For the loyal Black&Teal readers, that was a play on the usual title of this weekly column. Good fun, right? I think we could all use a little laugh right now, because honestly, this season has been a tough one to digest. Here are 5 things I think about the Jaguars.
1. I think we all need some time apart. Every week, we come back looking for some bright spots and every week, it only seems that the 2011 Jaguars are crawling deeper into a black hole. Even if there are bright spots (and I believe there are some), no one wants to talk about them and trying to talk about them feels dispassionate and unsatisfying. The O-Zone is a cesspool of hate. The Jaguars.com message board is a cesspool of brainless hate (as always). Even Twitter is a cesspool of irrational and impatient hate – which is surprising, because most of the people I follow are other Jaguars bloggers (ALWAYS wise and rational and pragmatic…/sarcasm), beat writers for the Jaguars and AFC South (professional journalists), and fans that I normally consider to have something semi-thoughtful to say. It’s all gone in the toilet this week, so I suggest that everyone just take a break. It seems bleak today, but things will eventually get better. No point having a brain hemorrhage over a heated message board argument…
2. I think we’re going to like Shad Khan. North Florida can be a tricky place. I’m not going to pull punches here – the Jaguars fan base is comprised of a lot of folks who might be apprehensive of a Pakistani business mogul swooping in from Illinois to buy our team. Personally, I think there’s nothing not to love and admire about Khan – he’s an extremely successful entrepreneur and is well-liked by everyone who’s spoken about him and he has Wayne Weaver’s blessing. The city of Jacksonville will miss the Weavers (though Jax will still be their home) – their passion for professional football in our city and the overwhelming generosity they’ve shown will be tough to replace, but I think Wayne’s blessing of Shad Khan is something we shouldn’t take lightly. Weaver has steadfastly said that his succession plan depended on finding a new owner that was as committed to Jacksonville as he has been and it seemed that all of this happened quicker than Weaver expected. That makes me believe that he knew that Khan was the one – the man he could trust with the franchise that he created and had a very personal stake in for 20 years.
3. I think that Khan’s cryptic comments are referring to stadium renovations. From the media briefing that Khan and Weaver gave following their meeting with the NFL Finance Committee, Khan stated the following when asked how Jaguars could be comfortable about him keeping the team in Jacksonville…
Let me just say let them wait until next week. They will be very comfortable next week. Hopefully, if the vote goes the way we are expecting, I will be happy to elaborate on it. They will not be disappointed.
It’s just a hunch, but I’m thinking that Khan is referring to stadium renovations. This would be a dramatic and tangible change for fans to be excited about and would be a strong sign of Khan’s financial commitment to making it work in Jacksonville. EverBank Field is no spring chicken and is due for it’s facelift. New video screens and a new PA (sound) system are a given and I’ve got a feeling the tarp issue will be addressed – they’ve been an ugly scar on Jacksonville for years and are a major part of the perception that Jacksonville cannot support an NFL team. There’s just no way to make the world understand that the tarps make the stadium better sized to the market, especially when the media refuses to do the slightest bit of homework and prefers to peddle sensationalism rather than propagate the truth. The Gator Bowl and Florida/Georgia game require additional seating (close to 80,000) and there’s no way the committees for these events would allow a major reduction in available seating. One idea I’ve heard is making the stadium more of a horseshoe shape, like Ohio Stadium, and opening the south endzone for a view of the St. John’s River. Temporary seating could be put in for the bigger events. An obstacle for this would obviously entail very high costs and working around the recently renovated (2004) BudZone and Terrace Suites. I’m not sure how they’ll do it, but getting those crappy looking tarps (especially the IOA ones) would go a long way towards improving our image as a thriving NFL town.
4. I think you won’t see many of the Jaguars’ coaches back on the sideline next year. I think Mel Tucker has done a great job with the defense (certainly with help from the solid FA additions), but I don’t see him getting the head coaching job for next year. I expect the team to do a rigorous appraisal of everyone that’s out there and I believe an offensive-minded coach will ultimately get the job and hire his own staff. In the modern NFL, a team can be forgiven for bad defense, but not for bad offense. The woes of our passing game have left a stink on the Jaguars and I think all of the offensive coaches will pay for it with their jobs (except for RB coach Earnest Byner). I think Tucker will be back as the defensive coordinator next year and may get the opportunity to have a heavy hand in selecting who stays and what new guys he wants to bring in for his staff, but everyone associated with the passing game is most likely gone.
5. I think a lot of people look foolish right now for saying the Jaguars should look at quarterbacks in the first round. This is just plain stupid. You can’t evaluate Gabbert after 10 games and say he’s never going to be a successful pro passer. You can’t evaluate a kid in the middle of his first pro season with two years of staring experience in college and two weeks of working with his new team before the season started. Gene Smith said that he was picked for what he could become (that means IN THE FUTURE, people) and would need to sit and learn for at least a year. We all know how that story went. Blaine Gabbert should be watching David Garrard right now in games and working his ass off in the film room and on the practice field. David Garrard wasn’t healthy, so Blaine was prematurely forced to play. Have Cam Newton and Andy Dalton looked better? Sure, they have. But Blaine was brought in here for what he could do over the long-haul, for what he could grow into, not what he could do in 10 games he was never supposed to start throwing to incompetent receivers. People keep bringing up that we missed out on Roethlisberger and Rodgers because we were committed to Leftwich, who ultimately failed. Hindsight is 20/20 and bringing in another 1st rounder to compete with Gabbert isn’t a healthy situation and it isn’t going to happen. Blaine will get the reigns until he’s proven that he cannot handle that role and it’s going to take at least three more years to prove that he isn’t (or is) capable of that. So you can let all of these amateur wannabe-scouts tell you all of their theories about footwork and pocket presence and “can’t teach courage”. Gene Smith might just have a little more experience evaluating football players. And I’m guessing that he didn’t get a three-year extension just for the hell of it. Give Blaine a real offseason to learn what being a pro quarterback is all about from a competent teacher and see what he can do. Or don’t….but he’s going to be around for the next few years, so I’d get used to it and quit your Twitterbitchin’, because no one has the answer right now because no one can see the future. All you can do is wait and see.
– Andrew Hofheimer