Where Sadness Goes To Be Sad: The Jacksonville Jaguars – By Cameron Heffernan

Why are the Jaguars of Jacksonville so awful? Is there an explanation? We try to find out.

From jaguars.com

From jaguars.com

 

Would you believe me if I told you the Jaguars have made the AFC Championship, twice, in franchise history? Probably not. You’re more likely to believe the Raiders have made a Super Bowl in the last ten years (they have), then the Jags making the playoffs even.

I promise you though its not a lie. In ’96 and ’99, under coach Tom Coughlin, yes the one that beat the undefeated Patriots, and quarterback Mark Brunell (yeah, that guy I guess…?) the Jags finished 9-7 (’96-’97) and 14-2 (’99-’00), ultimately losing in the AFC Championship to the Patriots and the Titans. Two teams, who eventually lost in the Super Bowl because one had Drew Bledsoe as it’s quarterback and the other had to play the “Greatest Show on Turf”.

That was a long time ago though.

Since that time, the Jags have gone on to three winning seasons, two .500 seasons, two playoff appearances, and eight losing seasons. After a 7-9 and two 6-10 seasons, Coughlin went into hiding – studying the ways of the mediocre championship team – and the Jags moved onto Jack Del Rio. When you look at Jack’s pro-football-reference page, he looks legit. 73-63, and two appearances in the playoffs with guys like Byron Leftwich and David Garrard. He also had Fred Taylor carrying most of the offensive load as well as Jimmy Smith, who helped bail out Leftwich and Garrard most of the time.

But Jimmy Smith is now having to be bailed-out into house arrest, and Fred Taylor could possibly find someone to represent him as he’s now a law-firm PR representative, if Smith had injured himself during the charge of cocaine possession and carrying a concealed firearm in 2012. But those are your greatest Jaguars of all-time. One is now on house arrest and the other is a PR rep. The other is Mark Brunell, who when you search for on the Google, you end up with the joke I was gonna make about Blaine Gabbert later. That was, “Mark Brunell isn’t walking through that door; whoever that may be.”

The Past is the past though. And now it’s time to look to the future.

The dark, sad and disappointing future.

Since making the playoffs in 2007, the Jags have had one .500 season at 8-8 in ’10. Since that decent season, the rest were lessons in futility and not a single decent draft pick. The last four years of first round picks have equated to this:

’10: Tyson Alualu DE – 10th overall pick: Has had 1.5 sacks in three years.

’11: Blaine Gabbert QB – 10th overall pick: Thrown for 3,997 yards in three years, including, 21TDs, 19INTs and 18 total fumbles. He may be the worst quarterback ever.

’12: Justin Blackmon WR – 5th overall pick: Came on late last season with Chad Henne at quarterback, but all in all has been a hassle to the team with constant legal trouble.

’13: Luke Joeckel OT – 2nd overall pick: The offensive line in Jacksonville has been a joke, allowing 15 sacks in three games.

Not a single top-10 pick has panned out for this team. Granted, Blackmon and Joeckel still have time to progress. And Blackmon needs someone to be able to throw the ball to him, before we can judge him to the fullest. But, to have your last four first round draft picks bust, especially a quarterback you were banking your future on, is not what builds successful teams. Gene Smith, who was fired after last season, was behind most of these moves. The Jaguars have moved on to former Atlanta Falcons Director of Player Personnel David Caldwell as the second ever general manager of the Jags. His first move, hire Gus Bradley, former defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Which after the Seahawks defensive performance last year, made sense.

The Seahawks coordinator was not the reason the Seahawks were a good defense, and won’t be the reason the Jags turn it around; seeing as they’re last in rushing defense. There ninth overall ranking in passing defense, is literally only because they get ran all over.

So, how is this fixed? They have a community of fans that are genuinely trying to root for their team. Or at least some weird semblance of rooting with Jag Juice, and the Jag Rag. Which is a sentence that sounds like a frat bro getting a little too excited. like, “Dude! I shot my Jag Juice into my Jag Rag, and threw it at Marty’s face. It was brutal.” This is why they stopped making these things.

Recently – and also the reason I sat down to write this article – the Jags, offered to give free beer to those who buy tickets to this weekend’s Jags/Colts game. Offering to those that bought the tickets in a three-hour window, two free beers for a $45 ticket.

Sitting at 30th overall in total attendance – somehow ahead of the Rams and Raiders (who are last, of course) – the Jags needed something to fill some of the seats that lay desolate for most games. Instead of the obvious seat filler, Timothy Richard Tebow at quarterback, they devise a ploy to fill the seats with a bunch of drunk, pissed off, angst-filled Jags fans. Who, more than likely, will be routed by the Colts.

And more power to them. I mean, why not? You know who you are. allow your fans, 21-and-over, to get a nice buzz while they watch the future of football thump all over their beloved football team. Sans, Tebow of course. I know, I keep bringing up the Tebow thing, but why not sign him? Blaine Gabbert can’t throw; Chad Henne can’t throw; Tebow can’t throw. Out of all those, “quarterbacks who can’t do their job” one of them has made the playoffs, and won no less. And that’s muthtruckin’ Tebow. He’ll boost attendance, he may suck enough for you to possibly blow another top-10 pick and everyone is happy. Jags fans have a sliver of something to root for, hell America has something to root for again, and Shahid Khan can sit back and collect those sweet NFL checks.

Back to the idea of “fixing” the Jags problem.

They’re on the right path. Hiring Gus Bradley, as bad as he’s been this year, was a good idea. Bringing in someone with past success to generally manage your team, also a good idea. Caldwell, was behind the success of the Falcons the last couple years, drafting guys like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones as well as serving as a scout for the Colts in their Manning super-team era. Their first move should be to phase out Gabbert, trade Maurice Jones-Drew for another first rounder, and literally begin a rebuilding the likes of the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB have never seen. I’m talking complete breakdown of the roster and building from the bottom up. Scorched earth policy, baby. It’s the only way.

The Jags sit at about $23 million in cap space as of July 5, 2013 – according to Yahoo Sports. 

They have Eugene Monroe, left tackle coming off the books, and after drafting Joeckel this last year, it looks like they’ll let him go. Then there’s the Gabbert contract, who if is still on the roster by 2015, stands to make $13.6 million, for literally being an overgrown infant behind center. Those are the two major contracts coming off the books next offseason. The Jags could have up to $40 million in cap space when all the dead contracts from preseason cuts come off – equaling about $20 million.

Which leaves us with the Maurice Jones-Drew questions.

What can they get for him? Do they want to trade him? Will they re-sign him?

I can’t speak on behalf of the organization, but the smart thing would be to A. Try and trade him for a first rounder; which could be possible with what the Browns got for Trent Richardson. The fact that Jones-Drew missed most of last year, and looking like a shell of himself so far this year. The Jags, at the most, could fleece a second rounder out of someone. There’s also the alternative of letting him walk at the end of the season. Which they could go after someone like Ben Tate as a stop gap as they try to rebuild through the draft.

Free Agency hasn’t helped anyone in the NFL in the last couple years. Aside from the obvious Peyton Manning completely changing the Broncos, people like Nnamdi Asomugha, the Jags own Laurent Robinson (who was cut in camp), Vincent Jackson being incredible but still in a horrible situation. There really hasn’t been a huge free agent signing that’s literally swung the league the way pundints made it seem like when the Eagles built their dream team.

The Jags have one chance, beginning now, to A. keep their team in Jacksonville (cause I’m sure Kahn and his advisers are looking at sweet L.A. reality right now), and build some semblance of  a winning team. Or at least get back to 8-8.

Maybe it’s “Johnny Football”, Teddy Bridgewater or JaDeveon Clowney who can swing things for the Jags. More than likely its Bridgewater or Manziel. As every other team in the league, their problems begin and end at quarterback. And having the worst quarterback as your supposed “franchise” guy, you’re only looking at a world where sadness goes to be sad. And right now, that’s Jacksonville and their precious Jaguars.

 

 

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