JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For the first time in his tenure as the Jaguars Head Coach, Mike Mularkey got a little testy in his post-game press conference. His team had just lost 31-14, and trailed 24-0 at one point. The first half, by Mularkey's description was "pathetic" when it came to offensive production. "three and outs don't get the job done," Mularkey said in his opening statement. "Was there a lack of effort," one reporter asked. "Absolutely not," Mularkey quickly responded. "That wasn't it and it wouldn't be acceptable here at any time. The execution just wasn't there."
After answering a question on a different part of the game, Mularkey was again queried by a scribe about his team's effort. "So let me be clear, you're saying it wasn't a lack of effort," a scribe intoned all-knowingly. "That's exactly what I'm saying," Mularkey alertly answered with a wave of the hand and an edge in his voice. "And don't ask me that again," he finished.
I'm sure it's frustrating and disappointing to put the time and effort into coaching and not get the results that can be expected. And I'm sure when Mularkey took this job he knew it would be tough. And maybe it's even tougher than he thought. But I'll give him credit through this stretch of the process, he's always been honest. When you ask him a question, he gives you an answer. He doesn't fudge, he doesn't give any kind of platitude, and he gives an honest answer. So to challenge him on an answer is silly, and overblown. He said it's not a lack of effort, so since he's never lied before, take him at his word.
So where's that leave us?
Obviously the execution isn't there with any consistency. The Jaguars are trying to overcome the opponent and sometimes that opponent includes themselves. Dropped passes, blown coverages, bad tackling, wrong reads. All of those factor into getting you beat seven times in eight games. It's not hard to envision Mularkey's statement about the first half of the season in real terms. They're one play away from being 0-8: They're three plays away from being 4-4.
While the first half of the year has been a disaster on the scoreboard, the Jaguars have shown improvement and enough flash to get the job done. But it's also easy to see that they're undermanned and sometimes overwhelmed when they try to match their roster against the opposing team. They're not in a position to make mistakes and beat the Bears, Lions, Texans, or Packers. But against Minnesota, Indy, Oakland and Cincinnati they had their chances. So looking at the second half of the season, eight games, what's realistic with the players on the roster, the injuries they've suffered and the flashes they've shown? Thursday's game against Indy is certainly winnable. Two games vs. a depleted Tennessee team could be wins. Buffalo is struggling. The Jets aren't tearing it up and although Miami has shown flashes, they're beatable. Leaving New England and Houston as the only heavy favorites against the Jaguars.
Based on what we've seen the first half of the year, going 5-3 is probably unrealistic but not un-attainable. It's something to shoot for, to turn it around and get respectable. Especially in your own eyes.
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