I think the biggest disappointment in last night’s nationally-televised 30-3 shellacking of the Jaguars by the Tennessee Titans wasn’t just that Jacksonville lost the game. Look, anyone in their right mind knew that this was a potentially even match-up on paper. NFL games, however, don’t get played on paper, and you’d have to be delusional to think that this year’s Jaguars are as good as this year’s Titans.
Nevertheless, I’m certain the 60,000+ who showed up for the game certainly couldn’t help thinking this would, at the worst, be a competitive football game. Hell, we beat the defending AFC Champion Colts at home two weeks ago. Last week, we dominated a bad Buffalo team on the road, in spite of three turnovers. Why couldn’t the Jaguars be competitive in a crucial divisional game?
Whatever the reasons, they weren’t competitive at all. I could list a litany of excuses for their poor showing, but it pretty much boils down to a couple of simple things: four turnovers, not protecting the quarterback, and getting torched by the opponent’s passing game again. The really unfortunate thing is that this is pretty much the way it’s going to be for the rest of the season (hopefully, without the turnovers), because the Jaguars’ talent woes aren’t going to get fixed this week, next week or even after the season is over. Not immediately, anyway.
The real shame of last night was the disappointment felt by the fans, which I felt myself and saw first-hand at the stadium. The night was picture perfect: great weather, an excited crowd, lots of pregame festivities, and the thrill of being on a national stage on Monday Night Football. Jacksonville has struggled in the last couple of years with ticket sales in a lousy economy, blackouts, apathy from many so-called fans and the perspective that the rest of the country and the sports media don’t respect our sleepy little city with the NFL team on the river. This was a chance, win or lose, to put on a great show for the rest of the football-watching nation.
So when the Jaguars allowed the Titans to drive down field on their first possession (after they deferred to the second half on the coin toss), you could hear the air go out of the building. This from a boisterous crown that just a few moments stood as one and sang the National Anthem with great pride.
Things didn’t get much better after that. Titans quarterback Vince Young was knocked out of the game with a knee injury, so backup Kerry Collins, who must be close to 40 himself, entered the game and proceeded to dink and dunk the Jaguars’ defense to death. His longest pass was 20 yards.
On the other side, it was truly ugly. David Garrard suffered a concussion after a nasty hit with 7:00 to go in the second quarter and was replaced by recently-signed Trent Edwards. This substitution didn’t work out as well; Edwards was picked twice, couldn’t get the offense into the end zone and finished with a QB rating of about 40. This compared to Collins’ 108 rating.
In spite of their pass defense woes, the Jaguars’ defense held up pretty well against running back Chris Johnson, at least until late in the 3rd quarter. At that point, the defense appeared to be pretty gassed and Johnson finished the night with over 100 yards rushing, a couple of nice catches, and a final-drive rushing touchdown.
Kelly and I couldn’t help but feel the disappointment as we left the stadium, not so much for the loss but for the beating they took in front of the country. People in Jacksonville complain that the Jaguars get no respect from the media. Respect is overrated, but you earn it in the NFL by winning. Not getting your brains beat out by the opponent’s backup quarterback on national television.
Since I’m a glass half-full guy, I always hold out hope that things can get better. Garrard will hopefully be back on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, and maybe the “good” quarterback will be there instead of the inconsistent one. Over time, hopefully, the young players on this team will figure things out, especially on defense, and at least give themselves a chance to be competitive. I hope.
But I see the possibility of some changes next year. Everyone who follows this team knows what they are, and some of them are going to take time to blossom. I just hope this town has the patience to stick with them.
Me? I still had a great time last night. This glass will always be half-full for me. Getting to a championship might take a long time for this team, but I don’t care. When it happens, it will be that much sweeter. Go Jaguars.