The Jacksonville Jaguars took their first drive of the game and marched right down the field, capped off with an explosive touchdown run by Denard Robinson to take a lead over the Dallas Cowboys 7-3. The defense then forced the Cowboys to punt and that's when it all went bad.
Ace Sanders fumbled the punt return, putting the Cowboys on the doorstep of the endzone and they quickly went up 10-7 and it went downhill after that, quickly. The offense couldn't move the ball. The line struggled to open holes for Robinson to run through, Blake Bortles was very hot and cold on the day, off target on some passes he shouldn't have been off target on and the defense looked as if they were trying to tackle greased pigs all day.
It was a game more reminiscent of the first three games of the season rather than the previous five. Games where the Jaguars were at least competitive and in the game at the start of the fourth quarter. It was 24-7 by halftime and you could feel that the Jaguars had zero chance of mounting any kind of comeback.
It was two steps back for the Jaguars after what was looking like a step forward.
The loss also ruined any patience fans were starting to get back, leaving more and more to zero in on the past five years of struggles and start to hold Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley's feet to the fire again, for things that weren't really their fault. This led to a fun day of Twitter with people missing the point, diving into hyperbole and generally venting their frustrations in misguided ways.
I wanted to hit some of the biggest underlying issues that people felt yesterday.
It's OK to be angry.
At one point it felt like people thought they were being "got on to" for being upset the Jaguars were bad. No, that's fine. They are bad and it sucks. I think though, that a lot of people had unrealistic expectations on the season and allowed the preseason, excitement with a new freshly drafted quarterback and some "dark horse playoff contender" articles get to their heads. While I didn't expect the Jaguars to be very good again this year, I didn't expect 1-9 at the bye week. Given how some of the games went in that stretch, I can live with it because in my view the team is growing and getting better, it's just not showing up in the win column yet. I get why that's frustrating. I'm frustrated there too.
I guess I just started the season with zero expectations, so the end result doesn't really matter to me, personally.
Step back and consider the situation.
I've made this point countless times over and people either don't get it or are just so angry already they just ignore it. The Jaguars had one of the worst records in the NFL to start in 2013. That was before Dave Caldwell gutted the roster. There were some discussions comparing the Jaguars rebuild to the "rebuild" of the Arizona Cardinals, who now have the best record in the NFL. Those situations were technically both rebuilds, but they were far from equitable situations.
Saw people talking about it. 2012 Cardinals vs. 2012 Jaguars, then 2013 Cardinals vs. 2013 Jaguars pic.twitter.com/KU3HYXj9at— Alfie (@AlfieBCC) November 9, 2014
The Jaguars situation was closer to that of the situation with the Oakland Raiders, who currently sit at 0-9. The Raiders were in the same spot, with an awful roster. They went the opposite way the Jaguars did however and signed a bunch of veterans rather than going with a bunch of young players. So far the Jaguars are 5-21. The Raiders are 4-22. We don't know which route will work better just yet, but it's not a shock that teams with bare rosters aren't winning a lot of games 1.5 seasons in.
There seems to be a big section of fans who expected a lot more by this point, and I'm not really sure why outside of just being fans (which is perfectly fine). Though, to expect what was presented as a three-year project to be bearing fruit 1.5 seasons in, at least by a noticeable margin on the win column, was unrealistic.
The team is better than last year, even if you refuse to acknowledge it
I wrote it about it last week and it's still true, the 2014 Jaguars are better than the 2013 Jaguars, regardless of the win column. This seemed to be the biggest point of contention and where people didn't want to budge, because they were mad. That's fine.
The reality however is, that the team is better and getting better. A blowout loss to the Cowboys doesn't completely derail that. If you say that the win/loss record doesn't matter to you, but you just want to see improvement and claim you don't see it, then you're either not actually watching the games or the win/loss record is what ultimately matters.
I'm not going to go into detail again why the team is doing better and are better overall, but it's there and improvement is there if you choose to see it.
You don't know if this will work.
Quite a few people seemed to think I'm assuming that magically the team will be "good" in year three. I'm not. It may not work. The players may not improve. I think that they will, because I can see a lot of the younger players starting to get better, even if they have games where they take a step back.
Conversely, you don't know if it won't work. You may have already decided it won't work already, which is fine, but that doesn't mean it can't work.
This again is a patience thing, but I'm not going to tell Jaguars fans to be patient because Lord have they/we been patient.
Stop trying to fire everyone.
Every week I'm amazed at the calls to fire coaches, as if that will fix it or that's the problem. The problem is the Jaguars lack talent across the board and the talent they do have is ultimately young and still learning, so they'll make mistakes. If you want to call that an excuse, go for it, but it is what it is.
The most common person I see being called to be fired, outside of the special teams coach recently, is Jedd Fisch. I don't understand it at all, because people complain out of both sides of their mouth. People complain about all the short passes on one hand, then complain about Blake Bortles being under pressure on longer routes when he takes a five-step drop. Well, you can't have it both ways. Fisch is trying to work with what he's got and I think a lot of times fans lose sight of what he's actually working with.
Three of the four receivers who play the most on game day are rookies. The quarterback is a rookie. Most of the interior offensive line are rookies. You've got anywhere from six-to-eight rookies on offense during a given play all game. You can only throw so much at them. You can see clearly on game day even then, they're going to mess up a route. They're going to run the wrong play. They're going to miss a block.
You have to shave things down for what you're working with. The young receivers can't really get open and create separation yet. That's normal. The one veteran you have has been banged up and ultimately becomes to focus of a defense when he actually plays, because teams will always prefer to force a rookie to beat them rather than a productive veteran.
So yes, defenses do squat on routes, but that's because they're not scared the young wide receivers will beat them yet. It's not because Fisch is protecting Bortles. It's not because Bortles is struggling with reads, etc. He's simply trying to put these guys in situations where they can be effective.
This isn't to say his play calling has been flawless this season, but it's not the dumpster fire that every makes it out to be. There's not a lot he can do differently.
Then there's the group of people who want and/or expect the Jaguars to fire Gus Bradley after this season. It's not happening. That would be nonsensical and a further step back. Consider everything that comes along with firing and hiring a head coach. The Jaguars would essentially be rebuilding all over again. You've either got to hire a coach with similar philosophies and schemes, or you spend a season re-doing every thing. You've got to find a coach who's on board with the quarterback you drafted and who's on board with the general manager in place.
Or you fire everyone after two years and start over again. Again.
I also think it bears mentioning that the Jaguars players haven't seemed like it's beaten them down, in either season. I think that's a testament to Gus Bradley and how he's handling the team and the mindset he has them in. Look at some other teams who are losing and see the news coming out about them, then compare it to the Jaguars. The fact that the locker room seems under control is a feather in his cap. A small one, but one worth mentioning.
It was always a three year plan. It's mid-year two.
If we're not at least .500 (or right at it) by the mid-way point next season, then that's when the pitchforks come. Bringing them now is just going to put you right back where you started in 2013.
Anyway, that's that. It's OK to be upset, I just feel like a lot of people are still holding pre-2013 against people who's fault it wasn't and had unrealistic expectations (which is ok, we're fans, ultimately).