After being eliminated from the playoffs following the team’s 45-10 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, the Jaguars will have to play for pride, and what essentially amounts to a job interview for the other 31 teams, and in the case of a regime change, those who may come after the season.
Playing with confidence has been the theme of the week in Jacksonville this week. Players are not giving up, however, there is an understandable disappointment feeling lingering within the locker room. Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Wednesday’s practice was “spirited”, something that has been missing over the past couple of weeks.
“We told them on Wednesday – Monday or Wednesday – It’s really a job interview for them,” Wash said on Thursday. “These next three weeks. Let’s be honest, it is. And Doug [Marrone] mentioned it yesterday, it’s a job interview for everybody.”
It will be important for players and coaches to tune the outside noise out over the next few weeks. Wash finds it rather simple.
“I do not really care about people’s opinions,” he said. “I know what we are doing in this building. We are doing the best we can. If that isn’t good enough like we talked about before, they will find somebody else to do it. For us, we put our head down and we try to win football games. That is all we can do.”
For the majority of the Jaguars roster — especially the young players —, the opportunity to play on Sunday is treasured. Tomorrow is not promised in football, and as some would say, the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’. Playing for pride and their teammates has been the response to tough times as they finish out the season.
“I think as a player they know that there’s 32 other teams, or 31 other teams, watching them play and seeing how hard they go, what kind of character [there] is. Because I think in times of adversity it really tells us what kind of a man you are. And I’m not talking just to the players, I’m talking to us as coaches. You have to be able to put your head down, and grind it out, and do the best you can until they say you can’t do anymore.”
Over the week, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has spoken about the team’s lack of confidence over the past several weeks as one of the reasons why they have not been competitive. Marrone says if the team isn’t winning games, it is hard to build confidence, so getting off to a good start at the beginning of the week is key to success.
“I think it’s easy from an outside perspective to say, ‘What do they have to play for, what do they have to do?’ We’re all fighting for our jobs,” Marrone said on Wednesday.
The Jaguars leader within the locker room — Calais Campbell —, understands the stakes and says he will speak with the younger players about what they’re playing for this week saying motivation through fears works sometimes, but ultimately, it is a privilege to play football, adding that the message has been sent loud and clear.
“History says that teams want winners,” “When you’re part of a team that doesn’t win too much, a lot of guys end up out of the league,” said Campbell. “If you want to keep your job and stay in a city a little longer, we have make sure we play good football — put ourselves in position to win games.”
Confidence is tricky, without winning, or without success the team can fall very quickly — especially the Jaguars.
“Football is such a momentum-based game,” Campbell told Big Cat Country on Wednesday. “And to me when you get down early — it snowballs, but when you can play well early, make a couple plays early whole game goes different.”
The Jaguars have not had much momentum over the past several weeks of the season. Comeback victories have not been in this team’s DNA very often over the past few years, so getting out to an early lead is pivotal.
“Call it what you want but you know we don’t play well from behind. I think we play a lot better with a lead. So we don’t want to be labeled front-runners or nothing like that but at the end of the day, just a couple plays that spark it and that builds confidence.”