The only thing left to play for is pride.
After Sunday’s disaster in Nashville, it’s fair to wonder if there’s much of that left on the Jaguars.
In a must-win game to stay in a crowded pack for a wildcard spot, the Jaguars were as bad as they’d been all season in a 42-20 blowout to Tennessee. That loss and how it played out almost certainly sets the stage for an organizational overhaul.
“I can’t speak for all the other head coaches, but I don’t worry about it. It is what it is, and if you don’t win you will always have a chance to get fired, and if you win, still have a chance to get fired if you don’t win well enough,” said Jaguars coach Doug Marrone. “So, you just work your butt off and it’s up to other people to handle that. I just leave it up to them. What I am going put my time in (to), is how we can coach them better and how we can play better.”
It’s more likely a question on when, not if, owner Shad Khan wants to start that undertaking. The Jaguars’ performance over the past month likely warrants that changes are coming at some point. Jacksonville was crushed by Houston (26-3) and taken apart by the Colts (33-13). The one-sided loss to the Titans completed the trifecta.
The Jaguars just aren’t able to take the next step.
The defense was abysmal again, unable to control quarterback Ryan Tannehill and bruising running back Derrick Henry.
Tannehill was nearly perfect passing against the Jaguars (14 of 18, 259 yards, 2 TDs) and added a pair of rushing touchdowns. Henry, the former Yulee High School star, added another highlight to his tape against the Jaguars, ripping off a 74-yarder in the decisive third quarter. Henry had a 99-yarder last year against the Jaguars.
“It was similar,” Henry said of Sunday’s run compared to his 99-yarder. “I was trying to keep them away. I kept trying stay in bounds and keep moving down the field, and it worked again.”
Nick Foles did more in his second game back from injured reserve than he did against the Colts last week, but was still unable to get Jacksonville going when it mattered. Most of Foles’ work came playing back from a 35-3 deficit. He finished 32 of 48 passing for 272 yards and no touchdowns.
Leonard Fournette had a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Jaguars and finished with 97 yards rushing on 24 carries.
At 4-7, Jacksonville is almost certainly playing for the future, not what it envisioned when it started the year with an $88 million franchise quarterback in Foles and an elite defense returning.
Things have been uneven and flat out bad at times this season, but the Jaguars still had a pulse entering Sunday’s game. That was erased in the second half.
“You can’t live in fear of losing your job, fear of what people are going to say,” Foles said. “We’re ultimately in a game in the limelight where we’re going to be criticized. You do really well, you’re going to be praised.
"You do really bad, you’re going to be ridiculed. That’s part of it. That’s why I always try to tell young players, ‘Don’t read the articles,’ and that’s, once again, nothing against you all. That is your job, just like my job is to continue to help this team and continue to build this character.”
The microcosm of the Jaguars’ season came in a disastrous third quarter, when every issue that they’d had throughout the year surfaced.
Especially on defense, a unit that has struggled to stop the run, and at times, tackle in the open field.
The Titans scored a staggering 28 points, including a pair of Henry touchdowns that were separated by just 16 seconds. Henry had a 74-yard touchdown run and a 7-yard run, with a Jaguars lost fumble on a kickoff in between. Henry finished with 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 19 carries.
Tannehill had two touchdown passes in that quarter, a 1-yarder to Dennis Kelly and a 65-yarder to A.J. Brown, the latter putting Tennessee in front 35-3.