Jaguars on the verge or more of the same?
Jaguars haven't made postseason since 2007
Tampa, Fla. – With a body of work spanning over 20 years, the Jaguars franchise doesn't have much to speak of when it comes to success on the field. Fans of the team from the beginning hold onto the successful playoff runs in '96 and '99 but that's nearly a generation ago. A road win in Pittsburgh in 2007 was the last victory in the post-season and the Jaguars last appearance in the playoffs.
So while it appears General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley have them headed in the right direction, there's no tangible, tactile proof, in other words wins, that would bear that out.
Owner Shad Khan has a distinct style when it comes to running his businesses. He acquires the company, looks it over, assesses what the management team is up to and makes decisions based on their success. He did that when he bought the Jaguars, letting Gene Smith run the team, hire Mike Mularkey and show what the franchise was all about.
"I hire the best people," Khan told me after his first year of ownership. "Whomever is the best, that's who I'm looking for."
So when the Jaguars went 2-14 after that first year, Khan decided to make some changes. "I was told that if we signed a defensive back and a wide receiver (Aaron Ross and Jerry Porter) and re-signed the defensive lineman (Jeremy Mincey) we'd be competitive in the division. And what did I get? Two wins. I knew we needed to make a change."
That's when Caldwell and Bradley got their chance. Since then through 36 games the Jaguars have 8 wins. Are they on the verge of changing the history of the franchise or is it just more of the same?
"Sometimes it looks like you expect it to look and other times, it's not there," Bradley said this week. He talks a lot about precision and consistency, neither of which have been hallmarks of the 2015 team.
Quarterback Blake Bortles talked this week about cleaning up the details, staying focused for 4 quarters. "Everything else is kinda in place. The one more improvement is to win." Scoring points and winning the game is the whole point of playing. Bortles believes everything is in place to take the next step."Our numbers are good except for offensive scoring. We're throwing the ball and running the ball well. We just need to finish drives."
That's the optimistic view any team wants their quarterback to have but is it realistic? Are the Jaguars at the point that if they perform to their own capabilities and cut out the mistakes they'll start winning?
"We are," Ryan Davis said in Tampa as the team finished up their preparation for the Bucs. "Guys can make plays. We have the talent. We see it every week."
Last week's loss to Indianapolis was confusing and disappointing to everybody, including Gus Bradley. Many fans said it was the last straw in breaking their support.
But not for everybody.
As many as 3,000 Jaguars fans have followed the team to Tampa. Some as part of fan organizations, others just because, as they explained, they're fans.
"I think we're a good team and the season is about to turn around," Murray Rubin from Jacksonville said in the lobby of the team hotel. Rubin and his wife Nadine made the trip to Tampa on Friday with two other couples and will stay through Monday supporting the Jaguars. "Not us," Nadine said when I asked if they were about to give up after last week. "It was heartbreaking but we just need to anticipate what's going to happen on the field and we'll be alright." Every fan has their opinion but the Rubin's, sporting their Jaguars gear proudly, believe the team's fortune is about to change. "Our season is going to just fine."
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