Blaine Gabbert has faced criticism about his style of quarterbacking play since his days in Columbia for the Missouri Tigers to his current tenor in north Florida as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Such is life for a highly-rated signal caller who is easily heaped with praise but expectations are heavy and criticism is always right around the corner.
Then Gabbert's rookie season happened. Here comes the criticism with a vengeance.
One of the biggest criticizers of Gabbert's rookie season was NFL.com's Mike Lombardi. Lombardi initially had high hopes for the former Missouri QB coming into the draft, but after just one season Lombardi is not only saying that his high hopes were off-base, but that the Jaguars needs to pull the plug on their first-round draft pick.
"In my 20-plus years in the NFL, I don't think I have seen a high first-round pick look as scared or as out of place as Blaine Gabbert," Lombardi wrote. "The game looks entirely too big for him. When the ball is in his hand, he treats it like a hot potato. His play was embarrassing, considering he was a top-10 pick. I believed Gabbert was a good prospect and wrote about it leading up to the draft. When everyone was concerned about his down-field throws, I thought he would be able to adjust. But never did I think his eye level would be this low, his unwillingness to hang in the pocket this bad. I readily admit my mistake. Now the Jaguars need to do the same. How can they expect players around him to buy in? Gabbert cannot fool his teammates. If he continues to play like this, no one will want to play with him."
Strong words, no?
Pete Prisco of CBS, brought this opinion of Lombardi to Gabbert last week to get his thoughts on the assessment. Needless to say, Gabbert wasn't impressed.
"Who is Mike Lombardi?" Gabbert asked. "Every season a player is going to have a certain label. It creates buzz. It creates controversy and interest. Whatever the label is for the year, it's going to stick with you. He doesn't know what's going on. He doesn't know anything about me. It's comical. It's funny."
Can we get a Blaine Gabbert versus Mike Lombardi cage match going? I'm kidding. However, it will be interesting to see how Gabbert responds in year two. Jacksonville hasn't done much to give him in regards to weapons to throw to, and the offensive line is an emerging but still young group. If the Jaguars wanted to get themselves a quarterback in this draft, they had the opportunity to do so by trading up. As it stands, they're riding with their first-round draft pick and its "show and prove" time for Gabbert.
The NFL season kicks off in just 15 weeks. Oh boy.