What is 'The Jaguar Way'?

Al Messerschmidt

Oftentimes in sports, when a successful franchise proves success over a number of years it can be said that they have blueprinted a 'way'. This can often apply to their play on the field/court/ice just as much as it applies to their workings behind the scenes.

Fresh off a second consecutive title run, the Miami Heat have a way. What is it? They pile up big name players with large contracts. As any professional sports viewer can tell you, this will only work for so long.

Other successful franchises, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, have more consistent ways.The Steelers retreat from signing big-player contracts unless necessary and choose to build through the draft. This is why they experienced such long years of success. As of now, their core group of players has gotten a bit older and they are experiencing decline. I assure you that they aren't worried. The Steeler Way will prevail and they will emerge with talent from withing the roster and future draft classes.

Each great dynasty in sports had a way. The John Madden-era Oakland Raiders beat you up. They wanted to play more physical than you and make you scared. Think of a serious version of this. This was the 'Raider Way'. The Bill Walsh-era San Francisco 49ers primarily leaned on work ethic before forming any base. Well, that and Hall of Fame quarterbacks (don't you wish there was a Hall of Fame quarterback tree to pick from). Click here to read more on how Walsh was successful.)

Think of successful franchises. Steelers-->tough-nosed playmaking defense and running the ball. Giants-->sacks in an era where the QB threw the ball more than ever. Colts-->Peyton Manning and a bend but don't break cover-2. The AIr Coryel offense in San Diego comes to mind. The famed offense of the late 1970s and early 1980s led to many defensive headaches. The Charger Way was to pass, pass and pass some more in an era that frowned upon what seemed to be an abandoning of the running game, at least when compared to other teams. After future Hall of Famer QB Dan Fouts joined Joe Namath as the second player ever to pass for four thousand yards in 1979, it was clear that a 'way' was established. (Click here to read more on the Air Coryel offense.)

Some of these teams primarily relied on building around talent at one position (Colts and Manning), while others primarily relied on stockpiling talent in one area (think Giants and D-line for their most recent success), and yet others went with a formed culture that took absolutely no nonsense (Patriots in early 2000s). These are not the only reasons for success, but they are particular methods used for success that provided a base building block for the franchise. These 'ways' are that primary piece or method to build the piece that defined the franchise during their successful time. Why were these teams good for many years? That answer is their 'way'.

Of course success is coupled with lucky moments from role players and emerging players and other highly skilled players at other positions even when they didn't define the way. This is what remains wonderful about football. Football is the ultimate team sport.

In order to find out what the Jaguars Way has become, let's look at our past.

So, what has the "Jaguar Way" been in the past? Most recently under Head Coach Jack Del Rio the Jaguar Way consisted of stout defenses and hard-nosed running attacks when at it's best. The franchise never fully took on the success needed over a period of years to be viewed upon as having an actual 'way' but for us fans, this was our success. This "run the ball, stop the run" mantra became a very effective tool against many aerial attacks such as the inner divisional rival Indianapolis Colts, who had the highly revered Football General Manning at the head of their pronounced offense. The Jaguars did not always win these games but they were the mold for facing these types of teams that were becoming such a popular format for offenses. In an era where passing became huge, the Jags stayed in the past and remained competitive, though never dominant. This was the Jaguars Way for that time period.

.As lead front-office man Shack Harris saw the playoffs window slipping away, the Jaguar Way turned into over-reaching for need in the NFL Draft. That stigma stuck with the team for many years. And as you know, this resulted in many failed draft choices eventually turning in many failed seasons. The older veterans on the team could only keep things close to a winning season for so long until the overzealous drafting caught up with the team in the win/loss column.

After GM Gene Smith took hold of the reigns of the franchise, the Jaguars became a stereotype. Smith turned the Jaguar Way into a new mold. The Jaguar Way became drafting very high character individuals, sometimes at the risk of losing talent. This failed because Smith sacrificed drafting talent for drafting locker room cohesion. I have no doubt that the locker room was close, but this did not form the most competitive Jaguar Way possible. The best way to characterize how unfortunately bad this became is to say this: The Jaguar Way still was not really a "way" because of the horrible lack of success on the field. On the good end, it was evident that most players played hard each game.

Since new owner Shad Khan took over for the team, a new 'way' has been established. Ask any plugged in fan, the Jaguars are now a team focused on research, hard work and competition. This will define the Jaguars under Khan.

When the success hits, the 'way' will become a media darling. Their next nugget to latch onto and all of you fans will have been apart of it from the beginning.

Let me be the first to congratulate you.

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