“Cold Pizza” Turns Stale For Garrard

By Sam Borden
Updated: May 26, 2007

JACKSONVILLE — It was the middle of February, and David Garrard was relaxing in the green room on the New York set of ESPN’s Cold Pizza. A few minutes before he was to go on camera, his cell phone rang. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio was on the line.

“I had to go out and do the interview, so he told me he would call me back,” Garrard said. “I went and answered all the questions about, ‘What did I think the future was going to be like?’ as the quarterback, and all that stuff, and then, a little while after I had finished, I got the call back.”

That was when he found out the Jaguars’ immediate future didn’t really include him. Standing in the middle of a store just across the street from the famed Carnegie Deli, Garrard heard Del Rio’s voice saying that Byron Leftwich — the quarterback Garrard had replaced in each of the past two seasons — would be the Jaguars’ starter again in 2007.

It hurt. The sting of losing something you never had is mild compared to the internal tearing that comes with having something you treasure taken away, and that was how Garrard felt.

Whatever the reason, whether it was Leftwich’s ineffectiveness or his injured ankle, Garrard had become the Jaguars’ face. He had taken the snaps, called the signals and, even up to the very last minute, done the national TV interviews in which he talked about the team. He was the starting quarterback.

And then he wasn’t. Didn’t even get a chance to fight for the job during training camp.

“I told him I wasn’t happy about it,” Garrard said. “He said he knew I wouldn’t be.”

A backup again, Garrard spent Thursday in a familiar refrain: stepping into drills after Leftwich. As teammates ran by on their way to the locker room following practice, Garrard rubbed his forehead and, oddly, began a conversation by saying he is “really happy to be back in Jacksonville.” Somehow, it sounded genuine.

“I really am,” he said, “I like it here. And I know my time will come again.”

If it does, Garrard is confident he will do better than the last time. He still can’t help himself from looking back at the end of last season – at that crushing three-game losing streak that turned an 8-5 playoff contender into an 8-8 colossal disappointment – and wonder.

He remembers the same thing everyone does: the Week 15 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The game in which the Jaguars dominated in passing yards and rushing yards and had a nearly 3-to-1 time-of-possession advantage, yet still lost after Garrard committed four – yes, four – turnovers.

“It all started with that game,” he said. “I’d never seen a game like that with any quarterback. Three interceptions and a fumble. It’s almost hard to believe it happened to anyone. But it happened to me.”

If it hadn’t, if Garrard had led the Jaguars to the playoffs, maybe he would still be a starting quarterback. Instead, he’s waiting again.

Garrard was asked if he thought he could win back the job with a strong camp next month, and he demurred, saying no one promised him that chance and he understands the Jaguars’ coaches will “lean toward their guy” in any kind of competition. At one point, that might have meant him. Right now, it means Leftwich.

“All I can do is work hard,” Garrard said simply, “and hope I get another chance.”

If the last two years are any indication, he should stay ready.