Saturday January 12, 2013

David Caldwell’s tenure as Jacksonville’s general manager opened with him slamming the door on quarterback Tim Tebow.

He might do the same to Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.

Caldwell spent the majority of his NFL career in Indianapolis and Atlanta, learning firsthand the importance of having a franchise quarterback. Finding one for the Jaguars likely will determine the team’s long-term success.

"It’s hard," Caldwell said Thursday at his introductory news conference. "It makes it a lot more difficult. (If you don’t have one), everything else has to be perfect. I don’t necessarily know that you have to have a franchise quarterback, but you have to have one that can win games for you."

The Jaguars have won just seven games the last two seasons with Gabbert, Henne and Luke McCown under center.

Former general manager Gene Smith traded up to draft Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2010, but the former Missouri standout has made little progress during 24 starts. His pocket presence has been routinely criticized, though not nearly to the degree of Tebow’s throwing motion.

Gabbert completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,662 yards this season, with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He also was sacked 22 times in 10 games.

Former coach Mike Mularkey benched Gabbert in mid-November, just two days before the quarterback ended up on injured reserve because of shoulder and forearm injuries. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and spent the last six weeks recovering.

Henne started the final six games, finishing with 2,084 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 28 times.

Both quarterbacks played behind a shaky offensive line and didn’t have the benefit of having Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) for the entire season.

Nonetheless, it has become clear that neither is the answer.

"I have others in mind," Caldwell said, adding that he also is "comfortable with what’s here."

Tebow isn’t on the list.

Caldwell made it clear that the popular and polarizing New York Jets backup isn’t the answer, saying he "can’t imagine a scenario" in which Tebow would play for his hometown team.

Passing on Tebow, who is expected to be released in the offseason, should be no surprise given Caldwell’s background. He spent 10 years with the Colts, watching Peyton Manning lead them to the playoffs eight times. And he spent the last five seasons with the Falcons, where Matt Ryan has made Atlanta one of the top teams in the NFC.

"The common thread is the relationship between the head coach, the general manager and obviously the quarterback," Caldwell said.

Before Caldwell addresses the quarterback situation, he has to hire a head coach.

Potential candidates include San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Roman seems to be the front-runner given that he and Caldwell were college roommates and teammates at John Carroll University.

"The relationship between the general manager and the coach is vital," owner Shad Khan said. "It has to be a symbiotic relationship, and they have to grow together."

One change Khan made when he gave Caldwell a five-year contract to begin the team’s rebuilding process was to the team’s organizational structure.

Khan had Mularkey and Smith reporting to him last season, which seemed to cause internal issues. Khan declined to provide details other that saying "that structure didn’t work."

Now, Caldwell will have complete authority over the head coach -- much like he will in finding a franchise quarterback.

"We plan to address the quarterback situation, obviously," Caldwell said. "Blaine is the second-youngest quarterback in the NFL, but we’re going to have open competition. We’ll bring in, whether it’s through draft or through free agency, we’ll bring in some more people to compete at the quarterback position."

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