QB Garcia Goes Down Again, Team Falls to 1-2
The 2008 Arena Football League season is only three weeks old and the Dragons have lost their superstar quarterback to injury on two separate occasions. In the season opening loss at Cleveland, Aaron Garcia went down in the first quarter with a sprained knee. After missing the following game - in which backup Rohan Davey led the team to a home victory over Kansas City - Garcia returned this past weekend in Philadelphia before his luck would run out again.
With five minutes remaining in the contest, Garcia brought the Dragons within seven points of the first-place Soul. With under a minute left, he was forced to leave with a bruised rib. Davey took over and subsequently threw an interception, which linebacker Rod Davis returned for the clinching score in a 63-42 win for Philadelphia, who is undefeated in three tries for the young season.
Garcia's status for Friday night's game at Arizona is uncertain. Dragons head coach Weylan Harding sees that as a tough task. "To bounce back, we have to scrap the next game," he said to reporters after the defeat at the Wachovia Center. "We have to go home and get healed up. We have to turn it around really quick."
This season may get away from the Harding and the Dragons before too long. After facing the Rattlers, the schedule does not get any easier with a meeting with Dallas at the Nassau Coliseum. The Desperados are tied with Philadelphia and Cleveland atop then Eastern Division, all at 3-0.
A year ago, Garcia missed most of the season and the Dragons missed the playoffs with a 5-11 mark, finishing in fourth place in the division. The team had qualified for the postseason the previous two campaigns and did not finish lower than second since 2002. If the team wants to prove that 2007 was an aberration, it needs to go on a run soon.
With three teams two games ahead of them (and two currently holding tiebreakers over them), it will be extremely difficult to rebound if they fall back much further. The clock is ticking on the 37 year-old Garcia, who has now missed time in each of the last three seasons.
He is the fourth quarterback in AFL history to throw 800 touchdown passes, and just last season was passed by Clint Dolezel and Andy Kelly while he was injured for throwing more touchdown passes than any pro quarterback.
Garcia's career statistics are mind-boggling. Coming into 2008, he has nearly 3,000 completions, over 37,000 passing yards and a QB rating of 116.16. These are not numbers that can be easily replaced, which has proven to be the Dragons' sticking point. When Garcia is healthy and ready to play, the team has as good a chance as any other arena team to win. When he is out, that is when they have struggled.
In 2007, Davey threw for 45 scores and 17 interceptions in 364 pass attempts. In comparison, Garcia also had 45 touchdowns, but only four picks in 144 less attempts.
If Garcia cannot stay healthy, the Dragons need to find a long-term solution at the most important position on the field.