Let me start this off by stating where the idea of this came from, for all those who do not know. It was inspired by unhipcat's recent FP'd post "Resolved: The Jaguars will win eight or more games this season." The idea was formulated and decided upon in the comment section for anyone who wants a better understanding of what will be taking place.
I will be the pro debater with Mr. Brian Levenson being the debater for the con. A referee to keep things in order, I'm assuming will present himself before the initial con argument has been made. With that being said, let's get this thing started.
Before I delve into specifics about why I think the Jags will win with a winning season, let me make a few things clear. First off, I am pro Gene Smith. While I have not agreed with everything that he has done (mainly the signing of Turk, among others), I do believe that he has done way more good than bad for this team and will be able to field a team that will put is in position to compete for a championsip. Saying that, I believe that this is the first year that we will begin to see what he has envisioned for this team all along. A team that will compete yearly for a playoff spot, thus competing for a Super Bowl championship.
With that as my opening statement, I will also state that I am also pro Mularkey and pro Gabbert. These two will be the deciding factors in this season turning out for the best or for the worst. From Smith, to Mularkey, to Gabbert; their fates are all tied and this year will be the first year in us seeing the outcome of this venture.
Now on to the reasons we'll have a winning season:
1 - Let's start this off by rounding this back to Mularkey. The hiring of Mularkey (courtesy of GM Gene) will be very big for us having a winning season. This goes just beyond Murlakey himself, as much as it goes down to the entire coaching staff as a whole. With Murlakey came a host of offensive assistants who have a wealth of experience that will benefit the team. I won't go into detail about each of them, but I believe they will all play their part in helping this team be a success. I will highlight the key assistant that we are all aware of, that being Jerry Sullivan. Simply put, no Mularkey, no Sullivan.
To Mularkey's specific coaching style, one that puts a major emphasis on attention to detail and doing all the little things right, should be beneficial. Also, with him having a offensive background and that the offense being the only part of the team that held the team back last year, we can only expect to see a marked improvement from the offensive unit. The players have all bought in to the way he goes about things, which is all that is needed for me to be all in too.
Also, the way he structured the coaching staff should pay dividends. Retaining coach Tucker and giving him the assistant HC tag was a nice move. I always wondered why he gave QB coach Olson the other assistant HC title over Bratkowski, but I'm sure there's good reason for that too that should be of some benefit. One may wonder how having a nicely structured coaching staff can translate into wins, and let me explain why I think it can. It's all about creating a stable enviroment, not only for the coaches but also for the players. With responsilities properly delegated, it significantly lowers the chances of there being miscommunication amongst the staff and the players have an understanding of who to turn to about any issues they may have. It's especially helpful to coach Mularkey has he can dedicate most of his energy to the things he's responsible for. The main I can think of is game management. We're aware of how that was an issue during the Del Rio era, but now I don't expect that to be an issue. Mularkey doesn't have to worry about the minor nuances of being a head coach as much with the way he has set things up. Having a stable work enviroment only bodes well for everyone involved to be more productive, from the meeting rooms to the field.
2 - Taking this back to coach Tucker, him staying along with DL coach Cullen and LB coach Dufner should be huge for the defense to make more gains on their impressive peformance from last season. Staying in the same scheme and having the same coaches teaching our front seven should bode well for an improved performance from the entire unit. The defense having similar, or better yet, improved play from last year will be huge for us.
3 - This point is going to be for Blaine. Looking at last year, there's no way he could be any worse than what we saw. He literally had everything working against him, including himself as it was clear when he was drafted, that he wasn't ready to start in the NFL just yet. Throw in a HC on his last leg, a much maligned OC and an underqualified QB coach and you get a situation where even a seasoned vet would've been at odds to find success. It doesn't end there as he had a WR coach that was leading the group into an overall period of regression, a lack of talent at the wideout position and a distracted star TE, who dropped a few TD's, that was coming off of having a pro bowl season. He also played on a broken plant foot, behind inconsistent (although some of that falls on him) pass protection. Although, I believe it's overstated, his lack of pocket presence didn't help either. Throw in the drops, especially those by Lewis for TD's and the one by Osgood that was for a TD, and you get an overall bad looking picture of Blaine's rookie season. Yet through all of this, he was still able to have more TD's than INT's. Unfortunately, this is the only stat that goes in his favor last year, which is still good as QB's that went on to have a good to great career can't say that about their rookie year.
Fast forward to now where each of those situations that led to his poor rookie campaign have been corrected, and it's next to impossible to believe that he won't be better than what we've seen him be. He has competent coaching, improved weapons, an o-line with continuity (amongst themselves and with their coach) save for Britton, improved mechanics, a new offensive scheme built for him that he's taken to quite well and last years experience to help him be a better NFL QB. While questions about his pocket presence has yet to be answered, I don't think that alone is enough to take away from all that he has going for him heading into the year. Again, he can only improve from what he did last year. Keep in mind that he went 4-10, but could've possible been better than that if Hill catches a pass winning TD, there isn't a botched snap at the end of one game and if we didn't have Turk literally throw two games away. If it was possible he could've won 2 or 3 more games last year, even with all that was happening around him, just imagine what he'll be able to do this year.
4 - The offense around Blaine is improved. Let's start with the offensive line. We have Monroe who is still improving, which is good considering he established himself as one of the better tackles last year. There's Rackley, and although fans still question him, he showed steady improvement throughout last season, and like Gabbert, can't really be worse than what he was. That's a good thing to say about a player who constantly made progress and ended the last season on a high note. We still have Meester, who's nearing the end of his career but still has productivity to offer. Then Uche who should continue to be his reliable self. Lastly, there's Britton who's the biggest question mark of them all. Can he become the player that he was envisioned to become when drafted? That's a good question that we'll have to wait and find the answer out to, but I believe he'll be better than Whimper was, which means the o-line this year will be better than the one we had last year.
To his weapons. There are two new starters at the WR position, who are both a massive upgrades from what we had last year. There's M80 who will be put back in his natural role, Evans who could very well regain some of what made him the player he once was and a group of hungry players behind them who will be fighting it out for a roster spot. All coached by a guy who will get the most out of them, meaning this years WR corps will be much improved over last years. Then there's a refocused Lewis and hopefully a healthy Miller, who has the ability to create mismatches all over the field with his athlecism. MJD will be play this year in a Jag uniform and he there is also the return of Jennings. All in all, this offense is improved from either which way you look at it.
There are actually more points that I could touch on, such as how many players are coming off of IR, the depth on the defensive side of the ball (especially the secondary), having a renewed sense of optimism amongst the fanbase (which is something that you can't say will help the team win, but the excitement should be apparent during home games), the fact that the team has done nothing but improve, whether it be from the addition of new players, or the retention of players from last year who only stand to improve or in the case of some, maintain their already high level of play and that the division is up for grabs, regardless of how good anyone thinks the Texans are.
I expect us to be dominant on defense, effective on offense and reliable on special teams. I don't see many weaknesses on this team if all goes for the best. I see no reason that a 9-11 win season isn't possible, with us competing for a division title going into December. The sky is the limit, this year and going into the future and I believe this year will be the beginning of us witnessing a team that is poised to do big things. Beginning with record over .500 this season.