BOOK IT: 3 Things I Think about the Jaguars, Week 12

1. I think Del Rio’s fate is sealed and his tombstone will read, “Had Nine Lives. Used them all.” I thought that the tumultuous nature of the last year for Jacksonville would favor Del Rio surviving for one final “show me” year, but I can’t imagine that scenario happening anymore. Wayne Weaver has already stood before the Jaguars fans more than once to give Del Rio the “playoffs or bust” ultimatum following a disappointing season and he won’t be putting them through that again. I do believe that Jack has a lot of the right ideas and has put together a cohesive football team that believes in his message. He is a good leader. But eventually, you gotta deliver the goods. No doubt, Jack has had to deal with unfortunate circumstances (Leftwich not panning out, years without legitimate receiving threats, the 2008 Draft, all of the damage Shack Harris did, the Lockout, the Garrard situation this preseason, Blaine Gabbert’s rookie inconsistency), but successful leaders find a way to achieve their objectives in spite of difficult circumstances, rather than relying on the circumstances as an excuse for why they didn’t succeed. We all know the numbers – the Jaguars have been to the playoffs twice in Del Rio’s nine seasons, they have one playoff win, and he’s a sub-.500 head coach with 69 wins and 72 losses. It just seems like when the Jaguars fall apart the worst in the games they should win or have to win. There have been too many farces that, regardless of talent level of the players on the field, are the product of sub-par coaching – penalties, poor clock management, general lack of awareness, sloppy executive of the fundamentals. I’m also unconvinced that he and his staff are great at developing draft picks – sure, we’ve had bad drafting in years past, but how many players seem like their talent and potential have been maximized by working with this coaching staff? He’s a likeable guy and I think he’s brought some great character and passion to this football team, but it’s time to move on and I expect Wayne Weaver to do so immediately following the season.2. I think Sunday was the biggest step forward Blaine Gabbert’s taken all season. Yes, he’s still shying away from contact at times. Yes, he’s still making some errant throws on shorter, routine passes. Yes, he’s still making rookie mistakes like the pass he attempted to throw away that was counted as a fumble and a 15 yard loss. But he was stepping into more throw and when he did, they were fastballs that were right on target. And he made some very sharp throws in the intermediate (10-15 yards downfield range) that got the chains moving like they haven’t all season. And he kept his composure in the final minutes, driving the Jaguars down to the 1 yard line and giving us four shots from within the 5 yard line to get into the endzone. He’s still putting the whole picture together and the Jaguars have got to score more than 10 points to expect a win, but Blaine started looking like a pro on Sunday. Let’s hope he keeps building.

3. I think Rashean Mathis’ absence was felt in a big way and his injury puts everyone in a tough situation for the offseason. The last two years have taught us first hand how important the synergy between the cornerbacks and safeties is to defending opponent’s passing games. Last year, we saw how tough it is for a cornerback to look functional when he’s getting no help from his safeties. When Derek Cox came back from his multi-game absence early this season, we saw how much better the Jaguars look on defense with two “man” corners – the DE’s have more time to get to the cornerback and we can dial up more blitzes and have more aggressive LB play when we’re covered over the top. Well, Rashean’s injury looks like it’s going to put a big hit on the secondary and hopefully now, the fans will understand his value. Colt McCoy was connecting with his wide receivers all day on Sunday (and their guys are as bland as our WR’s) and there were some crucial breakdowns in coverage and tackling. The Jaguars are going to be in a bit of a pickle this offseason with Rashean reaching unrestricted free agency and no viable long-term answer currently on the roster at the outside cornerback position – Rod Issac and Drew Coleman are both suited to the slot and William Middleton is more of a special teamer/third or fourth CB. With free agency returning to its normal timeline before the draft, Gene Smith will likely follow the same M.O. that he has been using for the past few seasons – patch in free agency and draft for the future. Rashean tore his ACL in mid-November and as we’ve learned with Aaron Kampman, these things typically take a whole year (or more) to heal. With speed being such a crucial part of his position, Rashean is unlikely to be effective early next year and will likely not be getting the big last contract he was looking for. Will Gene bring him back on an incentive-laden deal? Or will we make a play for another bargain veteran to fill the gap while we wait to draft and develop a true successor? It’s a potentially ugly situation and it will be awhile before we have answers. At least we won’t be distracted by a playoff race while we’re trying to figure it out…

- Andrew Hofheimer

 

Topics: Blaine Gabbert, Cleveland Browns, Colt Mccoy, Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars, Rashean Mathis

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