The Long Road Ahead
By Lionel Joel
At 1-8, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2012 regular season is basically over. At this point the search for a General Manager, early first round draft pick, and reason for a fan base to believe in the franchise again have already begun. The Gene Smith Era, by all reasonable assumptions, is over and a new dawn awaits the city of Jacksonville. After two consecutive failed regimes (Harris, Smith) it is emotionally taxing for a fan to regain confidence and restore faith in a team that so consistently lets them down. The good thing about that is no matter how much fans are let down, we all know that a successful Jaguars’ squad will be so satisfying that we ignore Mr. Obvious on our shoulder screaming at us and focus on next year. Next year for a Jaguars’ fan is a magical Ferngullly-style year filled of hope and whimsy before that giant bulldozer called definitive reality ruins everything. Luckily, however, there is always next year.
The road ahead will not be easy for any of us. Not the players, not Shad Khan, not the poor bastard that becomes our next GM, and certainly not us, the fans. But major decisions have to be made, and it is these decisions that will decide the future of the Jaguars.
1. Re-signing Mojo – This past offseason we learned that Maurice Jones-Drew really wants a new contract and luckily for us he wants it to be with the Jaguars. This one is plain and simple: sign him and give him whatever he wants. If we are willing to throw Laurent Robinson $50 million for one good season in Dallas, Khan might have to give MoJo a controlling stake in Flex-N-Gate.
2. Deciding Blaine’s Future – It’s hard to forecast a quarterback’s future after only two seasons but it is where we are. Is Blaine our franchise quarterback? Can we afford to roll with him for another two seasons and hope he becomes Eli Manning? I don’t know, but I do know that Kirk Cousins isn’t gaining value riding the pine in Washington and could come cheap. Just sayin.
3. Trimming The Fat – Whether or not it is the main reason or just a reason that Blaine Gabbert has struggled, the Jaguars’ offensive and defensive lines have been average at best over the past three seasons. Will the young guys like Eugene Monroe and Andre Branch live up to the hype? Hopefully. We will have them for better or worse for the foreseeable future. Monroe had showed the ability to block against above average defensive ends like the ageless Dwight Freeney but lacks consistent domination against the pass rush. Branch is still a rookie and has the size and ability to succeed as long as he focuses on getting better each day. More importantly, Cameron Bradfield and Uche Nwaneri are not the building blocks for a successful offensive line. Continued pursuit in the draft and free agency can pick up where these two leave off.
-#1 Pick, Where Are You? – As the season progresses it looks ever likely that the Jags will be in strong contention for the number one overall draft pick in 2013. Just as these things seem to fall for the woeful Jaguars, there is no clear cut favorite for the first selection in the draft. No Andrew Luck. No Jake Long. Not even a Jamarcus Russell. While the Russell thing is probably a good thing, I’m just saying there doesn’t seem to be a predictable top draft pick. They can’t even decide who the frontrunner is for this year’s Heisman Trophy. Come December when the draft order starts to shake out, we will see where the Jags and Chiefs are in the standings and which franchise desperately in need of a spark has the challenge of finding one with the overall number one.