All Apologies

What's wrong with the Jaguars now?


Before this column goes any further, an apology for the subject matter:

I'd like to apologize to all readers for writing about the Jacksonville Jaguars. Undoubtedly, you'd like to read about a better pro football team. Undoubtedly, I'd prefer to write about quarterbacks who throw seven touchdown passes in a game or who, even as opposed to Chad Henne against the Raiders, got more than 13 out of 40 passes to go more than 5 yards, as The Florida Times-Union Jaguars writer Ryan O'Halloran tweeted.

It would be great if I were writing about a team that fulfilled my preseason hopes — one which the defense catalyzed changes in game momentum, one which the quarterback took advantage of his top-of-the-first-round tackles to make reads of the defense and to spread the ball around to receivers, one which the running backs hit holes hard and broke free into the secondary with reckless abandon, one which fans hoped would bring it for 60 minutes every week.

If that were the case, I'd be writing about the Jacksonville Sharks or the Jacksonville Dixie Blues. I'm writing about the Jaguars, however, and apologizing, much like the Orlando CBS affiliate did for showing Jaguars vs. Raiders instead of the Manning Bowl (Eli's New York Giants vs. Peyton's Denver Broncos).

Apologizing. Like the Jags should, for drafting a punter instead of Russell Wilson, the Seattle signal-caller who was still on the board when punter Bryan Anger was picked in 2012. And how did you like that Seattle game, by the way (Seahawks 29, 49ers 3)?

Apologizing. Like Shad Khan should, for putting this pitiful product on display in Jacksonville. Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey, Gene Smith and the rest of the gang are gone like the wind; but frankly, we don't give a damn, since the product looks the same.

The team looks like an expansion team. Like they're Happy To Be There. Like they expect fans to derive some psychic benefit at this late date, almost two decades into the franchise's existence, from some gauzily defined notions of "progress."

What is progress? Watch a Patriots game and see Tom Brady light his receivers up for running the wrong routes. No chance of that happening in Jacksonville. Not when two scrubs battle for a starting job and seem so intent on not messing up that they don't take risks, instead throwing pitiful little swing passes and bubble screens, trying to get easy completions in lieu of taking the chances like the greats — even the not-so-greats — take.

Everyone talked a lot of smack about Byron Leftwich when he was here, and how much he got hit. Say what you will about B-Left, whose career is now over — at least he got the ball downfield.

Maybe we'll see better results, now that the Jaguars are back home this week, albeit at 0-3 after their 45-17 loss on Sept. 22 in Seattle.

What's more likely, however, is that we'll see plenty of parking in the asphalt jungle around EverBank Field, shorter lines at concession stands and room to stretch out in the stands.

Sort of like a Florida Marlins game. Except at least at the Marlins Park, you get those groovy art deco flourishes that Marlins owner Jeff Loria digs. At EverBank Field, there are other perks. Jaxson de Ville is arguably the most kinetic mascot in the league. And there's a Burrito Gallery in the building. And the bacchanalia of the Bud Zone — a necessary venue, indeed, as Gabbert and Henne on offense make sense after enough beers. Or so I'm told.

Much of the talk of late is whether the Jaguars can run the table this year — a perfect season at 0-16. To be sure, other teams in the league will compete with them for that honor, giving them the No. 1 draft pick. I'd be more excited by that myself, were I not convinced of the absolutely subjective nature of the drafting process. E.J. Manuel, who's blowing up in Buffalo, was picked at No. 16 when he came out of Florida State University. The conversation up until midway through the preseason revolved around the Bills reaching for him. Then it became clear that Manuel was the real thing — raising the question of why he never quite showed that in Tallahassee.

There are some who want the Jaguars to tank — for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or for Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina. Tanking and rebuilding — seems to be the Jaguars' default mode since Tom Coughlin was run out of town. Three coaches and more than a decade later, we're still waiting for next year, like Samuel Beckett's characters waiting for Godot. Trouble is, most Jaguars fans don't have the patience for a 40-minute traffic jam, much less for the building of a contender that for some reason takes longer than the 
40 Years War. 

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