He was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft -- but six years later, Blaine Gabbert has yet to realize his full potential as an NFL quarterback.
The Arizona Cardinals signed Gabbert in May, but only as their third-string quarterback. But after injuries to starter Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton, Gabbert was thrust into the starting role -- and he has shined in that role for the better part of his first two career starts as a Cardinal.
On Sunday, Gabbert led the Cardinals to a 27-24 win against the team that drafted him, the Jacksonville Jaguars, which happens to boast the NFL's No. 1 passing defense. Gabbert's 87.6 passer rating through two games is higher than Palmer's rating of 84.4 in seven NFL games this season.
Gabbert's performance was enough for coach Bruce Arians to endorse Gabbert as a possible starter in Arizona next season should the 37-year-old Palmer decide to retire.
"Oh yeah, I think it's a possibility," Arians said Monday. “The way he’s playing right now, I’d be very, very comfortable.
"I'm really proud of him. These things -- you hope they don't happen very often, when the top two (quarterbacks) go down -- but we're very blessed to have him, and he's taken the bull by the horns and showing us that, 'I'm a player, I can play at this level and play very high.'"
In particular, Arians was impressed with Gabbert's 52-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaron Brown that gave the Cardinals a late lead against the Jaguars. Former Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell almost got a hand on Gabbert before the throw.
"I thought Blaine's play on the 50-yarder to Jaron was one of only a few guys can make, because Calais came fairly unblocked, and he had enough instinct not to draw back with the ball and still had enough strength to put it out there and not get it tipped," Arians said. "I thought it was a fantastic play by him."
Arians has noted Gabbert has had no coaching stability during his time in the NFL -- and he believes the 28-year-old can grow as a QB if he remains the same offensive system for more than one season.
"Oh my gosh, a ton, just as he continues to grow," Arians said when asked about how much upside Gabbert has. "He's never been in the same offense two years in a row, so he can blossom."
"It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to win."