JAGS vs. COLTS

by Richard David Smith III
Though your minds are probably more focused on a shutdown government than a shutdown corner right now, we march forth with sports. Ah, yes, pro sports–that delightful, spectacular physical competition between superior athletes that offers us a mental escape from the tedium and treachery of everyday life. Not in Jacksonville.
I don’t want to pour any salt into the wounds of the Jaguars (many of them self-inflicted talon shreds), especially during the same week that saw the Jacksonville International Airport suffer a bomb scare and the Mathews Bridge take a “near catastrophic” blow from the ramp of a cargo ship that may put the bridge on the disabled list for up to a month. But sorry, there is nothing good to report from last Sunday at the Jaguars first AFC South inner-division game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Cats returned home from their depressing West Coast trip to fall to 0-4.
The Jaguars looked terrible in all facets of the game, including their persistence in racking up silly penalties. Colt QB Andrew “worst beard in the league” Luck looked impressive in throwing for two touchdowns and was under nonexistent pressure all day. The Colts mailed this one in for a 37-3 drubbing that looked much like what the score indicates. I expected to see more from Trent Richardson, who ran for only 60 yards on 20 carries and was in full three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mode. No matter for the Colts, as Donald “I didn’t even know he was still on the roster and I had a roster sheet” Brown ran for 65 yards on 3 carries. Reggie Wayne gave the Jaguars fits, per his usual, and had 100 yards receiving with a touchdown and a few “Manning to Wayne” flashback inducing moments on the day.
Though it probably offers little comfort to the wounded souls of Jaguars fans, the most encouraging words offered to the team on the day came from the opposing team’s owner, Jim Irsay, who tweeted, “This Jag Team will rise..it’s new owner is committed to winning n trust me, GM D Caldwell will build a winner! Shad has the touch of success!”
Just a really bad team right now. There is no masking that (at least until Halloween). I’m sure this is nothing that the coaches and GM are not equally as frustrated about as the fans. As for owner Shad Khan, well, if the Jaguars players were a bag of golf clubs, he would have probably already tossed them into the St. John’s River.
Is Coach Bradley in over his head? Perhaps. I think the Jaguars would have been better served hiring a veteran head coach who instantly commanded respect and offered the comfort of an established track record. A coach like, say, Andy Reid (cough*whowasavailableandisundefeatedwiththeChiefs*cough).
To be fair, though, the coach whom I thought made the most sense for the Jaguars to take two off-seasons ago is the one whom the Jaguars will be facing this Sunday in St. Louis: Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher was such a perfect fit for the Jags at the time of his firing from the Titans after the 2011 season that it was sickening to see them pass up that golden opportunity.
Given the mediocre talent he has had to work with (especially at quarterback) throughout his coaching career, Jeff Fisher almost always fielded a respectable and successful team in the AFC South during the Peyton Manning era (when the Colts pretty much owned the division, save Fisher’s meddling Titans). He obviously knows the Jags division inside and out, and once even joked that, “Jacksonville is my other home field.” He would have been a natural, attainable fit for the Jaguars given our market size and, I mean, come on, the dude even rocks a mustache and a mullet in 2013. That is the very definition of bold.
This Sunday you will witness this first hand. Despite the deficiency in talent with which he was dealt, Fisher’s Rams are tightly coached and historically do not lose because of mistakes. Fisher-led teams generally do not beat—ehem, defeat—themselves, they usually must be out-talented. After taking over a historically horrific Rams team in arguably the toughest division in the NFL – the NFC West division – his Rams earned respect, even going 1-0-1 vs. the NFC Super Bowl representative 49ers last season. What I am saying here is this: don’t make the mistake of thinking in any way that this game is going to be an easy opportunity for the Jaguars to snag their first win. In fact, this game will present perhaps even a more difficult challenge because the Rams will not be taking the Jaguars for granted…and Fisher probably just gets a kick out of beating the hell out of them by now. The following week is in Denver, where the Broncos may be four touchdown favorites over our Jags by kickoff. IN summation, if the Jags don’t win this week vs. the Rams, they are staring at 0-6 upon their return to EverBank Field to face the rejuvenated San Diego Chargers.

Additional Jaguars news and notes…
· Mayor Alvin Brown, Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping, Gator Bowl Association President Rick Catlett and City Council members held a press conference (Wednesday, October 2nd) to make an announcement to the City of Jacksonville regarding the Jaguars. Rest your little teal hearts, Jaguars fans – it was not to announce that the Jaguars will be headed across the Atlantic aboard the half-gold, half-black colored USS Khan to become permanent residents of London. No, this meeting was all about the Benjamins. The Jaguars have tentatively agreed to “contribute” a cool $20 million towards stadium improvements (controversial scoreboard included). The City will pay its estimated $43 million share through existing revenue sources already being directed to the stadium. As to not affect local taxpayers, under Florida law, certain counties – including Duval County – have long charged a 2% tax on hotel guests to remodel, repair, improve, or maintain stadiums or other sports facilities.
· Earlier this week the Jaguars traded offensive tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens for multiple third day draft picks. It is probably smart that Caldwell is stocking up on picks for next year’s draft, and fellow Jacksonville sportswriter A.G. Gancarski pretty much summed this one up when he tweeted, “Sad that the Jags traded Monroe, but I reckon they can just put his jersey on a turnstile and get the same results.”
· The Jaguars have announced that they will officially induct quarterback Mark Brunell into the Pride of the Jaguars during the December 15th home game against the Buffalo Bills. He will join former Jaguars players Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor, as well as original team owner Wayne Weaver and his wife, Delores. Congrats, Mr. Brunell! Now, quick, get some pads on and get back on the field – we need you!
· Down in Tampa – The Josh Freeman debacle aside – the future doesn’t look quite as desperate and dark. Genius manager Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Texas Rangers in their one-game extra regular season one-and-done playoff game last Monday and will now move on to…a one-and-done Wild-Card playoff in Cleveland tonight against the Indians (the Major League Baseball playoff format is so screwy these days). From the Shadow of the Sunshine State, and from coast to coast, we wish good fortune to our Florida brothers!

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