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Game On

Jags end season as real bloodsport begins

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The Jacksonville Jaguars finished 2018 with one of their most spiritless outings of the sorry season. Blake Bortles seemed to be a broken man on the pitch in Houston. Scrub tight ends got the checkdown chucks, as anything beyond 10 yards was an overthrow. The running back situation had once looked like a strength of the team. But with T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette hanging out on the bench, the tailback tandem was as scrubilicious as the dudes on the line. I spent most of the game believing that one or two were actually trying to block, before becoming convinced that Uncle Shad just shoehorned an interpretive dance troupe into shoulder pads.

Speaking of the Flex-N-Gate impresario, he was rather chill despite the team going from first to worse after an off-season in which they flexed like they were a dynasty rather than a fluke.

Shad, per a media release sent out as the game wrapped, was “fully confident and optimistic” in the Dave Caldwell/Tom Coughlin/Doug Marrone troika.

“I do believe our best path forward for the moment is the one less disruptive and dramatic,” Khan said.

Will the team be more disciplined next year? Will the coaching be more adaptive? Will the draft picks pan out (think of all the cut or traded busts in recent years, and it looks like we can add Fournette and Yeldon to the mix)?

These are open questions. Maybe 2018 was a regression for the Jaguars, but one beyond the mean. If things had gone a bit differently, it could’ve been an 8-8 team.

Few people (except Browns fans) get stoked about that kind of performance. We are congenitally wired frontrunners, and we know that when losers know they are going to lose, they start dogging.

The saga of the Jaguars will be put on hold through the March elections, in a manner of speaking. But in another manner, the Jaguars will be central. Shad Khan has proved uniquely able to work with both mayors he’s dealt with: Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry. Deals have gotten done. Khan invested heavily in Brown’s failed re-election (and his failed congressional campaign last year). And Khan has major buy-in when it comes to the Curry re-election.

A lot is at stake right now, including investments in the sports complex, the eventual new convention center and whatever else is shovel-ready before the economy tanks. The symbiosis between Khan’s operation and the mayor’s office is obvious. Paul Harden and Jags’ chief administrative officer Sam Mousa are very good at negotiating what both parties see as win/win deals (like the cost-sharing on the last round of stadium improvements).

That symbiosis mirrors other key power centers supporting Curry. The local police union has not only endorsed Curry strongly, it’s backed the Curry slate. Jax Chamber? Samesies.

There is a concentrated bet, in other words, that favorable conditions need the status quo to prevail.

Will they?

At this writing, we still await to learn if Curry will face a challenger. Ron Littlepage,  a longtime Florida Times-Union columnist who’s insisted City Hall is due a change, suggests that a “serious challenger” might file as late as Jan. 11, the last day to qualify.

Most expect that filing will be come from Councilwoman Anna Brosche.

Brosche would have money—not the level of money Curry has, mind you, but word is she is willing to self-finance a half-million to show donors she’s serious.

Brosche would also have a political operation. She’s enlisted Ryan Wiggins as a consultant, and one can expect Wiggins and Curry’s assassin, Tim Baker, to drive campaigns with all the intensity of one of the Republican primaries we lived through last year. Brosche and Curry don’t like each other. And what this potential campaign sets up is two months of scorched earth tactics. Brosche will want to drive up Curry’s negatives. Curry is already doing just that with Brosche, as shown by the infamous Jeopardy! time spot.

Curry will have all the endorsements he could ever want, enough to stage an event in Hemming Park every couple of days. Brosche will have her backers, too, and they will no doubt be quotable in their condemnations of the status quo.

It’s going to be heated through March at least. And that’s where Curry would like to end it. If Brosche holds him below 50 percent in March, a two-person race on the May ballot could get interesting. It did for Alvin Brown, who won March by 6 points but couldn’t hold the lead.

Until then, negativity is the watchword. How ugly can it get? We’ll find out.

@aggancarski

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