At 42 Years Old Still Not Ready to Give Up
Jeff Garcia was long known for being a tough guy who fought his way onto an NFL roster, and fought his way to being a starter for the 49ers, then even managed to fight back from down seasons with Cleveland and Detroit. However for some reason after three solid seasons following those two bad years he has failed to find a consistent back-up job. He returned to Philly in 2009 not even throwing a pass, sat out in 2010 and was one of many quarterbacks signed by Houston in 2011 but didn’t throw a pass.
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Jeff Garcia started his professional football career back in 1994 with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League where he played for 5 seasons starting for 3 seasons. He managed to win many accolades while playing for Calgary including making the West Division All Star team 4 straight seasons from 1994-1998, won the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy given to the most outstanding player in the CFL Western Division in 1997, followed up in 1998 with a Grey Cup win and MVP vote. After 1998 he signed with the 49ers to back-up Steve Young before he had his final pro concussion eventually ending his career. As an NFL “rookie” he played in 13 games completing 225 of 375 passes for 2,544 yards 11 tds, and 11 ints adding 45 carries for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pretty impressive for a former undrafted free agent and NFL snub for 5 years.
After his rookie season it was quite clear Garcia was bound to stick with the 49ers for a while, but unclear if he was ready to take over when Steve Young retired in 2000. However the team had faith in him and he followed up by starting 16 games 3 seasons straight delivering 999 of 1,593 passes for 11,160 yards 84 touchdowns 32 interceptions. Carried 217 times for 1,021 yards and 12 touchdowns. He came out on fire in 2000 throwing 19 touchdowns in the first 7 games alone. He set a team record for passing with 4,278 yards totalling 4,692 yards and 35 touchdowns. He set a career high in touchdowns in 2002 with 37 total, but wound up putting up mediocre stats the following 2 seasons leading to his release in 2004. This marked the end of his time in San Francisco.
He signed with the Browns on March 9th 2004. He managed to play only in 11 games however battling inconsistency, and injuries. Those would be his only games with the team before his release after just 1,900 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He completed just 57% of his passes during his time with the team. After his time with the Browns his only chance for a starting job was to sign with the Lions reuniting him with his old coach in San Francisco Steve Mariucci. However he broke his fibula in the 4th preseason game and wouldn’t see the field until October against the Browns his former team. He would wind up winning the game leading to Mariucci naming him the starter for the rest of the season a promise that was clearly empty with Joey Harrington starting again later in the season. The Lions didn’t offer him a contract to return for a second season. After 4 straight seasons of slumping play he decided to find a back-up job with a contender. Bringing him to the Philadelphia Eagles backing up injury prone McNabb.
The Eagles signed Jeff Garcia needing a veteran back-up to Donovan McNabb. McNabb was injured in November putting him out for the season. Garcia came into the game as the starter over very popular back-up A.J. Feeley. He lost his first game leading to many analysts to count the Eagles out before giving Garcia another chance to prove he could let the team down. However this time he surprised many and won 5 straight at one point garnering a following to trade away McNabb and keep Garcia in town as the starter. He ended the season playing in 8 games completing 116 of 188 passes for 1,309 yards 10 tds, 2 ints and 25 carries for 87 yards. He parlayed this back-up job into a starting gig with Tampa Bay looking for a veteran to compete.
In Tampa Bay he won the starting job playing in 13 games he completed 209 of 327 passes for 2,440 yards 13 tds and 4 ints adding 35 carries for 116 yards and 1 td. Despite a solid season in 2007 he was benched after just one bad game in 2008 in favor of Brian Griese who wound up getting injured. Despite pedestrian stats in terms of touchdowns and yards Garcia finished with another effecient season completing 65% of his passes for 2,712 yards 12 tds, 6 ints adding 35 carries for 148 yards and 1 td. He was however not resigned and allowed to leave via free agency.
In 2009 he made what I believed would be his “retirement stop” as I used to call it. He signed with the Oakland Raiders who made a habit of collecting every free agent qb about ready to call it quits. Garcia signed with the intent to back-up JaMarcus Russell but was cut with final cuts suprisingly enough. The team stuck with Bruce Gradkoswki instead. Garcia for the first time since 1994 was a free agent at the begining of the season. In 2009 the Eagles made the very public move to sign Mike Vick who was still suspended for a couple games of the season. McNabb was hurt in week 1 however and with just Kevin Kolb on the roster the Eagles brought Garcia back for his second stint with the team. He was released after a very short stay with the team when Vick returned from suspension.
After not throwing a pass on the field for a whole season he wasn’t able to find a back-up job anywhere in the NFL in 2010 so he turned to the United Football League an upstart league looking to gather up former NFL talent to build a name for itself. He signed with the Omaha Nighthawks quickly becoming one of the better known players on the team and earning the starting job almost immediately. He won two offensive player of the week awards with the team following two comeback wins. However his stats were really unimpressive having completed just under 52% of his passes for 1,321 yards 9 tds and 11 ints. He didn’t return to the UFL in 2011 having signed with the Texans as the 3rd string quarterback behind Jake Delhomme, and T.J. Yates after Matt Leinert, and Matt Schaub were injured. He however didn’t throw a pass during that time.
Despite a very bumpy career in professional football spanning 8 different teams, 3 different leagues, 2 jersey numbers, both conferences in the NFL, and playoff stops in 4 different seasons with 3 teams he is hoping to return for another season in the NFL. However his one team of choice is the Philadelphia Eagles, a stop that would seem unlikely for the 42 year old quarterback who is heading into his 17th season in professional football. I’m confused why he thinks voicing his desire to return will lead to anything with the Eagles though right now their depth chart looks something like this: Mike Vick, Mike Kafka, Trent Edwards, and rookie Nick Foles. I can understand the apparent need for a veteran back-up behind Vick to train the younger qbs on how to pass in the NFL, but right now they have a back-up qb who has spent the past 3 seasons in the offense, a rookie they plan to develop into a future starter, and an incumbent starter. Adding Jeff Garcia would only benefit the team as another coach on the field. Which in my eyes doesn’t require a roster spot, I believe his only shot at returning to the NFL is as an offensive assistant with the Eagles. However I believe this career has come to an end despite all the fighting Garcia has done over the years. He will always be remembered as one of the toughest players across 3 leagues, and now he will likely be remembered much like Brett Favre is, as a player who just can’t seem to give up the game.