As a longtime reader of Big Cat Country, and now a writer, there has always been something that has bothered me to the core. On almost any article, Facebook comment section, or on Twitter, there is one constant: someone complaining that the writers at Big Cat Country are not positive enough covering the Jacksonville Jaguars... that we aren't "real fans" because we constantly criticize the Jaguars, especially as of late.
Here's the thing, I would love to be all positive about the franchise. This franchise was my first love. Even as a kid growing up in Maryland, I was mesmerized by the days of Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, and Keenan McCardell.
I catch myself a lot of the times going back and watching the 2008 Wild Card game vs the Pittsburgh Steelers. It represents the last time the Jaguars were even close to contention. The last statement game the Jaguars have had on a national stage.
Eight seasons later, the Jaguars haven't been able to recapture that magic. In fact, they have arguably been the worst franchise in the league since that game.
We as fans all want them to succeed. We want playoff games. Heck, we want meaningful games past November.
The thing is, the Jaguars haven't given us anything close to that. It has been the opposite in fact, as the Jaguars have had eight straight top 10 picks, and five straight top 5 picks.
As of right now the Jaguars sit at 2-6, and it appears to be another lost season. Another season on track for another top 5 pick. Another season of rebuilding. Another season of excuse making.
As of right now, you could make a case there are only three teams worse than the Jaguars right now. The Browns, Bears, and 49ers. After that, can anyone truly believe there are anymore teams the Jaguars have been better then to this point in the season?
This truth hurts. This truth blows. It sucks because this wasn't suppose to happen this year. This was suppose to be the year that they made the leap. Bortles and the offense was going to grow and become more explosive. The free agents would make huge impacts. The Jaguars would have a shot at the division in a weak AFC South.
Yet, the team sits at 2-6, and it feels no different that the last couple of years. Gus Bradley, the man who was suppose to change the culture and turn this team around, has the worst winning percentage ever for a coach that has coached over 50 games, sitting at 14-42 (.250). There are rumors of the new free agents and rookies not respecting his culture and authority, and that he has lost some of the locker room.
The teams supposed franchise quarterback has taken a major dip this year, and has not only local media, but national media questioning if he is the right guy. An "unnamed player" told Josina Anderson that he wasn't the right quarterback for this team.
Their best player from last year, Allen Robinson, has taken a step back as well. He called out the fans in a way many didn't appreciate, and has dropped numerous passes this season. Plus, his non effort on a ball thrown his way this Sunday vs the Chiefs doesn't help his cause either.
The offensive line, in which the Jaguars have invested in (signing Kelvin Beachum and Jermey Parnell and drafting A.J. Cann, Brandon Linder, and Luke Joeckel) has yet to mesh as a unit, and struggles mightily in the run game.
Speaking of the run game, the Jaguars are one of the worst in the league, and until the Chiefs game, the run game had been pretty much nonexistent.
The Jaguars, halfway through the season, are basically out of the playoff race. They have questions about their franchise quarterback, and many people, not just writers here, think Gus Bradley is one of the worst coaches in the league. Yet, people expect us to act like it is all sunshine and roses for the franchise.
Hell, the Jaguars probably get off easier than most teams. I can't imagine in another market going 14-42, and people still demanding for people to be more positive. I can't imagine in another market, going 2-6 in the fourth year of a regime, and people demanding positivity.
Sure, there are little things to be positive about. Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue look excellent as rookies. The defense has played much better. Heck, even Jason Meyers has had a good year. All of this can be true, yet we can still be critical of the team.
Being a fan doesn't mean blindly agreeing with every move the team makes. It doesn't mean anyone needs to make excuses for poor performances. It is ok to demand more. It is ok to demand a better product. It is ok to demand wins.
I like Gus Bradley. I thought he was a good hire at the time, and I liked the energy he brought. The first two years I was fully on board, because I thought they were trying to make chicken salad out of chicken you know what. But over the last year and half, it has become abundantly clear that Bradley isn't the right guy for the job. Is it 100 percent his fault? Probably not. Dave Caldwell has whiffed on draft picks and free agents. He has also hit on some too.
At the end of the day, the Jaguars are no where close enough where they need to be in the 4th year of this regime. The NFL is a bottom line business. Wins matter. It shouldn't take this long to even get close to competency. And don't give me the "It takes x amount of years to truly rebuild". The Titans, two years removed from a 2-14 season sit at 4-5 right now this year. You may say, 4-5, who cares right? When is the last time the Jags had 4 wins 8 games into the season like the Titans did this year? Oh, and guess what. They are doing it with a coach that most here think is a joke in Mike Mularkey. Yet, Mularkey has already gotten more out of Tennessee then Bradley has gotten out of the Jags.
We criticize because we care. We criticize because we believe this team is better than their 2-6 record. We criticize because we want more from this team. We criticize because we see the potential. The potential the national media portrayed on the Jags all offseason.
Before the season, many were predicting 8-8, and 9-7 records. Three or four win jumps. Yet, when it looks like they will fall mightily short of that, we are suppose to be positive about the outcome?
So tell me, what are we suppose to be positive about? Are we suppose to be positive about getting demolished by the Titans on national TV? Are we supposed to be positive about almost beating the Chiefs JV squad? What is it that some of you guys expect?
I want the Jags to succeed. Trust me, it would be way more fun covering a team that was 5-3 right now, then a team that is 2-6, and fighting for another top 5 pick. I'm tired of looking forward to next year. I'm tired of looking at mock drafts by midseason. I can't wait to not give a damn about the draft until February.
The bottom line is, the Jaguars are not good right now. They have the 4th worst record in the league. If the saying that you are what your record says you are is true, then there is nothing to celebrate.
So the next time you think that we are just some negative Nancy's who hate everything about the Jaguars , think to yourself, what are the things to be positive about?
And think about the 31 other teams, and the reasons they have to be positive. Maybe you'll realize, almost every team has it better than the Jaguars right now. That is a hard pill to swallow, especially for the homers. But I'd like to see any argument why it isn't true.
It is simple. If the Jaguars give us a reason to be positive, we will be. As of right now, there aren't many reasons to be positive. The most important part is, it is ok to admit that.