Friday, October 4, 2013
Jaguars not interested in punch lines
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Just four weeks into the NFL season and the jokes already have begun about the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Not just among opposing fans, either. The Tonight Show's Jay Leno has popped them twice in the past few weeks, including this zinger:
While the Oneida Indian Nations wants the Washington Redskins to drop the name Redskins because they consider it a racial slur, the city of Jacksonville wants the Jaguars to stop using the name Jacksonville because they suck.
OK, admit it, you smiled. Even a Jaguars fan would admit that was kinda funny.
The best humor comes from real life, and unfortunately for the Jaguars that is the reality. They're not very good -- and that's putting it kindly. If you want to be insensitive, you could say they're terrible, awful, horrible, abysmal, dreadful, horrendous or appalling.
Possibly on a historical level, too. After just a month, the Jaguars are on pace to finish as one of the worst teams in NFL history. Since the 1970 merger, anyway, but that's still a span of more than 40 years. Forget the football experts' and analysts' predictions that the Jaguars will go 0-16 -- which is statistically unlikely since there have been only two teams that have gone winless since the merger -- the team could end up with some pretty dubious records, too.
WORST OF THE MODERN ERA
'13 Jaguars (through 4 games)
Points per game
Yards per game
Yards per play
Rush yards per game
Pass yards per game
In fact, if the team keeps up its current statistical pace, it'll fall somewhere between the 2008 Lions and 1976 Bucs, both of which failed to win a game and are generally recognized as the two worst teams in modern NFL history.
"I haven't heard that noise, but I try to stay away from the SportsCenters and whatnot like that because everybody's out to get a story," Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts said. "It doesn't affect me or bother me or whatnot. Of course, you don't want to hear it, but we're going to go out there and prepare for St. Louis and prepare to win. We're not worried about what people are going to say about comparing us to whoever. We're 0-4 right now. There's 12 games left. So we've got 12 games to improve and compete and get better. That's just what it is."
The 1976 Bucs and 2008 Lions were winless, but the Bucs at least had a legitimate excuse: They were an expansion team.
Tampa Bay didn't score a point until the third game and didn't score a touchdown until the fourth and ended up getting shut out five times. The Bucs never scored more than 20 points in any game and averaged just 8.9 points and 214.7 total yards per game. That remains the fifth-lowest scoring average (the '77 Bucs own the record at 7.4) and sixth-lowest yardage total since the merger.
The 0-4 Jaguars have been the butt of jokes this season and are on pace to be one of the NFL's most historically bad teams.
The Lions were better, but they still finished last in the NFL in total defense and allowed a league-worst 444 points. They lost their home games by an average of 22 points. They had significantly better players than the Bucs, though. Kevin Smith ran for 976 yards and Calvin Johnson exploded in his second NFL season with 78 catches for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns.
By comparison, the Jaguars are averaging 7.8 points per game (the second-lowest total should it hold up), 49.0 yards per game rushing (would be the second-lowest average in the NFL since 2001) and 224.0 total yards per game.
They've been outscored 78-5 in the first half and have scored only five points in two home games.
Granted, this was supposed to be Year 1 of new general manager Dave Caldwell and new coach Gus Bradley's three-year rebuild, but things weren't supposed to be this bad.
Until the team traded left tackle Eugene Monroe this week, the offensive line was made up of four of the five players who blocked for Maurice Jones-Drew when he led the NFL in rushing in 2011. The team signed five unrestricted free agents, including linebacker Geno Hayes, running back Justin Forsett and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. The Jaguars drafted Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 overall pick and also took four defensive backs to help construct the same defense that Bradley helped build as Seattle's defensive coordinator.
But injuries (tight end Marcedes Lewis, in particular), the suspension of No. 1 receiver Justin Blackmon and age have hurt the Jaguars and started comparisons to the Bucs and Lions.
"There's a lot of people who have a lot of opinions, but a lot of those people have never been in our positions, so how could they understand what's going on here?," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "How could they understand what the vision is here? I don't pay attention to it. It has no effect on me."
Q: How many Jacksonville Jaguars does it take to change a tire?
A: One, unless it's a blowout, in which case they all show up.
JAGUARS CHANCES REST OF WAY
Jaguars team writer Michael DiRocco puts a percentage on the team's chances of winning each of their final 12 games.
at St. Louis
How poorly are the Jaguars regarded? They opened as a 12.5-point underdog to the 1-3 St. Louis Rams, the only team in the NFL that is running the ball worse than the Jaguars.
But as bad as that is, it's only going to be worse next week. The Jaguars play at Denver, and there's already speculation that the line will be the biggest in NFL history (two-time defending Super Bowl champ Pittsburgh was a 24-point favorite over those '76 Bucs). As potent as the Broncos' offense has been, it could even approach 30.
Based on the fact that the Seahawks covered the 19-point spread over the Jaguars in a 45-17 Week 3 victory, there's going to be a boatload of people who bet on the Broncos.
"Let's be generous and say 99.9 percent of those people have never put on pads at this level before," Jones-Drew said. "It's easy to say certain things and write things but if you've never been through this and understand what it's like to learn how to win and to do certain things and compete at a high level, then it's easy to write teams off. Obviously, next week is next week. We can't really worry about that right now because we have a lot to fix this week getting ready for St. Louis. We've got to do our best job to keep our defense off the field. They've been on the field way too much. We've got to continue to work on that and that's what we'll be doing."
Q: What do the Jacksonville Jaguars and possums have in common?
A: Both play dead at home and get killed on the road.
Here's the most amazing thing about the 2013 season for Lewis. It can't be worse than 2012. Even if the Jaguars go 0-16, he said last season will still be the worst he's ever experienced.
That's right. He'd put 0-16 ahead of 2-14, which included a new coaching staff that lasted just one season before new owner Shad Khan cleaned house.
"Just the feel of that was totally different," he said. "Within the building, on the field, practicing, it wasn't fun. For me, the fun for the game was snatched right out of me. It's just different in that aspect. Aside from Sunday and winning games, you have to enjoy what you do.