One of the biggest contention points amongst the Jaguars fan base is the notion of rebuilding the team. Even the slightest mention of the word rebuild can cause a firestorm of anger, bitterness and downright insanity. The most likely reason for this is that the Jaguars fan base was led to believe that the team did not need to rebuild, but rather reload during the Gene Smith era. The current state of Jacksonville's roster would show that was obviously not the case. This team should have been gutted and stripped down years ago, but instead the incorrect path of trying to reload was taken, putting the franchise even further behind schedule. I recently summed up this idea on Twitter with the best analogy I could think of:
@AlfieBCC The Jags are like the Death Star. Got destroyed, tried to 'rebuild' it, but were too arrogant to do it properly. Blown up again.— Matt Hoffman (@Matt_Hoffman28) September 16, 2013
Obviously being misled and being pushed back even further towards oblivion is infuriating, but I also think that many fans are angry because they don't understand how a rebuild should work. Due to the recent one year turnarounds of teams like the Colts and Redskins, fans now irrationally expect their team to do the same speedy 180 that those franchises did. However, that is not the only path that can be taken, and it is not the path that GM Dave Caldwell has elected to take either.
The one year turnaround can obviously be attributed mostly to the acquisition of a top-tier quarterback, like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. During the 2013 NFL Draft the Jaguars, like most other teams, did not see a quarterback they felt was worthy of making the franchise guy. However, because the current crop of Jaguars quarterbacks is struggling, fans are becoming frustrated with the pace of the Jaguars rebuild. If one is to stop and look at the situation logically and rationally though, they might be able to endure this terrible storm that is the 2013 Jaguars a little better. Here's where I will try to give a time line of the Jaguars approach to a true rebuild.
Year One: This is what we have already seen take place, so it is pretty easy to recap and analyze. Shad Khan obviously became owner and then hired Dave Caldwell as GM. Gus Bradley became the new head coach and assembled his staff. Here's the important part though: financials. The biggest thing to take away from year one was the roster and salary cap management executed by Caldwell. By going ahead and purging the team of bad contracts like Laurent Robinson, Caldwell has established a nice financial framework to build with in the future. He added to that by filling the roster with young, cheap players, much to the chagrin of some fans. While it might be hard to understand why the team would cut ties with established veterans like Daryl Smith in favor of an inexperienced rookie, it is important to remember that the team was probably not going to compete this year regardless. In essence, it's better to cut bait and see what you have in the young players(which sets you up nice financially and draft stock wise), rather than dabbling in mediocrity.
Caldwell then took the next step in year one of his rebuild by retooling the roster in areas that could be best managed at the time. The secondary and defensive line were overhauled through both the draft and free agency. Gus Bradley then instituted his new defensive scheme, and so far the results have been mostly positive. While the defense could definitely do better in areas like run stopping and quarterback pressure, it's hard to ignore the steps taken forward already. Caldwell and Bradley will now spend the rest of this year evaluating the players currently on the roster. Remember, this year is not about winning, it's about building a strong foundation to continue improving upon in the years to come.
Year Two: All signs point to this being the year the Jaguars draft a franchise quarterback. While the college football season is still young, many experts believe there will be some nice signal-callers to be had in this draft. I don't think anyone knows who the Jaguars will pick(Bridgewater, Mariota, Boyd, etc.), but I do believe everyone would agree that they will draft early this year, and quarterback is the most likely choice. Fans could then expect Caldwell to try to improve the other weak areas of the roster like interior offensive line and pass-rushers. I wouldn't expect to see the team have a high-profile, big contract free agent signing, but you might see 2-3 reasonably priced younger players added to the roster. This is the year the Jaguars should really start competing, mainly due to (hopefully) having a top-tier quarterback under center.
Year Three and Beyond: This is where things should really start to get fun if you're a Jaguars fan. The team will finally have it's quarterback, several young players will be hitting the prime years of their careers(Cyprien, Blackmon), and almost all areas of the roster should at least be respectable. From this year on, Caldwell will keep analyzing the roster to identify weak points, and attempt to improve those areas in the off-season. The cycle becomes lather, rinse, repeat.
Guys and gals, I know that now is not the easiest time to be a fan of this team. I know that you are tired of being told that they are rebuilding. Just remember though, this is the first time that the franchise has actually rebuilt anything. We can go back and forth over whose to blame and where to point the finger, but none of that really matters anymore. Try to just focus on the future. Root for the team like crazy on Sunday and remember that this season is not about the win-loss record. Just like building a house, you have to start with a strong foundation. This is the year that Dave and Gus are bringing in the cement to build that foundation. You have to have the house solidly constructed before you can start decorating it up nice. Give it time, Duval. I know it's hard right now, but trust me, it's going to be worth it in the end.