Maurice Jones-Drew knows it, Gene Smith and Shad Kahn know it, and the Jaguar coaches know it, the era of Maurice Jones-Drew is coming to an end. This is not because of MJD’s contract demand; the contract demand is because of this reality and will be the reason MJD holds out as long as he possibly can.
There are two main drivers for this. The major driver is the continued development of the receiving corps and Blaine Gabbart. Maurice Jones Drew was half of the offense and the league leading rusher because he was so good and the passing game was so bad. Going forward, the major emphasis and the major improvement will be in the passing game. It has to be. As the passing game gets better and more exciting, Maurice Jones-Drew gets less important. I am not saying he isn’t a great weapon to have, but a lot of good passing teams have decent but not great running games. You simply don’t need an elite back in today’s NFL. The Jaguars will grow away from MJD.
The second main driver to the end of the MJD era is his age and pounding he has taken. Knee surgery hampered 2010. A great, unbelievably great dedicated effort on his part delivered a stellar 2011. Running backs don’t do that for very long. It is very possible MJD gave all he had and mortgaged some of the future last year. He probably doesn’t have that effort in him and if he does, he doesn’t have it for three more years. Running backs have a very predictable life span. Gene Smith knows the actuarial tables on every position. He knows MJD is late in life. It is a fact of the position.
Maurice Jones-Drew knows his 2011 accomplishment and bargaining leverage will never be better than what it is right now. He did all that was asked of him and more. Unfortunately he and everyone in the Jaguar organization know that more money for MJD will not deliver more output. It isn’t possible. The truth is the Jaguars are beginning to move beyond him and he knows it. If Blaine and the receiving corps do what Gene Smith believes they can do, MJD won’t be called on for any more than 1,000 yards a season and a few game changing runs. This is still a valuable skill, but not one to pay more for. It is also a skill Gene can get on the open market from other late-in-life running backs.
Football is a business and that means hardball must be played. It also means saying goodbye to the heroes of the past. We are at the start of the closing of the MJD era and everyone knows it.
– Terry O’Brien