Usually we only get to hear the juicy stories behind NFL Draft machinations when someone wants to brag, about finding a hidden gem or putting one over on another team, but in all cases, it involves a successful pick. Well, this is not that, but it’s also sort of that, in the sense that Jack Del Rio wants to brag that he had nothing to do with the Jaguars’ decision to trade up and draft QB Blaine Gabbert.
The Gabbert era in Jacksonville was ... underwhelming. One of the all-time terrible rookie seasons, followed by a couple of injury-shortened years and then a desperation trade to San Francisco. In one light, the Jaguars turned the 10th overall pick in 2011 into a sixth-round pick three years later. In another, no more generous light that accounts for what the Jags gave up to move up to the 10-spot, Jacksonville turned first- and second-round picks into a sixth. Del Rio wants to remind you again that it wasn’t his fault.
“I had no idea we were going to draft Blaine Gabbert,” Del Rio said on Tuesday, via ESPN690. “No idea. In fact, I left to go get something to eat because our pick wasn’t for much longer in the draft. I go and then I’m sitting there filling my plate thinking, ‘Oh great, we’ve got a couple more hours until we pick.’ Then I see, ‘The Jaguars are on the clock.’ I’m like, ‘What the blank is going on?’
“I walk into the draft room, and I could see it on the faces of the people in the room. They knew how uncomfortable that was, how wrong that was.”
Del Rio claims he had Gabbert—the third quarterback drafted that year, after Cam Newton and Jake Locker—on his board as a third- or fourth-round prospect. That sounds about right, given that Gabbert has settled in as a relatively serviceable backup. Which isn’t quite the skill level to justify being taken at No. 10, especially when one of the picks the Jaguars gave up turned into four-time pro bowler Ryan Kerrigan. Del Rio was fired 12 weeks into Gabbert’s rookie year. GM Gene Smith, who orchestrated the trade and the pick, was fired a year later. Gabbert was shipped out the year after that.
But Del Rio and Smith are out of the NFL, and Gabbert is still here, most recently signing with Tampa earlier in the offseason. So who had the last laugh? (It’s us. We did.)