Blaine Gabbert, who started his career in Jacksonville (left), will now make his second start for the Cardinals against the Jaguars Sunday.
Blaine Gabbert hasn't been with the Jaguars since 2013, the last of three tumultuous years the quarterback spent in Jacksonville after he was the 10th overall pick – and hoped-for savior of the franchise – in 2011.
He will get to play against the Jaguars Sunday for the first time since he was traded to the 49ers in 2014, a game that, yes, still means something to the Cardinals' current starting quarterback.
"I mean, yeah," Gabbert said Wednesday. "That was the team that drafted me. Things didn't work out for me there, but looking back on it, hindsight is always 20/20. That was a long time ago."
"There were some things in my control, some things out of my control," Gabbert added. "For whatever reason it didn't work, but I wouldn't change it at all."
Gabbert's debut with the Cardinals last week in Houston ended with a loss, although coach Bruce Arians was encouraged. Gabbert completed 22-of-34 passes for 257 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, although he
did throw two late interceptions.
It was better than almost anything he did while in Jacksonville, and arguably one of the best games of his career.
Last week, Arians said one of the biggest reasons Gabbert had struggled was that he had been on "(expletive) teams," and certainly, the Jaguars were not very good when Gabbert played there. Dropped in the lineup as a 21-year-old rookie, Gabbert ended up starting 27 games with the Jaguars, including 24 in his first two NFL seasons. Jacksonville won only five of those games, and Gabbert completed only 53 percent of his throws, with 22 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. He had a different head coach and a different offensive coordinator in each of those three seasons.
It was a rough introduction to the league, although Arians doesn't think Gabbert was used too early as a rookie.
"I think when you draft quarterbacks No. 1, you play them," Arians said.
Gabbert, now 28, said the maturation process he's undergone since that time naturally has helped him as a player.
"When you come into the league as a young quarterback – I think I was 20 or 21 – learning system after system after system, new coach, new owner, new GM, it's 'All right, I'm trying to figure this out, how to approach this learning process year in and year out,' " Gabbert said. "Fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to
look at it, I've had to learn a new system each and every year. By this time, I've learned how to do that."
The Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles to be their next QB savior, and while Bortles has had his own problems, Jacksonville is 7-3 this season with a team that has barely anyone remaining from Gabbert's last season. Other than with the Jaguars' fan base, the Gabbert-versus-his-old-team storyline hasn't exactly dominated the Jacksonville locker room this week.
"He's drastically improved since he was here with us," said Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash, who was in his first season on the Jacksonville staff in Gabbert's final year of 2013.
Gabbert, meanwhile, is on his eighth coach and seventh offensive coordinator in his seventh season, thanks to more upheaval with his time in San Francisco. He knows how he is perceived – "Everybody is the best Monday morning quarterback in the world" – but says he is good at blocking out outside opinions. There are only 32 starting quarterbacks "in the world," he noted.
"You can ask the 65 guys in that locker room, I don't think a lot of them really listen to the outside opinions," Gabbert said. "We're in this position for a reason, plain and simple. Everybody is a talented athlete, a great football player, a good person on and off the field, in that locker room. That's good enough for us. Everybody has their opinion, but sad to say, they aren't in that locker room, so it really doesn't matter."
The Cardinals promoted wide receiver Carlton Agudosi to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, filling the spot opened when running back Andre Ellington was released. The team signed wide receiver Alonzo Russell, who was on the Bengals' practice squad in 2016, to fill Agudosi's spot on the practice squad.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders in their Color Rush uniforms during Week 10 against Seattle