Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson has proven to be one of the most shrewd hires of the 2022 offseason, taking a team who had finished dead last in the NFL two seasons in a row, and turning them into a tough-as-nails team, both physically and mentally, who always believes they can win from any point, no matter what the score is. It was no different in Saturday night’s Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2023 NFL Playoffs.
The team ended up losing 27-20, thanks in large part to two late turnovers, but even then it always felt like the Jaguars had a chance in the game. In the past, everyone would just figure the game was over and there’s no shot, but through the team mentality Pederson has infused the team with and the development of young stars, like quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the “Cardiac Cats” feeling is real.
“I just told them I was proud of them for the season we put together,” Pederson told reporters when he was asked what he said to the team after the loss. “Nobody expected us, the Jaguars, to be in this football game. From the beginning of the season to today. I just told them how proud I was of them for how they hung together all season long, and how they battled and fought through a ton of adversity.”
The late fumble by receiver/returner Jamal Agnew when the team was driving down 27-17 and looking like they were going to end up with a touchdown, was a good example of how the team has grown to be able to battle adversity.
“I am also proud of how they kept battling all season to get to this spot and really battling in this game to come down to an on-side kick to see what happens,” Pederson added. “I told them we are going to learn from this and grow from this. Our expectation is to be in these games every year. That is our expectation. This was a good first year for all of us.”
It was a tough loss and a tough way to end a magical season for a Jaguars team that most expected nothing out of. It’s the first time in a while Jaguars fans can actually feel like they’re looking forward to the next season and what could happen, not just convincing themselves that next season will be different, this time it feels real.