As we’re in the middle of the NFL offseason dead zone, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the expectations for the Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 season. It’s a much harder conversation to have than most people realize because I think the meaning of the word “expectation” gets convoluted. It becomes a mix of hope and what you think the team should do, versus what it actually means.
There’s a difference in what you think the team will do, versus what they should do.
Merriam-Webster defines expectation as the following
Definition of expectation
1 : the act or state of expecting : anticipation in expectation of what would happen
2a : something expected not up to expectations expectations for an economic recoveryb : basis for expecting : assurance they have every expectation of successc : prospects of inheritance —usually used in plural
3 : the state of being expected
There’s also the common phrase “meet expectations,” which is defined as being as successful as people think someone/thing should be.
As for the expectations of a football team, you will get a myriad of opinions. Some people think the team is terrible and will stink again. Some people think the team is on the cusp of a playoff berth and will win the AFC South for the first time ever. But, that still doesn’t really answer what the expectations are, or should be. I think the “should be” part is the real key to this whole conversation.
Personally, I expect the Jaguars to go 6-10. That’s my personal expectation, just based on what we know and looking ahead. But, should my expectation be another losing season? Absolutely not, but that’s what I think we will get. The expectation should be far greater than that.
The Jaguars are in the fifth season of a rebuild project. General manager Dave Caldwell took over in 2013 and started this project. The team was awful the first season and that was expected. Everyone knew the team would be bad. Naturally the team was expected to be better the following year in 2014, and it was, even though the win total didn’t bear that out.
So, the first two years of a rebuild are done with. The team ate two losing seasons, as everyone anticipated, and now they have what they believe is their quarterback of the future heading into Year 2. He should make that next step and the team should show significant improvement in the win column. That’s the standard in an NFL rebuild, Year 3 is where you see that big step, if you’re going to take it.
This point in the Jaguars rebuild is where I think the line of expectations became blurry and the fan base has splintered. The Jaguars ended up going 5-11, in a season where so many things lined up for them to steal the division and they just could not get it done. The team very realistically could have finished the season with an 8-8 record. Most everyone seemed to agree the Jaguars underachieved in 2015 and were better than their record, which led to expectations of competing for the AFC South title in 2016.
The thought process was, and I think it was very reasonable, was that the team should have been 8-8 and underachieved. So people thought the team could potentially be headed to double-digit wins in 2016, or at the very least compete for the division title. There’s nothing wrong with making that leap, logically, especially if you feel the team underachieved in 2016, record wise.
As we all know, the Jaguars fell flat on their face and went 3-13. The head coach was fired near the end of the season, and that was that. The team fell well short of expectations, but should that change the expectation of the 2017 season?
The team is entering Year 5 of a rebuild and Vegas has the over under win total for the team in the six win range. So if you look at the progression of the rebuild, it was universally felt that the Jaguars underachieved in 2015 at 5-11 and should have been closer to 8-8 and then the expectation in 2017 was to challenge for the division and a winning record. Did tanking to 3-13 change the expectation so drastically that 8-8 in the 2017 season is now a good expectation?
As mentioned, my personal expectation is 6-10 based on a lot of factors, but that’s not what my expectations should be. In the fifth year of a rebuild, with a third overall pick at quarterback and all the money spent in free agency, the expectations should be a winning record and pushing for at the least a Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff race.
It’s clear that most don’t have that expectation and I’m not sure what that really says about anything. Should the expectation in Year 5 of a “rebuild” be that low? Why did the bar get lowered so much where 8-8 would be a good thing?
The natural progression of expectations should have the Jaguars gaining a playoff berth this season if everything worked how it should in a rebuild, right? Regardless of how much you blew up the roster in Year 1, by Year 5 you should be hitting that next gear and being a perennial playoff team, right?
The past few months have been interesting to watch where people’s expectations have evolved, at least which expectations are acceptable to them as fans. The Jaguars have been bad for nearly a decade, so it feels like a lot of people have talked themselves into just not having a losing record is good, when in reality... that’s not good. It’s better and an improvement for sure, but shooting for 8-8 in the fifth year of a rebuild just feels like you’re accepting failure, doesn’t it?
The expectation for the Dave Caldwell era Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 shouldn’t be 8-8.
It should be much more than that.