The second week of the regular season is entirely too early for any team to start talking about the next season, but in the case of the 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars it’s important to keep the journey and final result of this season in context.
Shad Khan hired David Caldwell following the 2012 season with a singular purpose in mind – make the Jacksonville Jaguars a perennial contender. While the methods for achieving this can vary, the general consensus believe in the following:
- Building through the draft
- Having a “good enough” quarterback
“Good enough” here implies some kind of variance based on the quality of the rest of the roster. For example if you have a roster as talented as the San Francisco 49ers, someone like Alex Smith can take you all the way to the conference championship. Put Alex Smith on the Kansas City Chiefs and the ceiling there is probably a loss in the wild card round of the playoffs.
There is somewhat of a “Catch-22” involved in trying to both build through the draft and finding the right quarterback. While some teams are fortunate enough to find a franchise signal caller after the first round or in free agency (Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, etc.), most teams need to spend a first round pick to even have a shot at finding one. Generational, can’t-miss prospects like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning are few and far between, so teams need to take chances on more flawed players in the first round. While it’s not exactly appropriate to deem this “reaching,” the positional value definitely drives any quarterback’s grade up. The convergence of all these factors sometimes forces general managers to pick quarterbacks in the first round just because it’s “the right time” in the GM’s rebuild or because he’s the best quarterback in that year’s draft.
Missing on a quarterback in the first round has an added penalty – missing out on an actual first round talent at another position. In the 2003 draft, when the Jaguars drafted Byron Leftwich, the Jaguars missed out on Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs, Troy Polamalu, and Nnamdi Asomugha. In 2011, when they drafted Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars missed out on J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Muhammad Wilkerson and Colin Kaepernick. Yes, looking at drafts in retrospect is pedantic but it really speaks to how desperate or narrow-minded some decision makers were at the time.
Balancing the pressure to perform now and to draft a quarterback to build around is immense, but succumbing to that pressure at the wrong time can derail a franchise. Thankfully the path David Caldwell seems to be taking indicates he won’t draft a quarterback until he’s the right one. He had two chances to draft arguably the top quarterback prospect in the 2013 draft (Geno Smith) and decided not to invest any draft picks in a quarterback.
Did Caldwell pass on every quarterback because he believed Gabbert could develop into a starting quarterback? My gut tells me no – Caldwell knew there was no long-term fix for the quarterback position this season so he stood pat. He looked ahead and knew the probability of a getting a franchise quarterback in 2014 was much higher.
Instead, Caldwell utilized this offseason to work on the rest of the roster, and boy did he work it over. Here’s the starting lineup in week 1 of 2012 compared to the starting lineup this year.
There are some extenuating circumstances for the lineup this season (Blackmon’s suspension, Alualu moving positions) but look at all the red highlights. Compared to week 1 in 2012, the Jaguars have 12 new starters. That’s not even taking into account how different the rest of the roster looks. The Jaguars have 4 rookies starting and the case could be made that 6 rookies are contributing regularly.
With so many new, young faces on the roster, the odds of the Jaguars being good this year are really low. But you know what? It’s OK. Enjoy the ride this year, because the General is going to make sure next year is a whole lot better.
– Daniel Lago
Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89