Gabbert's season ended Wednesday when he was placed on injured reserve. NFL.com's Steve Wyche reported via a team source that Gabbert will have surgery on his left shoulder next week, but the second-year pro's new place in the pecking order isn't about his injury.
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey went out of his way Monday to say Chad Henne would start this week's game against the Tennessee Titans because of performance, not injury. That was an interesting first step. On Wednesday, Mularkey made his thinking crystal clear.
Mularkey said Henne will be the starter going into next season if he plays well over the next six games, according to Mark Long of The Associated Press. Henne was signed to be Gabbert's backup, but things have changed.
Don't focus on the qualifier about Henne playing well. Mularkey is saying a lot about how the organization views Gabbert just by entertaining the possibility of making Henne the starter. It's not like Henne is a rising potential future star.
Gabbert was the 10th overall pick taken in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was the "franchise quarterback" the Jaguars stood strongly behind after a rough rookie season. The Carolina Panthers wouldn't consider starting Derek Anderson if Cam Newton went down. Andy Dalton couldn't lose his job to Bruce Gradkowski if the Cincinnati Bengals starter were hurt. Even the Minnesota Vikings' Christian Ponder is on stronger ground.
This is a big move for Mularkey. The coach's status for next year is very much up in the air, especially if general manager Gene Smith is fired. Mularkey is signaling to Jaguars ownership how he would handle 2013. The kid gloves are off with Gabbert.
Gabbert has played like just another guy since entering the NFL. Now the Jaguars are starting to treat him like one.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.