Jaguars vs. Colts Preview

by Richard David Smith III
The scene was Uncommon Grounds, a small coffee shop in San Marco owned by Diane Lee. Inside the coffee shop was an intimate gathering of maybe a dozen local fedora wearing, tattoo bearing hipsters huddled around a TV with—gasp—a football game on it (American football, mind you, not soccer). These are people who, on a normal Sunday, would be playing Bob Dylan or Miles Davis records (actual records) as they sipped on lattes and herbal teas and played games of scrabble and chess on tattered boards. Not on this Sunday afternoon. No, on this particular Sunday afternoon, this ironic t-shirt wearing bunch were watching, enjoying, and cheering on the Jaguars as they put a 44-17 beat down on the Indianapolis Colts in front a crowd of 67,164 Duval faithful. Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio wore his leather jacket boldly that afternoon.
In that Jaguars trouncing of the Colts, the Jones-Drew/Fred Taylor two-headed monster simply manhandled the Colts (who were 10-1 before that game), running for a whopping 375 net yards to the Colts 34. It was a dominating effort by the Jags against a dominant team lead by one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. It epitomized the style of football that the Jaguars wanted to force upon their opponents. It was one of those “statement” games. It was the pinnacle of the Jack Del Rio era and all was right with the world…it finally seemed like what Del Rio was trying to do just might be working. People from all over Jacksonville—from the life-long season ticket holder to the acoustic guitar picking coffee shop dwellers—were on board with the Big Cats. The Jaguars were approaching the Colts level of competition, and the AFC South was going to be a battle between the Colts and Jags for years to come…
That year was 2007, but it may as well have been 1907, as far as the Jaguars and their fans are concerned. For all intents and purposes, it was downhill for the Jaguars after that game. Sure, there were playoff appearances here and wild card flirtations there, but the overall stock was trending downward, and still is. A lot of things have changed since the day that I watched that Jaguars game at Uncommon Grounds. For starters, Uncommon Grounds closed and the owner has since left for New York. Jaguars coach Del Rio has been fired from the Jags and hired as a D coordinator in Denver, David Garrard has been released and has made the NFL rounds, bad back in tow. Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith have retired. Rashean Mathis is on the Lions, where his dreads are still flapping out of his helmet as opposing receivers burn him. As for the Colts, they’ve undergone a metamorphosis as well–the mild-mannered Tony Dungy is no longer in control, and the legendary Peyton Manning is no longer under center.
This Sunday, the 2013 Jaguars take on the 2013 Colts. Two teams who were once neck and neck now come at each other from very different stages of development. The Jaguars are still poking and prodding the smoldering ashes of the “Jack & Shack” era, hoping that their Phoenix can rise from them. The Colts have moved beyond the legendary Manning era and have already found their QB of the future (and now) in the person of Andrew Luck. After Manning missed the entire 2011 season with neck surgery and the Colts struggled to a 2-14 record, the stars aligned for the Colts and they were put in the unique situation to fill Manning’s huge helmet (what can I said, dude rocks a huge melon) right away in the 2012 draft with the first pick, QB Andrew Luck. You have to admit that a QB with the name “Luck” paired with a team whose logo is a horseshoe is a match made in NFL marketing heaven.
A little over a year ago, on September 23rd, the Jaguars defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 22-17, behind some late game heroics. QB Blaine Gabbert finished with only 10 completions out of 22 attempts, but one of them was and perfect 80 yard TD pass to WR Cecil Shorts III with 45 seconds left, securing the Jaguars come from behind win and sparking a love affair between Jacksonville and Cecil Shorts III—or CS3—who would go on to have a fine second season. Maurice Jones-Drew was the star of the game, amassing 177 yards on the ground, including a 59-yard TD scamper. It was as stealth of a “statement” game as the 44-17 drubbing from years before; but it was a statement game in that it established the Jaguars as a force to be dealt with in the AFC South. As we would later know, this would not be the case. At the conclusion of the game, both the Jags and Colts were 1-2. As we now know, the Colts would go on to the playoffs and the Jags would go on to, well, not go to the playoffs, to put it mildly. With Gabbert, Jones-Drew, and CS3 all healthy enough to take the field for this Sunday’s game, history has shown us that this is a winnable game for the Jaguars. The Jaguars must once again make an AFC South statement. Do they have any fight left, or are they going to lie down and die, content with being the doormat of the AFC South and asking to be put out of its misery?
In the NFL, team statements are made on the field, not off the field in the form of silly slogans such as “Keep Chopping Wood” (LOL—epic fail), “#Allin,” “#StandUnited,” etc., etc. Those are swell and all, but they instantly become punch lines once a team starts losing in embarrassing ways. They always remind me of the cheesy signs posted up in every job’s break room throughout America—usually smacked on the wall by some uninspired middle-management type in a failed attempt to get you to produce widgets at a faster rate.
In another effort to get fans out to the game, there was a tweet sent out by the Jaguars official titter account (@Jaguars) that promised two free beers with the purchase of a Colts vs. Jaguars ticket during a two hour window at 9 AM on Septmber 26th.