On Sunday, Blaine Gabbert will return to the Edward Jones Dome for the first time as a quarterback since 2010, when he was 34 of 48, throwing for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns in Missouri’s win over Illinois.
Three years and a few months later, Gabbert, the Parkway West standout who was drafted as the 10th overall selection in the NFL draft by Jacksonville, returns home to St. Louis as the starting quarterback for one of the league’s four winless teams and an offensive attack that has been, well, offensive.
In 2+ seasons in the NFL, Gabbert is 405 of 759 passing for 4,176 yards, 21 TDs and 22 INTs.
While Gabbert’s prototypical “measurables” (height, arm strength) caught the eyes of pro scouts and were enough to make him a top ten draft pick, critics wondered how his background in a spread offense at Missouri would prepare him for the NFL. He was further hindered by the NFL lockout, which cost him valuable practice time prior to his rookie season. He was then thrown into the starting job early in his first year. And there have been injuries.
In 2013, with his third coach in three seasons, as well as an owner and general manager who didn’t draft him, Gabbert used a strong preseason performance against the New York Jets to win the starting job. He opened the season against Kansas City after returning from a thumb injury suffered in the Jets game and was knocked out of that contest with a hand injury that kept him out for two weeks.
He returned last week against Indianapolis, going 17 of 32 for 179 yards and 3 interceptions.
”Things have not gone the way we wanted them for the past four weeks, but you have to come to work with the same attitude day in and day out and work harder. We have to come in and try to get better,” Gabbert told reporters after the Colts game.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, West Newsmagazine reported that Gabbert said “The quarterback and the head coach are the ones that get the blame and they’re the ones that get more of the credit than they deserve when things are going well. But, it’s the quarterback’s job to lead his football team and it’s the quarterback’s job to get points on the board.”
The Ballwin native still has the backing of his first-year head coach Gus Bradley.
“He’s taken some hits now as far as hits on the quarterback. And his poise and ability to stand in the pocket and his willingness has all been very impressive,” Bradley said, according to a transcript provided by The Original Herd. “And that’s why I think it’s real easy to stand by him,” adding that “To Blaine’s credit, we haven’t had consistent weeks with Blaine as far as practice. This will be the first time that he’s gone back-to-back weeks without being injured,” Bradley said. “When you think about it, I think he has six practices in like five weeks for us."
Matt Biermann remembers the last time he saw Gabbert at the Edward Jones Dome. Gabbert was even younger, competing in a Punt, Pass, Kick contest. Biermann, from Chesterfield’s Elite Football Academy, first began coaching Gabbert as he did Blaine’s younger brother Tyler and now the youngest brother, Brett, in middle school.
Biermann’s been scratching his head, trying to wrap his brain around the criticism of his former pupil, which he said has amounted to “a lot of venom.”
“He’s a great person, he doesn’t get in trouble,” Biermann said, comparing some of what Gabbert has endured to what Sam Bradford has encountered in St. Louis, with turnover on coaching staffs and a supporting cast of personnel that has left a lot to be desired.
Even though the Rams now partner with Elite Football Academy, Biermann will be at the game Sunday to support Gabbert, who he’s still high on moving forward.
“His feet are awesome. His mechanics are awesome,” he said. “He needs to catch a break.”