Jack Del Rio took his first teensy, tentative step down this path when he decided to jettison quarterback David Garrard just before the season started.
Now, days after Luke McCown’s four-interception performance against the New York Jets in just his ninth start, Del Rio is all in, naming rookie Blaine Gabbert his starter.
Gabbert, the 10th pick out of Missouri in the April draft, will face another rookie, Cam Newton, in the game against the Panthers at Carolina. Gabbert replaced McCown in the fourth quarter Sunday and completed 5 of 6 passes for 52 yards.
Gabbert may not be able to remove the hot seat that Del Rio’s on, but the first matchup with Newton is nothing if not compelling. Two first-round rookie draft picks haven’t opposed each other since Matt Leinart (Arizona, 10th pick) and Jay Cutler (Denver, 11th pick) faced off in a 2006 game.