Coming off two lopsided home losses, there was a lot of finger pointing coming from Jaguar fans during the bye week – some directed at the players (I’m looking at you Jeremy Mincey), some directed at Mike Mularkey and the rest of the coaching staff, and most directed at GM Gene Smith, who isn’t alone in believing the team needs more talent, but is alone in shouldering the responsibility for opportunities the Jaguars have squandered to acquire such talent.And you know what? I get it. I get that Gene Smith’s track record will likely be seriously analyzed by new owner Shahid Khan at the end of this season. I get that at certain positions, the Jaguars are simply less talented than their opponents – whether it is because injuries have exposed a lack of depth o because that talent simply hasn’t been acquired. I get that this team is depending on a lot of young players – players that will show flashes of promise and flashes of growth along with flashes of incompetence and flashes of inadequacy. However, what I don’t get is being outscored 38-0 in the second half. What I don’t get is being sackless as a team since the first game of the season. What I don’t get are players quitting on their team less than halfway through the season.
After that 38-0 second half beating by the Bears, the charge the players were up against was significant – Had They Quit? Because as a fan – if my players quit, I quit. Why should I spend three and a half hours of my day watching the players go through the motions? Why should I devote part of every morning to reading the latest Jaguar news and analysis? Why should I raise my blood pressure watching you inadequately raise yours by not working hard enough?
Of all the negatives a team can have, in my book quitting is clearly the gravest of them. It’s frustrating to see the Jaguars trot out young players who likely aren’t ready to be in a starting role and watch them make mistakes. It’s even more frustrating to look at the players of the opposing team and wonder how the Jaguars still lack such talent after years of being on the wrong side of mediocrity. But as a fan, it’s unacceptable to see your team’s players get straight up outworked. There is some basic tenet of sports that says “If you have the opportunity to play a game for a living and make millions doing it, you will not slack off when you’re actually playing it”.
As bad as a post-bye week loss to arguably the worst team in the league is, as a Jaguar fan, you couldn’t walk away from that game doubting the effort the players put in. Sure, the penalties by rookies and second year players in the fourth quarter almost gave you a stroke. But you had to appreciate that the players on defense were flying around, getting pressure on the quarterback, and just generally wreaking havoc – big props to Poz and Derek Cox especially. The defense basically just out-toughed Oakland in the run game – perhaps the first time all season the Jaguars were able to impose their will, either because of great execution or great effort. Special teams – huge, huge plays – even when a turnover wasn’t forced, there was great coverage on kickoffs and punts. Blaine Gabbert and Maurice Jones-Drew attempting to tough out injuries – even if their attempts were short lived – were big for a team that is clearly looking for leadership and a more defined team identity.
A significant portion of the game last week was colored by the improved execution of the team as a whole (we need more bye weeks) and by the opponent we played (luckily Oakland’s lacking in the talent department too). But there’s no way you could’ve watched the game yesterday and thought that the effort you were seeing was equivalent to the one at the end of the Bears game. The passion was palpable. The players were playing with a chip on their shoulder. They weren’t always executing perfectly, but they were working hard, and you know what – you don’t always have to execute perfectly to make plays; there are “effort plays” to be made too.
At the end of the day, I’m a Jaguars fan, but even more importantly, I’m a sports fan. I want to see talented players, but I also want to see gritty players, scrappy players, and players that just won’t quit. I want to see players make the most of their talents, and if they make things look easy, I want to be pretty confident that it looks easy on game-day because a player worked his butt off on non-game days. That’s what sport is about.
– Zain Gowani