Oct 9, 2011; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Guy Whimper (68) reacts during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Are The Jaguars Once Again Becoming Hubristic With Their Roster?

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Hubris (or hybris). Noun. Means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power. The adjective form of hubris is “hubristic”. Often used tool by ancient Greek writers (for example Sophocles and Homer) .

Lately I am starting to recognize, once again, something familiar in the attitude in the Jaguars front office. Something I hoped would be gone for a long time after 2008.

That attitude is overconfidence.

I had the same feeling back in ’08 offseason after the best performance of the Jaguars in the 2000s. The Jags thought they were just one player away from a Superbowl run following a divisional playoff loss in 2007.  They believed the roster wass great and deep almost everywhere, and to adress their little needs they spent like crazy in free agency and went after Jerry “$1 million/catch” Porter, Drayton Florence, and Cleo Lemon. Of course now everybody think back of these moves as the $27 million mistake.

Jerry Porter was pure trash in Jacksonville (In Case You're Wondering, he missed the catch) Source: Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Then came the draft. The Jaguars had 11 picks in the ’08 draft, the same number Gene Smith has had in two years. And how did the Jaguars use them? They traded away almost their entire draft class (all three 3rd round picks for example) for 2 pass rushers: Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Groves turned out to be so “good” the Jaguars fanbase couldn’t believe he was traded away for a 5th round pick for Oakland (he is starting as LB for the Raiders since, but is still far from being a good player). And Derrick Harvey a.k.a.the biggest bust in Jaguars draft history? He is now in Cincinnati hoping to make the final roster after doing almost nothing in Jacksonville and being cut in Denver over the last four seasons.

Why did the Jaguars front office do those moves in the draft? They did them because of two reasons:

  1. They believed they were only 1 player (a pass rusher who can give the team 10+ sacks/season) away from greatness.
  2. They thought even 3rd round picks would hardly make the roster, because it was so good at every position.

These gross overestimations are a textbook example of hubris.  If someone becomes hubristic (once again, just read some ancient Greek stories), you can expect very bad things to happen.

Like the enitre Jaguars ’08 season.

The ’08 season started with losing 3 starters on the offensive line on opening day – plus the tragedy of Richard Collier being shot. Which probably could’ve been avoided easily by drafting 2-3 young offensive lineman – maybe in the 3rd round…- with those 11 picks…  The expensive free agents had zero impact on the team. While many players have off-field issues, back then the Jaguars were “The Bengals of the South” and not exactly because of a similar and powerful pass offense Cincy had that time… Then the team fell apart slowly – remember the Mike Peterson vs Jack Del Rio fight or Fred Taylor’s “this is the worst team I ever played for” comments?  The Jaguars finished dead last in the division with a disappointing 5-11 record which lead to a major powershift within the organization. And instead of going to the Superbowl, the Jaguars started rebuilding the franchise almost from scratch.

GM Gene Smith was promoted to solve problems, not make more of them. Source: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Current Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith saw this disaster from the front row, so I’m a bit surprised that he is showing signs of the same attitude this year.

Despite that, I’ve started to feel the same overconfidence from some of the front office’s moves.

The whole thing started in the 3rd round of the draft. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issues with punter Bryan Anger personally, I think he will be a solid or even great contributor, but declaring that “there was no position where the Jaguars could’ve found a starter” in that time made me scratch my head.

The Jaguars were coming off a 5-11 season. Is this roster really that good to declare this? I can point my fingers at two positions immediately where even a rookie can challenge the starter position: LG and RT. Will Rackley (just like Blaine Gabbert) had a really tough rookie campaign (although the Lehigh alumni had one really good game against Baltimore and Haloti Ngata). I think he can be a decent starter, but declaring there was nobody who could’ve be a challange for him at the position is a bit foolish to say the least. Same goes for the RT position. Eben Britton looks to be healthy again, but what happens if he injured once again or if he doesn’t improve the way everyone expecting him to? Keep in mind that Britton becomes a free agent this coming offseason.  If something goes wrong with Britton, the team needs to look for his backup and I – like many others, for example Paul Kuharsky – just don’t get why the Jaguars are so high about and sold on Guy Whimper, who is currently the primary backup at the position. I know he played injured last year, but I think he is far from being good insurance at the position. (I would say Cameron Bradfield looked much more promising in his rookie year…)  Yet the Jaguars did not even spend a pick to adress that clear need (instead they extended Whimper…)  in the later rounds. Even if Bryan Anger becomes a good contributer in his rookie year, if just one of these positions will be a clear weakness for the team, and the cause will be not injury, everybody will point fingers to the GM – why they spent a 3rd round pick on a punter instead of addressing more crucial needs…

And the rest of the selections (all of them clearly defensive backups at their position and expect to be contributors on special teams) just boosted this bad feeling.

Many have been pointing out before and after the draft, that the Jaguars offensive line is still shaky at best. I wrote about the RT and LG positions, but we can add center (Brad Meester played well in 2011 too, but he is the oldest player of the roster -35-, and he’ll become a free agent after the season) and guard depth as concerns. Who is the backup if something happens with Uche Nwaneri (or Rackley)? Jason Spitz? Is that enough depth there? Same goes for Brad Meester although the Jaguars at least adressed that position with signing UDFA rookie Mike Brewster as a competition for ‘jar on the shelf’ player John Estes.

Drew Coleman played very well as the Jaguars nickel corner in 2011, but he won't be back for 2012...Source: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Then a few days later the Jaguars cut Drew Coleman. The official statement for the release was the Jaguars have enough nickel corners now (William Middleton and 2012 6th round pick Mike Harris, and maybe Aaron Ross) who also can play outside – a position where Coleman was never used last year. But last week we found out, that the Jaguars simply refused to play him outside in ’11, despite he and his agent reportedly asking for a chance when the Jaguars starting outside corners went down to injured reserve.  Which is a bit strange because he played there for the Jets in ’10 when Darrelle Revis missed games because of injury and he did a decent job there.

So there have been some head scratching decisions…  Are Trent Morgan and Kevin Rutland THAT much better of an option than Coleman? I don’t think so. We saw the proof against the Falcons in Week 16… Not to mention that 2 of the 5 Jaguars victories last season were ended with a Coleman interception.

The timing also was strange (the official statement said they want to give him a real chance to find himself a new team), because even if they got a new player for that position in Mike Harris, I’m almost 100% sure, Drew Coleman is still a better (and more experienced) player than him.

Why didn’t the Jaguars wait at least until OTA’s to see what they’ve got in Harris? Same question goes to why they are so confident that Mathis’ recovery from the ACL injury will not be a problem. Because if it is, Aaron Ross must start… Which leaves Middleton and Harris at nickel. Are they really that much better an option than Coleman?…

Dillard Never Pulled Away From the Pack, But He Was Probably Better Than the People Replacing Him...Source: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

I even add the case of Jarett Dillard to the list. He was cut a few days ago. Sure, he had the opportunity to become a reliable target for Blaine Gabbert, and he failed to do that last season, but let me advocate for him a bit. In 2011 the Jaguars had a terrible WR coach in Johnny Cox. Before the ’11 season, Dillard was barely healthy, but he was a contributor in the ’09 season (he spent the entire ’10 campaign on IR).  Now, many experts believe the Jaguars hired one of the best WR coaches in Jerry Sullivan. So why did they cut Dillard after just 3 days of practice with Sullivan and the new offensive coaching staff? Because they became so exited about two “former QB, now WR” tryouts during the rookie camp? The bottom half of the receivers after Blackmon, Robinson and Thomas are that strong they can make this move only after 3 days with the new coaching staff?

These are symptoms that make me worry about how realistically the front office sees the talent level of the current roster. I would write that even after a great Jaguars season – and we can all agree that ’11 was far from there. I fear that Gene Smith is overestimating the talent he has in some positions (offensive line), or overvaluing players (Whimper) compared to reality. I really hope the General Manager knows what he doing, because if he’ll be hubristic with the talent evaluation, I’m sure very bad things will happen (once again see the evidence for that in Ancient Greek stories, like the  Odyssey). And if they do (considering this is ‘Year 4′ of the rebuilding process, and it’s high time to make the playoffs) he might be looking for a new job in the first months of 2013…

In Gene We Trust?

– Zoltan Paksa


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Tags: 2012 NFL Draft 2012 NFL Draft Selections Blaine Gabbert Bryan Anger Darrelle Revis Derrick Harvey Drew Coleman Cut Drew Coleman; Eben Brittion Gene Smith Guy Whimper Jacksonville Jaguars Mike Harris Mini Camp Organized Team Activies Otas Paul Kuharsky Quentin Groves Richard Collier William Middleton

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