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For the Jaguars the Question is Not "What if" but "What now"

Every first year philosophy student has been asked to entertain a "What if" question. The purpose is to understand the impact of choice to the extent that it does not occur in a vacuum. For example, in choosing (A) the expectation is consequence (B). However, there is always the variable (X) which is the unknown consequence on others and\or the person choosing.

With David Garrard presently mired in the worst performance string of his career, the "What if" questions about drafting a quarterback are once again rearing their ugly heads.

  • What if the Jaguars hadn't drafted Byron Leftwich and stayed with Mark Brunell?
  • What if, in staying with Brunell, they drafted Ben Roethlisberger the year after Leftwich was taken?
  • What if they'd taken Joe Flacco?
  • What if they had acquired Drew Brees or Matt Schaub?

It is very easy to invoke hindsight now that certain Jaguars draft choices have manifested themselves as failures. One problem with engaging in this line of thinking is that there is nothing productive to be gained from it, apart from assigning blame. The past can't be changed and the "I told you so" chant by the fans is self serving and empty.

The most overlooked aspect to "What if" is the same that the first year philosophy student encounters: the (X) variable. For example, drafting Big Ben doesn't ensure he would have succeeded in Jacksonville as he did in Pittsburgh. The converse can be true in that Byron could have found success elsewhere and therefore the discussion, for Jaguars fans, would be the same only the participants would be reversed.

Having an owner, GM or coach even entertain such questions only plays further into the fans frustration and is actually counter productive to the problems at hand. Though I don't fault either of them for not dodging it, I think they would be better served to find a way to dismiss the question by refocusing on what can be fixed now rather than what if we fixed it then.

To Jack's credit he appeared very focused on the task at hand during his Monday Press Conference. He did not dodge the very direct questions and you can respect the man for his composure in the face of such a down time. He didn't focus on what they could have done, but rather noted what they saw as areas of improvement for the next game against the Colts.

With all the talk of preparation it is obvious they didn't expect to be here and Jack expressed such when asked about David Garrard's performance. The response seemed to encapsulate the team as a whole.

Q: Are you shocked at how he's (David) played the last two weeks?
A: I did not foresee the struggles that we've had the last couple weeks, no.

On the one hand the answer implies all the work put in by both players and coaches was perceived to be sufficient and that what may be happening is a deviation and not the norm.

The problem is that we have been here before. Further questions regarding Derek Harvey, pass coverage and David's consistency yielded answers which read more like the speech of a politician who is dealing with failed policies rather than one who has a plan to fix them. Unfortunately, for Jack, the team has gotten to a point where words no longer carry any weight. When we are told, "We've identified quite a few little things that we believe make the difference." there is no longer confidence that those words really mean anything.

Even the roster changes bring more questions than they answer. What does the resigning of Gerrald Alexander say about the teams decision not to keep him when they had the chance? Why cut Michael Coe but keep the guy he jumped on the depth chart, Derek Cox?

I thought of all the questions that Cox\Coe inquiry, from T-U reporter Tania Ganguli, was the most telling. The question which ended with the statement, "It looks strange that you cut a guy that played in front of him." received this response.

We're not really concerned with the perception or the look. We're more concerned with the end result that we're looking for. As I've told you the last couple of times you asked, he's working hard. He will at some point help our football team win games. What he has to do right now is control the things he has control over which is his effort, his energy, his focus. When we as a staff feel he's ready to help us win, we'll play him.

It is my guess that the staff feels he is close to being ready otherwise they wouldn't have released Coe.

What is most disingenuous about the quote is that they do appear to be concerned with perception.One day after a second humiliating loss they make a handful of roster moves which includes the release of a player who was beat on a big pass play. This presents itself as actions which have defined Jack's tenure: get rid of coaches and players so to deflect attention from the head coach. The appearance is that something is being done to address the problem but it never gets fixed.

Del Rio is smart enough to equate the "playoff mandate" to an albatross around his neck. At 1-3, and with at least 7 of the 13 remaining games against playoff contenders, even speaking the word "playoffs" seems almost heretical. Though he knows there is still significant time to re-route the ship, he hears the talk of mutiny.

Clearly (this is an urgent time). Look, I mean, there's a flavor of the week each week in the NFL. The talking heads are going to discuss who is the Super Bowl winner right now. Who's the team whose coach and quarterback are gonna get canned. I mean, it's a week to week business. It's all great for the ratings and it's all great for the popularity of the game. But for this football team we can't get caught up in the hype when it's good or the beatdown when it's bad. We've got to stay focused on what we're doing. Gotta continue to prepare. Next up is the Colts.

In the end Jack is tied to a quarterback and goal which are slowly escaping his control. Even though we are only year two into the revamping, the faith put in Gene Smith has given the Jaguars good young talent and a home run free agent DE. It no longer is a question of "What if Jack gets the players to succeed?", it has become a "What now that you have the players to succeed?", and he has 14 weeks to give an answer.

Season crash, season burn.
You survive another turn.
And now I'm reaching out, it's true.
When you don't see me, I'm catching on to you

Son Volt - Catching On

- Brian Fullford