There have been 0-16 teams before in the NFL. Well, OK, one 0-16 team — the 2008 Detroit Lions. And we have to wonder how badly that squad would beat the current incarnation of the Jacksonville Jaguars on a neutral field at this point, after the big cats' last lamentable loss, a 42-10 shellacking at the hands of the defending NFC champions, the San Francisco 49ers.
It's possible, one supposes, to spin this result in a positive way. Maurice Jones-Drew — a Jaguars great of the past and mediocrity of the present — attempted to do just that after the game in London.
"This year hasn't gone the way we wanted it to, but at the same time we're going to continue to work," the running back told The Guardian. "When it is turned around, it's going to make it that much better because you know how far you've come."
Indeed. And the aforementioned Lions organization can speak to what a turnaround actually looks like. The Lions of 2013 are quite legit: The best wide receiver in football, a solid quarterback and a defense that performs well at home for the most part tend to legitimize an operation. The Jags? Well, they have some quality wide receivers in Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, and some building blocks on defense that might develop … down the road.
Of course, who really knows if the team will still be here by the time these building blocks become more than just pieces of potential? The NFL's two-game experiment in London this year went — by all accounts, including that of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — extraordinarily well. So well that at least one Jaguars player said he'd like to go back.
"Playing in the stadium was unbelievable," Paul Posluzsny told The Guardian. "The amount of people here, the fans, the fact that the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter and everybody stayed and was loud. The crowd was unbelievable. It was one of the best NFL atmospheres I've ever been a part of. If Mr. Khan says, ‘Paul, we're playing in London,' I'm going to say, ‘Yes, sir, and I can't wait to get there.' "
Let's marinate on that for a minute. We know that Jaguars fans tend to vaporize at halftime — in their defense, there are solid reasons for that. When a team like the Jaguars gets smoked time after time at home in the first two quarters, where is the incentive for fans (who, after all, pay to be entertained) to stick around and watch the slaughter? If the Jaguars brought the same quality of product to London week after week for years, would that "unbelievable" crowd stay and be loud once the novelty wore off?
For current Jaguars fans, the team has been mired in two long downhill slides. The first from the Tom Coughlin glory days — which ended when Bill Clinton was still president. The second? From the 2007 playoffs, after which former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver's regime drafted Derrick Harvey and spent free-agent money on negligible talent, such as now-forgotten wide receiver Jerry Porter (who seemed like a good idea to some observers, including me, at the time).
Considering that this franchise still has to think about bad decisions made more than five years ago is a pretty good indication of where things sit now. We are at a point, only half a season into Gus Bradley's tenure and people are starting to wonder if Mike Mularkey was that bad. We are exactly one bad home loss away from someone buying billboards around town with a picture of former head coach Jack Del Rio with the caption "Miss Me Yet?"
The question now, as it has been since the season started, is one of positioning for 2014. The Jags received a solid stat line from Jones-Drew in London. But enthusiasm must be tempered: Most of those stats happened during garbage time, and it made little sense to be running the veteran tailback up the middle, late in the game, when the team trailed by as much as it did.
Another bit of positivity: The wide receivers didn't look that bad — though it has become clear that Chad Henne isn't getting it done at quarterback any more than Blaine Gabbert was. Mike Brown and Ace Sanders, I believe, will be credible complements to Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. So there's that to enthuse about, should one want to enthuse.