The Jacksonville Jaguars suffered their sixth straight loss on Sunday. They held the lead for less than nine minutes total during the game and they were never more than a touchdown ahead.
So then why did I walk away from the game so happy with what I saw?
Like it or not, games like Sunday are meaningless — not to the players of course, they’re fighting for their jobs. But as a fan, it was entirely meaningless. You’re 1-6 and you don’t have a quarterback who can carry your team. Gardner Minshew didn’t complete a pass until the middle of the second quarter. He’s fun to watch, but he’s wildly inconsistent. He is a high-end backup who can be a bridge while a first round rookie quarterback gets ready. But he’s not the guy. You need to lose as many games as possible to draft your guy.
But there are ways to lose that aren’t totally embarrassing and demoralizing. That’s what we saw on Sunday and here are the things they need to keep doing to set themselves up for success in 2021 and beyond.
In 2011, the Indianapolis Colts bottomed out. Peyton Manning was lost for the year with a neck injury suffered before the season even started. They finished 2-14 with a defense that couldn’t stop teams and an offense that just wasn’t good enough. Sound familiar?
But what if they squeaked out a couple of wins in close games? What if Shaun Suisham didn’t beat them with a field goal at the end of the game in Week 3? What if they’d held their 17-point lead against Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs? What if they had kept it close in the season finale against a bad Jacksonville Jaguars team?
They might not have have been in a position to pick Andrew Luck. They might have been stuck with Robert Griffin III or Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden.
Good quarterbacks are hard to find and you maximize your chances of getting the guy you want, a franchise guy, by staying at the top of the NFL Draft.
Continue developing young guys
That doesn’t mean the team should roll over and forfeit though. Just look at what they did on Sunday:
James Robinson got 26 touches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Laviska Shenault had four touches and was the team’s leading receiver.
D.J. Chark had seven targets, the most in the game.
Collin Johnson got a pivotal third down catch.
DaVon Hamilton led all defensive linemen with eight tackles.
Dawuane Smoot had two hits on the quarterback.
Daniel Thomas blocked a punt.
These players are part of your young core and you can continue to develop them around what you know to be a future rookie quarterback. It’s only going to help your team for the future as well as allow whomever you draft to hit the ground running.
The first quarter on Sunday did not look good, folks. In fact, until the middle of the second quarter, Gardner Minshew hadn’t completed a pass and the team was down 16-0.
But both sides of the ball started to figure it out. Players started executing. Jay Gruden leaned on James Robinson. Todd Wash started calling blitzes. Coaches were putting players in a position to win and players were responding. Between the start of the second quarter and the middle of the third quarter, the scoreline went from down 16-0 to up 21-16.
Those are the sorts of swings that give young rosters hope and keep the few good players you have from asking their agents to look elsewhere. It keeps the locker room buzzing and intact. And it gives the team something to draw hope from during a long offseason when they know a new quarterback is coming in.
The more games that this Jaguars team can have leads in, even if it’s temporary, and still lose the better.
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