November 18, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan walks on the sideline before a game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Most Important Offseason In Jacksonville Jaguars History...

Another season has come and gone. Final record: 2-14.

Offense: 15.9 points a game (30th), 229.2 yards per game (29th), 213.7 passing yards per game (21st), 85.6 rush yards per game (30th)

Defense: 27.8 points allowed per game (30th), 380.5 yards allowed per game (30th), 239.5 passing yards allowed per game (22nd), 141.0 rushing yards allowed per game (30th)

At least the 2012 Jaguars were consistent.

It’s a shame that in the last year alone the Jacksonville Jaguars have been subjected to losing their head coach midseason in 2011, having Wayne Weaver sell the team to Shahid Khan that same year, going through the transition of hiring Mike Mularkey, and now losing GM Gene Smith. They say that the status of Mike Mularkey’s job depends on the new GM, whoever that may be. Uh oh. Could Blaine Gabbert go through his 3rd head coach in 3 years? That usually doesn’t bode well for young quarterbacks unless the Harbaugh brothers have a much younger, less popular, but equally talented sibling.

Just looking at the end of season statistics, it’s easy to identify draft needs. The Jacksonville Jaguars pretty much need help at every position. What the new GM must do is identify where this team is hurting the most. A few weeks ago, I was wondering whether or not the Jaguars should pick a quarterback with their first pick. After actually seeing the talent that will be available to us with the No. 2 overall pick, I’m quickly backtracking and saying…NO.

The new general manager of this team must hit with this second pick. This rookie has to take the field and the league by storm. It will give the fan base confidence in the front office and in Khan. It will actually feel like we’re turning it around and making something this team hasn’t seen in years: progress.

As of now, from what I can gather it seems as if LT Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M is the best player in this draft. A lot can change between now and April though, and many would argue that we are already solid at tackle with Eugene Monroe…and a bunch of other guys…who really haven’t panned out. What if this Joeckel kid is better than Monroe at LT? We could kick Monroe to the right and actually get our quarterback some protection.

What if the Chiefs snag up Joeckel? Or what if we’re more concerned with filling the holes along our defensive line? Well guess what? We’re in luck this year because it looks as if we’re in a prime position to draft a premier pass rusher. Bjoern Werner from FSU and Damontre Moore from Texas A&M have been linked to the No. 2 spot in the draft.

What bothers me along the defensive line: only 20 registered sacks. What’s really got me worried is just how bad of a rookie year Andre Branch had. The lack of production from newly extended Jeremy Mincey has me pretty worked up too. I wonder if Jason Babin sticks around?

It’s hard to tell exactly who is bad. Is it just a flawed rotation that gets worn out? Is the defense really that predictable? Who is to blame? Is Branch just another terrible Smith pick? It’s enough to drive a person crazy! No one had more than 3.5 sacks, and those are credited to Tyson Alualu. So I guess that’s a good year for a DT in a 4-3 right?! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

This team is officially in rebuilding mode (they have been for a really, really long time). Now Khan is bringing in a GM who will more than likely…burn it to the ground. That’s what you do when you’re 2-14 right? Why keep players around who aren’t working out? Who is going to stay and who is going to go? I’m expecting a lot of roster overhaul.

What to do with Blaine Gabbert? It always ends up with this question. As angry and as frustrated as I’ve been with our situation at QB, and I hate doing this because just two weeks ago I was preaching that we replace him with some rookie…I think we have to give him another year. We have an owner with the ability to dish out real cash in free agency. Hopefully we’ll have a general manager who will get great football players and not just great stories in the locker room.

Do we really stick with this guy?  Source: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s put a good football team around Gabbert. Let’s get him a real pass rush. Let’s get him an offensive line. Let’s get MJD back in the saddle and get the run game going again. And then…this time next year if we end up with yet another top 10 pick…I think it will be time to move on.

It’s a fast league. More and more is expected of young quarterbacks. With so many young QBs taken in the first round or later (I’m talking to you, Russell Wilson) and going on and having historical seasons, it’s left Tennessee and Jacksonville wondering, “what’s wrong with mine?”

Here’s what’s wrong: We don’t have Mike and Kyle Shanahan forming a brilliant offensive scheme around an elite talent like RGIII. Andrew Luck was every bit as good as advertised if not better. Both of these quarterbacks will be great for years to come, and they are just that good. Russell Wilson stepped into a great situation with Pete Carroll, Marshawn Lynch, and that amazing Seattle defense. Cam Newton is an athletically gifted football player who is explosive and dynamic and began playing like himself again in the last part of the season. He even managed to save his coach’s job. Ponder isn’t impressive…but his running back certainly is, and he’s done enough to not totally blow it yet for his team.

All of these young QBs are either 1. Just that good. 2. Are in a good situation or 3. Both 1&2.

We know Gabbert isn’t good enough to single-handedly turn this franchise around. How about we create a good situation for the QB and see how he responds?

Before we do anything, Khan must first hire a new GM. The new GM must then decide what to do with Mularkey. If Mularkey is gone, then it will be time for HC #3 in the last two years. Now it’s time to decide what to do with the current players on the roster. You can’t strike out with that No. 2 overall pick, and you almost have to go out and become big time bidders in free agency this offseason. Once the training camp roster is put together with a new head coach (if Mularkey goes) and all, it’s time to teach Gabbert yet another new system.

It’s a long road, and there’s no guarantee that this team will be good even 10 years from now, but we are in a completely new era of Jags football especially with the last remnants of the Weaver regime gone. Hopefully the new GM fields a team this city deserves.

-David R. Johns

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Tags: Blaine Gabbert Jacksonville Jaguars Mike Mularkey Shahid Khan

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