The Jacksonville Jaguars had a chance to build a one-game lead in the AFC South when they faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16. Before they took the field, the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts had lost. But rather than taking advantage of the opportunity, they got soundly beaten by a Buccaneers team that solidified their spot as the team to beat in the NFC South.
But as much credit as the Buccaneers should get their way, Jacksonville deserves an equal amount of criticism. They entered the game riding a three-game losing skid. But rather than stop the bleeding, they extended the streak. Along the way, questions about their viability as a playoff team surfaced.
Not only did the Jags fail to score for most of the game but they couldn't stop the Bucs from putting points on the scoreboard. Had this been a close one, they could at least say that they gave their best. Something along the lines of "the best team won at the end." Sadly, there's not much to say after the embarrassing loss, other than Jacksonville isn't a good team.
What's frustrating is that the Jaguars got off to a solid start this season, going 6-2 before the BYE. But they weren't able to build on the first half and have gone 2-5 since then. So what stood out in the loss to the Buccaneers? Plenty of things and not in a good way. For the time being, here are three observations from Week 16.
3. Whatever Doug Pederson is, it isn't working
Following one of the Jaguars' recent losses, players said they were angry at themselves for not doing enough to win. While that's a nice sentiment, one that shows they care, winning is the bottom line and the Jags last won a game in Week 12. It hasn't been just one thing, but a combination of several. Not having addressed the offensive line in the offseason is one of them. Similarly, not strengthing their pass rush has come back to haunt them.
Leaving aside the team's inability to upgrade the roster, players aren't executing. The defense cannot tackle and they're giving up too many big plays. On the other hand, drops, running the wrong routes, and miscommunication have held the offense back. This would be understandable if the roster were completely devoid of talent but that's not the case.
The front office has made several important investments on both sides of the ball the past two years. Moreover, the Jags showed last season what they're capable of doing, but they're struggling in 2023 with plenty of the same players. That falls on head coach Doug Pederson, who hasn't been able to get the most out of his players and right the ship in recent weeks.
Whatever the reason is, and there has to be more than one, the team has executed poorly. You can bring up injuries but the best teams find a way to overcome them. The Cleveland Browns, for example, lost their starting running back, their two offensive tackles, are down to their fourth quarterback and are still in the thick of the playoff race.
The bottom line is that Pederson's message hasn't been effective, and that's reflected in the standings. Without an insight into the dynamics inside the building, it's hard to tell what exactly is wrong. But things are most definitely not right. Otherwise, the team's overall execution wouldn't be so poor and wouldn't be losing because of so many self-inflicted wounds.