The Jacksonville Jaguars had a chance to make the postseason. All they had to do was beat the ailing Tennesse Titans in the finale, and they were in. They didn't need the help of other teams; all they had to do was take care of the business. They failed miserably, and what was at one point a promising season came to a halt. This led Chris Simms of NBC Sports to call the Jags the most disappointing team in 2023, and he's right.
Chris, during a recent exchange with Ahmad Fareed, held no punches when discussing the Jaguars' shortcomings against the Titans and the rest of the season.
"The defense hasn't been good. We've talked about their front four not getting pressured doing that, that type of stuff, right? Simms told Fareed. "The shock today was the fact that it's Ryan Tannehill, the Titans don't have a ton of weapons at receiver and they ran the ball big time against this Jacksonville defense, where you felt like right from the get-go, it was one of those games where you turned on and you went wow. The Titans certainly are, 'Oh, it's Week 18. Everything's over tomorrow for us.'"
Simms continued, "You could tell they were playing with some intensity and some ferociousness. Honestly, early on, if you went blank slate and go, 'Who's the team playing for a playoff spot?' I think you would have said the Tennessee Titans. That's where [Mike] Vrabel is dangerous but the Jaguars, with the way the defensive has been playing, the Tennessee Titans came out, running the ball, some trick plays, they did some things to kind of jumpstart their momentum and get going which is a great job by Vrabel, today, one of the best head coaches in football in my opinion."
"Then, defensively [offensively], The Jaguars are one-dimensional, like we talked about a few times in the podcast the last few weeks. The O-Line is not the same as last year. Right? There's been issues there. They haven't been able to run the ball all year. They've been one of the poorer teams in protecting the passer to go along with that. Let alone I don't think their system is crazy creative. So when you couple those issues together with not crazy creative system, Vrabel is good at breaking stuff down like that where he goes way way," Simms said.
All things considered, Simms' assessment is fair. Add the drops, the offsides, and the lack of execution on both sides of the ball and it wasn't surprising to see Tennessee defeat the Jaguars. As Simms noted, they wanted it more, and it showed in their preparation. Here's Simms' full exchange in case you want to give it a look.
The Jaguars were in control early in 2023. They lost it at one point, it showed vs. the Titans
Although Jacksonville struggled with issues like penalties, drops, and miscommunication on both sides of the ball, they managed to go 8-2 before their BYE. It was fair to assume that a week off would allow them to work on those things that held them back. Instead, they underwent a collapse in the second half. Their cracks started to show when they were soundly beaten by the San Francisco 49ers, showing they couldn't keep up with truly good teams.
A few weeks later, the Jags underwent a four-game losing streak. At least two of the games were winnable but they lost because of self-inflicted wounds, whether the offense couldn't cross the 50-yard line or the defense couldn't tackle, they were vastly outperformed during that stretch.
Not everything was doom and gloom though. They had convincing wins over the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans in back-to-back weeks. However, the negatives vastly outweighed whatever positives they had going their way. Not even the prospect of making the playoffs and winning the AFC South was enough to get the Jaguars to put it all together. Despite multiple chances to get back on track, they came undone.
Outside linebacker Josh Allen put it best when he said that they were looking for a spark that never came, " I feel like last year, we had a spark. We lit, we followed that and rode that wave," Josh Allen said following the loss to the Titans. "This year, we were looking for it too much, hoping it was gonna come. It never came."
As Simms noted, it wasn't just one thing but rather a combination of lots of factors. The play calling on offense wasn't particularly creative, the focus on fundamentals and players' execution on both sides of the ball wasn't there throughout the year, and that falls on the coaching staff. You could make the case that the Jags dealt with lots of injuries but no that's something all clubs have to deal with.
Heck, the Cleveland Browns managed to stay afloat despite the fact that they were down to their fourth quarterback, All-Pro running back was out for the year and both of their starting offensive tackles suffered season-ending injuries. However you look at it, the Jaguars cannot use the injury excuse for their late-season collapse.
Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars will get to watch the Browns take on the Houston Texans in the playoffs. That won't probably be a pleasant feeling but if they don't want to experience it again, they'll need to make wholesome changes in the offseason.