Fellow Jaguars fans, our long national nightmare is over.
The last few years of animosity and vengeance hat have divided and torn us apart are now behind us, as the release of Byron Leftwich, for better or for worse, has purified our base and refocused us on what matters for our team, our institution and our city. Now, pure and full of promise, we must step forward into this new day, the start of this new season.
But most importantly, we must move on and face each week with the mindset of what's ahead, no longer caught up in the frustrating madness of what we could have done, or what we should have done, but rather an optimism grounded in the reality of what we have.
What do we have?
This is a question that each individual must answer. I must warn you though; I'm going to speak with unrestrained frankness here.
I am greatly worried about our team this season. Not the sort of pseudo-academic-punditry version that you see on sites like this, but actual realistic stomach turning worry. This is not "I have doubts that player X can fill the shoes of player Y" or will " X offense cover up Y weakness" sort of doubts, but rather the cracking of my faith in the institution itself. It's like the unfolding of the Byron Leftwich drama exposed the mechanics underneath the seamless façade of an NFL team and what I saw inside was ugly, messy, and seemingly uncoordinated. How could we declare Byron the starter before the draft, pass on a potential starting quarterback (twice), engage in an (on the surface) uncompetitive training camp, let our eventual starter play against largely 2nd team defenses, and then announce the switch late on a Friday. That's the same thing that politicians do when they have bad news. Dump it on a Friday and hope to god a bigger story happens over the weekend so when Monday comes it's been passed over.
Well Jack, Wayne and James, I don't forget so easily.
I do recognize the positives. Or at least the singular positive to emerge out of this: no more quarterback controversy. At least with ones on our roster. No more Garrard Lovers and Byron Bashers, no more crowing over who's the better quarterback, and hopefully the reunification of Jaguars fans for all the right reasons. I only point you toward the nastiness here that should come to an end.
This is the age of reconciliation.
Still, this nagging feeling that things are not alright at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The sneaking suspicion that things are happening at a much higher level than we mere fans could ever see. Len Pasquarelli with another piece about the Jaguars economic viability, Vic Ketchman implying that all the signs were there, we were just too busy denying it to believe it's true, rumors of power struggles, and of course, the firing of our marketing directors. All these loose pieces that just don't fit quite together as they should.
You know what it looks like to me? It looks like desperation. It looks like a gambler on tilt going all in to try and make something happen by doing something big. Release Byron, throw caution into the wind and see if David can take us somewhere. If he does, we're made, if he falls, we're nearly bankrupt anyhow, so no harm. See you in Las Angeles.
The cracking of my faith goes deeper. I've been on the record saying that I expect our defense to be the best in the league. Yet I'm greatly concerned about how we'll do. It doesn't help that I'm reminded of the old Del Rio days when our defense did so well because Mike Smith could guess so well if a team was passing or running. Now that we're healthy again, that shouldn't be a factor, but yet that coaching "strategy" is being cited as the way of the future for this season. That we'll have to hope that we have our best pass rushers on the field in the right situations, because Hayward won't be the same, or Stroud is still nursing the injury. Are we being set up for a fall on defense? Will our bread and butter, our strongest force be neutralized? How is it possible that a team gets healthier and still struggles?
Doubts upon Doubts upon Doubts
As the season looms around the corner I can't help but worry. Worry about the offense, worry about the defense, worry about Wayne Weaver, worry about the City. I worry about why we haven't named the stadium yet. Why no company in America wants the naming rights to one of 32 teams in the hugely popular National Football League. I worry why my friends in Jacksonville who can't go to the game for whatever reason can't watch it on television because 3000 seats remain unsold for the opener.
I'm not without hope, don't get me wrong. If the cards play right I still think we're a strong team that can go far this season. But recent events have pulled at me in a way that brings forth doubts that I must face. I'm very concerned about the way the front office is behaving and I hope it does not have an effect on the players.
To continue my frankness, have we seen New England, Indianapolis, or Pittsburgh engage in this sort of dysfunction? Has there been a Super Bowl winning team that's started the season with such madness?
I want the team to win. I want them to receive the praise they deserve. I want the players to raise a Lombardi trophy in February, I want Fred Taylor to put a capstone on his career that puts him into the Hall of Fame, I want our defense to rewrite the books on how to shut down an offense. I want Mike Smith to be recognized as the defensive legend that he is. I want Reggie Nelson to be rookie of the year, and I want the Jaguars Community to rally around their team and secure their long term future in Jacksonville.
So my doubts have nothing to do with my loyalty.
Byron Leftwich is no longer our quarterback. It seems that our long national nightmare is over. Let's hope I'm completely and 100% wrong. In all fairness, I blew a few predictions so far this off season, so it's almost a sure thing that I'm completely out of line.
Starting tomorrow, we look at the Titans, and what we have to do to start the season with a win!