The 2011 season was a bad one for Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars, no doubt. After a season in which Gabbert ranked as the worst rated passer out of the 33 qualifying throwers, there were certainly critics and plenty of them.
Michael Lombardi, perhaps the loudest of those critics, said he had never seen "a high first-round pick look as scared or as out of place" and that the Jaguars should admit their mistake and move on. But the Jaguars have continued to back Gabbert and are prepared to march him out as their starter in 2012 where he'll look to prove the critics, including Lombardi, wrong.
Talking to Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Gabbert spoke of his critics and how he has to deal with consistent doubters:
"I think that's part of our job description: Deal with the crap," Gabbert said Thursday evening at the Jags' French Quarter hotel, a day before the team's preseason game against the Saints. "But for people to say [I'm scared], I just don't understand it. They've never played in the NFL. They really don't know what goes on, or what happens."
"So that argument, I think, is just a copout for people to make because they're - I don't want to necessarily want to say jealous - but, they couldn't do my job. And that's the truth. They can't do my job. There are 31 other guys that can do my job, and that's it. And that's kind of the way that the quarterbacks look at it. Selfishly, I think it's the best job in the world, but that [requires] putting in an honest day's work on a daily basis to keep it."
In his first preseason game of the 2012 season, Gabbert took steps towards proving doubters like Lombardi wrong with a performance that drew positive reviews from coaches and media, including a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive on the Jaguars' opening possession.
While Gabbert's game ended unceremoniously with a sack/fumble in the second quarter, his teammates have been quick to come to his defense and say they're expecting big things from the second year quarterback.
Wide receiver Laurent Robinson, a free agent acquisition for the Jaguars during the 2012 offseason, told Silver:
"What I've seen so far, [Gabbert] looks great," Robinson said Thursday. "He's throwing the ball accurately, and he's composed and confident. I'm excited about his leadership. I feel like he has that 'it' factor in the huddle. He takes control, calls the plays, understands where the ball needs to go. He's making huge strides from where they said he was last year."
Linebacker Paul Posluszny also defended Gabbert, telling Silver that the quarterback is "really going to impress a lot of people this year."
The Jaguars and Gabbert will play in their second preseason game of the year on Friday night against the New Orleans Saints at 8 p.m. ET.
For the latest on the Jacksonville Jaguars, be sure to check out Big Cat Country and SB Nation Tampa Bay. Head over to SB Nation's NFL hub for even more NFL news. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for video commentary.