by Richard David Smith III
Another game, another dreadful loss for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This time, it was the Oakland Raiders on their west coast gangsta turf taking the east coast Jaguars out to the proverbial wood shed. About the only thing more devastating in the NFL than starting 0-2 is to fall to 0-2 in front of a bunch of grown men dressed as Darth Vader, Pinhead, and various other Halloween characters as they wildly cheer your demise. To add injury to insult, the Jaguars also lost Maurice Jones-Drew to an ankle in the first quarter of this one, mere moments after he began to show flashes of his old prowess. The 19-9 Raiders win was not even as close as it appears. Only a late, garbage time touchdown from Chad Henne to tight end Clay Harbor (followed by a failed two-point conversion) saved the Jaguars from going without a touchdown for the first eight quarters of the regular season.
Penalties again were the enemy of the Jaguars. The Big Cats committed 10 of them for 70 yards. For a team that can’t out-talent its opponents right now, this is one controllable aspect of the game that the coaches have got to get better handle on. It is also apparent that this team badly misses tight end Marcedes Lewis even more than it misses wide receiver Blackmon because Lewis’s play effects both the passing and the ground game. Lewis could return this week, not a moment too soon for the downtrodden Jags.
One of the few bright spots of this tragic affair was the continued progress of second round draft pick Johnathan Cyprien. Cyprien recorded 8 tackles (up from 3 the previous week) and also delivered a few vicious hits, one of them effective enough to force a Raiders’ fumble. A quick glance at the overall numbers reveals an adequate day from Henne. Henne completed 25 of 38 passes (65.8%) for 241 yards with a TD and no INTs. Not earth shattering stats by any means, but an improvement over Gabbert’s turnover-laden effort in week one, to be sure. Henne seems to have a better rapport with Cecil Shorts III, who had a fine day with 8 catches and 93, including a 22 yarder. Henne didn’t lose the game, but he obviously didn’t win it either—it was about what we expect at this point from Chad “Less Bad” Henne.
Some of the events surrounding the game– before, during, and after–were getting more buzz than the game itself. Jags fans were vocally offended by Comcast’s Station Info Guide referring to the Jaguars as “the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars” in the program description as well as an Orlando affiliate issuing an apology for being required by the NFL to air the Jaguars vs. Raiders game. Then, of course, there was The Tebow Rally. Responding to a Facebook message urging them to do so, what turned out to be a rather small group of Tim Tebow supporters joined together outside of Everbank Field the following Monday, 9/16, at 3:16 PM for 3 hours and 16 minutes, both numbers obviously symbolic of the famous “John 3:16” sported on the black eyeliner of the famously Christian Tebow. Their mission: to encourage Jaguars management to bring Tebow to the Jaguars. Unfortunately for them, the “rally” drew only around 20 people and the mockery of the usual suspects at ESPN, with fairly good reason. All things Tebow, pro and con, are blown way out of proportion, but when the Patriots’ Bill Belichick can’t do anything with Tebow and it is followed by Tebow’s own agents nudging him towards public speaking, it may time for him to hang up his cleats and for his defiant cheerleaders to put down their pompoms. As displayed (on signs) last Monday, it seems that the best argument that even the most stealth of Tebow champions can make for bringing him to the Jaguars is literally, “Why Not?”
As I see it, my duty as a sports commentator isn’t to constantly play “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” If that were the case, you would read more of me lamenting the Jaguars decision to not go after head coach Jeff Fisher and Matt Flynn two off-seasons ago and then Andy Reid and Alex Smith last off-season. Don’t get me wrong, I do see the fun in playing imaginary General Manager and will indulge in wild speculation from time to time, but my primary job is to comment on what has or is happening. What I know is this: for better or for worse, the Jacksonville Jaguars will not be signing Tim Tebow anytime soon. Manager Dave Caldwell has spoken in no uncertain terms on the matter (remember the whole “even if he’s released” press conference?) and–given an injured Gabbert and what looks to be another lost season–even if it would now make some degree of sense to bring in the crafty lefthander out of the University of Florida for popularity’s sake, Caldwell’s pride alone wouldn’t allow him to do so. It would most certainly take an act of God above (or at least The Stache above) for Tebow to be sporting teal and black. At this point, I sort of view Tebow supporters the same way that I view Libertarians—very vocal, very consistent, and ultimately exercising in futility. Of course, that knowledge doesn’t stop the plethora of pro-Tebow haters from blowing up the Twitterverse in “retaliation,” either.
The bottom line: Jaguars fans on all sides seem to be of one disposition: angry as hell (or angry as heaven, in the case of Tebow supporters). They should understand that rebuilding in the NFL is not a quick fix, and it is often times a painfully slow process of trial and error, particularly when your quarterback of the future most likely isn’t even on the roster. However, fans shouldn’t be angry at apologetic TV stations, drive-by national media outlets, ill-worded channel listings, or people who have unreal expectations and wild dreams of being saved by Timmy Tebow. Rather, they should be angry at a franchise that has put itself in such a flaccid position that they are universally laughed at and have some people making half-reasonable arguments for its reform by simply asking, ”Why not?”
Looking Forward: This Sunday, the Jaguars play the Seahawks, who have arguably the best home field advantage in the NFL in Seattle. Early reports say Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis should be good to go for this contest…and that is about where the good news ends. According to CBS, the Jaguars are going into this game as 19.5-point underdogs. Let that sink in for a minute. An NFL team, in the age of “parity,” is a 19.5-point underdog. Ouch, babe. We can only hope that Gus Bradley has a few tricks up his sleeve against the team that he was a part of as defensive coordinator last season, because a win against the Seahawks in Seattle is going to require some magic. Don’t forget, that’s why they play the games…Abracadabra!