than later.
“The writing is on the wall,” Gabbert said, “but in the meantime I can’t worry about the future. I’m worried about — I’ve got a meeting here in 20 minutes and that’s the next thing on my schedule, so that’s all I’m focused on right now.”
Arians liked Gabbert coming out of Missouri, where he upset top-ranked Oklahoma, throwing for 361 yards and three touchdowns as a junior.
“He’s a pocket-passer and that’s what he was at best in college. He is a hell of an athlete, which you got to see when he was running the spread-option last year. He’s got velocity, he’s got accuracy, he’s got stature,” Arians said of the 6-4 Gabbert.
The problem has always been fit; see the aforementioned six different offensive coordinators.
Gabbert went 5-22 as a starter in Jacksonville, and he won only four times in San Francisco. Last year, he was benched five games into the season. Over his career, Gabbert has thrown 38 touchdowns versus 37 interceptions and owns a 71.5 passer rating.
“Sometimes it just takes, especially at the quarterback position, the right fit,” Palmer said, “and I trust this organization’s decisions and the moves they make. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Many have lost faith in Gabbert. Many questioned why the Cardinals signed Gabbert, even as a flyer.
Asked about the outside chatter, Gabbert shook his head.
“Everybody is going to have their opinion, but at the end of the day, I’m accountable to guys in this locker room, the coaching staff and the guys upstairs,” he said. “And I can sleep well at night knowing that if I come in and put in a good day’s work in, I’ll sleep good.”
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