NFL Handicapping: Just how bad are the Jaguars?
by Trevor Whenham - 9/17/2013
I don’t think that there is anyone coming into this season that thought that the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to be anything other than pretty bad. Through their first two games, though, they have fallen below even the lowest of expectations. They have been just terrible. They scored two points at home in their opener. In their second game — at a lousy Oakland team, no less — they scored a meaningless touchdown once their loss was all but certain and then missed the conversion for good measure. This is not a good NFL team. It’s debatable whether it would be a very good college team at this point.
Whenever a team is this bad, there is one question that stands out above all others: can they reach the magical 0-16 mark like the Lions did so effectively? It’s a very tough thing to do, but can they hack it? Or are they going to stumble and wind up with an unfortunate win somewhere along the way?
I like Chad Henne. On a good team he could be a solid NFL starter — as he was at times in Miami when he was healthy. He can’t overcome this situation, though — and he’s not even supposed to be starting. Blaine Gabbert won the job in camp, was horrible in the opener, and then was injured yet again. There isn’t a lot of certainty at the position as a result, but it doesn’t really matter — neither guy is good enough to turn this team around. Heck, no one in the sport is that good. The only really impressive, proven offensive weapon they have is Maurice Jones-Drew, and he seems to be past his peak — and he was banged up last week and is uncertain this week. They have some exciting young talents — like Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson — but they don’t have the luxury of using them because you need to establish a base of success before you can get fancy. It’s hard to imagine this offense showing anything beyond brief flashes of competence all year.
This may be the biggest threat to the imperfect record. New coach Gus Bradley was a good choice. The former defensive coordinator of the Seahawks knows how to coach, and he runs a tight ship. He assembled a solid staff and has a vision of where he needs to go. Now, a love child of Vince Lombardi and the football version of John Wooden couldn’t turn this team into a winner, but Bradley will be able to limit mistakes and maximize opportunities. Lucky for us, he doesn’t have much to work with, so those opportunities will be limited.
New Jaguars owner Shad Khan is one of the wealthiest, most determined, and deep-pocketed owners in the league. He’s a self-made billionaire who isn’t known for his patience. In the long term that’s a good thing for this team — his vision and determination provides a strong opportunity to turn a loser of a franchise into a winner. In the short term, though, his leadership may not help. The worse the team is, the less thrilled he will be. If the team senses that — and senses that sweeping changes are coming — their already fragile confidence won’t be helped.
In a word, this schedule is brutal. Jacksonville almost couldn’t have a worse schedule in their search for a win. Of their seven remaining road games — Seattle, St. Louis, Denver, Tennessee, Houston, Cleveland and Indianapolis — only the Browns represent a realistic chance at victory, and even Cleveland is in a significantly different class than Jacksonville. A record of 0-8 on the road is the most likely outcome. Playing at home is supposed to be easier, but the schedule is relentless. Indianapolis is tough. San Diego has been reborn and has a very confident offense. San Francisco will crush the life out of the Jags. Arizona is explosive, and should be in full stride by Week 11. Houston is a serious Super Bowl contender. Buffalo has looked shockingly competent. Tennessee is probably the easiest home game, but that is far from a “gimme”. There is just one reasonably soft game on the whole schedule this year — and the Jags already lost that one in Oakland by 10 points. Barring an unexpected development, the Jaguars will be underdogs in all 16 games they play — and should perform like they deserve it.
On Sunday night in Seattle we saw how much of an impact a crowd can have on the home team. San Francisco was thrown totally off their game by the 13th Man. There is no threat of that happening in Jacksonville. You can have your choice of seats in the stadium. A station in Orlando scrolled an apology across the screen throughout the Oakland game explaining why they were forced to show the Jacksonville game no one wanted to see. There is just no crowd support at this point, and it will get worse with each subsequent loss. Home-field advantage is as minimized as it can be in sports.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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