The Jacksonville Jaguars’ extended run of futility has grown old, but the new regime did lay a solid foundation with a slightly improved 2013-14 season and a strong offseason. The next task is fixing the quarterback situation, and it appears that the front office has its sights set on the controversial 2014 draft class at the position. Chad Henne is without a doubt not the long-term answer, but Jacksonville is evidently not ready to commit to him even for this season. The Jaguars are bringing in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and the lightning rod Heisman winner Johnny Manziel for visits on Wednesday. The team is also planning on scheduling a visit with Fresno State’s Derek Carr as well.
Coming off a 4-12 campaign and once again missing the playoffs, the Jaguars would be remiss to leave any stone unturned. Their meeting with Manziel shows just how willing the team is to bring in a game-changer at the position since the only likely way to bring him to Florida would be to select him with the No. 3 overall pick. The Jags are doing their due diligence by also bringing in Jimmy Garoppolo on Wednesday as well.
Central Florida’s Blake Bortles is the consensus top quarterback in the draft, but doubts have developed about every quarterback in the class when at one point it was believed that there were three or four indisputable franchise guys in this draft. That still may be the case, but if last year’s draft proved anything, it was that all the mock drafts from the experts are not that reliable. Many believed Geno Smith would be the top pick for a long time, and if not he would at least go top ten, but he fell all the way to the Jets in the second round. He wasn’t even the first quarterback taken as the Buffalo Bills snagged E.J. Manuel in round one. The Jaguars know they need a quarterback, and they are going about it the right way by getting to know each and every one of them.
Head coach Gus Bradley has been pegged as trying to recreate what he helped build with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, which is not necessarily a bad thing. One thing Seattle did was draft a young quarterback and make sure that there was a substantial amount of talent around him to ease his development. It is important that the Jaguars are able to change the culture of the team and once again make their namesake relevant to avoid drafting a high-profile quarterback and watching him fade into irrelevance.
Manziel is the most polarizing player in this entire draft. Selecting him at No. 3 would not be a surprise, but his off-the-field issues and overall demeanor may not play out well in Jacksonville. That being said, he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the draft and could be a home run of a selection. Bridgewater is much more of a laid-back personality who doesn’t ruffle any feathers. He was believed to be the unquestionable No. 1 pick in this draft for the better part of the last year, but questions have arisen about his arm strength and potential. He likely would be the safe pick, but Bradley is going to have to decide exactly what this team needs. It would be shocking if Jacksonville exited this draft without a rookie quarterback, but the route they take to get there is up for debate.
The Jaguars will learn a whole bunch from their visits with the top signal-callers of the draft on Wednesday. It is most important that Bradley decides who his guy is, and doesn’t give into common consensus. Bradley’s contributions to this team have been readily apparent, but have not shown up in the win column just yet. This next month leading up to the draft is as important as any month Bradley will encounter in his Jaguars tenure because he absolutely has to nail this quarterback situation. If he deems none of these guys are worthy of anything higher than a third-round pick, then so be it. Henne was brought back for a reason, but it has to make Jaguars fans happy that the man in charge is tossing his hat into the ring of every quarterback in the draft.
Commentary by Justin Hussong