Well the Jaguars are now entering Week 13 of the NFL Season and a lot has changed in the 12 weeks that have passed since the beginning of the season. One thing that has changed drastically since the beginning of the season has been the definition of success in regards to the Jaguar's season. Not only has it changed it has changed multiple times within the season alone. So where do we stand? What would we consider as a successful season? Well lets take a look at how our definition of success has changed and reevaluate whether our current definition is where it should be.
"My expectations are that we're going to be better than average and we're going to be competing for the playoffs -- not just for next year, but for years to come" - Wayne Weaver
Before the season even started there seem be a disparity in how the Jaguar's season would be considered a success. Wayne Weaver and Jack Del Rio clearly had a lot higher standard then anyone else. Weaver obviously frustrated last season by the series of Black outs that struck the Jaguars as well as two seasons of poor on field performances lead Weaver to initially set the bar high for his coach and players. Weaver can't afford for the Jaguar's to continue to under perform and therefore wanted the best. Based on Weaver's statements, Jack Del Rio in turn agreed with Weaver and set the definition of success as making the playoffs even though the team is only in year 2 of its complete rebuilding and make over process. With the Owner and Coach coming out and publicly setting the bar at the playoff level it immediately put the pressure on the team and especially David Garrard who knew his job was on the line.
Though the Owner and the Coach had come out in saying the Play-offs was the goal, obviously most fans disregarded these statements as wishful thinking. As fans many of use understand that Owners and Coaches often over promote their team in hopes of boosting the team. All the way back in July the fans seem to have a different opinion as to the definition of success and what predictions they had for the team.
"In all, while this year's team is going to be improved, it may have run into the wrong schedule for everyone to be expecting a playoff push. It's very likely this team will once again be in the 7-9/9-7 range. If they are, I could expect that all things considered." - Jonathan Loesche
Back before the season started BigCatCountry held a site wide poll as to what the fans predicted for the team. The results showed that a majority of the site goers believed the Jaguars as capable of attaining a record of somewhere between 7-9 and 9 - 7 based on their strength of schedule and the talent they held. Based on comments and reactions most people seemed to agree that though they hoped the Jaguars would make a playoff push, realistically they believed the Jaguars would end up with around 8 wins and miss the playoffs. At that point in time it seemed everyone would be content with that outcome, though not considered a massive success, ending around 8 - 8 would still be considering a successful season in that it was a step in the right direction and it gave our talented youth more experience.
Once the season started this opinion seemed to roller coaster out of control. With the first win over Denver most of the fanbase seemed energized and that hope of a special season seemed to start brewing. The following loses to Philly and San Diego seemed to dash those hopes and expectations. Not only did many start to give up on the season, the expectations seemed to drop dramatically. Even the most optimistic of fans had a hard time imagining the Jaguar's making the playoffs at this point. Alfie said it best:
"Help is not on the way. Hang on guys and gals, the road's gonna be bumpy." - Alfie
Once again we all had seem to come to the agreement that success would be definition by individual player improvement and not by record. The Jaguars seemed to be on the road to another poor season but once again the Jaguars got back on track with a miracle win versus the Colts and then a solid win against the Bills. Then back to back loses to the Titans and the Chiefs seem to once again doom the Jaguars but again they rebounded and somehow are still atop the division entering Week 13. The problem is that now that the Jaguars have a share of the lead in the AFC South and have a winning record, every fans perception of success has been drastically changed. What started as simply wanting a decent season and player improvement has turned into playoffs or bust. The question though, is that fair to expect?
This team is only in year 2 of its rebuilding process and many of the teams biggest players are still very very young. This presence of youth was the man reason most of us expected only average results this season. Also to keep in mind is that the Jaguars have very much overachieved and have caught some very lucky breaks over the course of the season (i.e. Hail Mary). This team is a pretty good team but should we really consider this season only a success if they make the playoffs? I say no. I think the play-off hope has taken over most of us and we have started to think we SHOULD make the playoffs when really we should only be hoping.
No matter the season outcome record wise, I will still see this season as a success and I hope everyone agrees with me. The team has seemingly developed many of its youth players into solid performers. Mike Thomas has shined, Monroe has held his own, Knighton has become a monster on the line, Alualu has also performed great, and a host of others have started to become solid players. The one thing that makes me already think of this season as a success is this teams character and poise.
"We will pay good money to see good guys play good football, but not to watch self-absorbed knuckleheads quit because something doesn't go their way. The fans are starting to return." - ruffdaddy
The team has showed amazing character throughout this season. They have no had diva moments, we have not season any fights within the team as in past years and we have not seen any glory hogs. This team, is a team, they play their hardest and put in that extra effort. It is no fluke that this team has overachieved because this team has fought hard together and have had some lucky bounces which I personally see as a reward for their hard work. To me I see a team that has successful developed in a great core of guys that will work hard for years in Jaguars uniforms.
Overall I believe that Jaguars fans need to lower there standards. I hope the Jaguars make the play-offs as much as anyone else, but I think it is unfair to expect it. This team is young and raw still and needs a little more time to gel and develop some of its talent. This season though has already been a success though, no matter the outcome. The Jaguars have found something we have been looking for for a long time, a future. As I watching this team play every week, no matter if they win or lose, I see a group of future perennial pro-bowlers, who not only play hard but work even harder. So I say, Good Luck to the team we are all routing for you and thanks for a great season so far.