The 2017 National Football League season saw the Jacksonville Jaguars end a playoff drought which dated back to 2007. The Jaguars were able to win the AFC South for the first time in franchise history, while they were also able to advance to the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars were able to make their postseason run due to their power running attack as well as their stingy defense that was full of young and athletic play makers. And as the Jags gave the New England Patriots all that they could handle in the AFC Championship Game, there were many observers who felt that they could build off of that in order to win it all in 2018. However the Jaguars have been one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments this season, while there also appears to be no end in sight for their struggles.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Jacksonville’s record is 3-7. The Jaguars have lost their last six games, and they keep finding ways to come up on the short end of the stick.
Week Five saw the Jags lose by 16 points to the Kansas City Chiefs, while they were destroyed by the Dallas Cowboys 40-7 in Week Six. It has not gotten any better since then for Jacksonville as each week as has seen then find a new way to lose a game, but their toughest and most grueling occurred at home this past Sunday.
Through three quarters of football, the Jags were having their way with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jacksonville had built a 16-0 lead which included the Jaguars outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey intercepting Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice. The Jaguars appeared to be in complete control of the game, but after 60 minutes of football, they went to the dressing room on the short end of the stick.
The Jags were never able to put the Steelers away, and eventually Roethlisberger would get into his rhythm as Pittsburgh began to find pay dirt. And with Jacksonville’s offense stuck in the mud, their defensive damn broke as the Steelers and Roethlisberger stunned them for the go-ahead score with only 5 second remaining in the contest as this appears to be another lost season in Duval County.
Coming into this season the Jags may have had themselves a championship defense, but it is extremely hard to win the National Football League when you do not have good play at the quarterback position. For the past five years the Jaguars have relied on Blake Bortles to win games for them as their starting quarterback. Bortles was the third overall pick of the 2014 National Football League Draft, but he has never been able to assert himself as a guy that could put this offense on his back. Bortles’ career mark as a starting quarterback is 24-47, while he only has a career completion percentage of 59.4%. And after Jacksonville’s playoff loss last season, it was quite apparent that the team needed an upgrade at the quarterback, but instead they’ve stuck with Bortles and they are paying for it.
This past off-season Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin decided to give Bortles a three-year extension for $54 million. Jacksonville did this instead of taking a flyer on veteran free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who was taken in the same draft class as Bortles, or talking to the Baltimore Ravens in regards to acquiring veteran quarterback Joe Flacco who has become expendable after the Ravens used a first-round pick this year on quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coughlin could have also reached out to the New York Giants to find out about the availability of quarterback Eli Manning as these two men had tremendous success together which included winning a pair of Super Bowl Titles. But instead Jacksonville decided to roll the dice on Bortles and have come up snake eyes.
The Jaguars window to win was this season as unfortunately for their sake it appears to have closed. The Houston Texans appear to be real deal in the AFC South now that they have a healthy Deshaun Watson at quarterback, while the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts each appear to be improving franchises which leaves Jacksonville on the outside looking in for the top spot in the AFC South.
Bortles is not the guy at quarterback for the Jaguars, and he will never be for them or any other National Football League franchise. The Jags lost the AFC Championship Game last season due to the fact that when they had the Patriots on the ropes, head coach Doug Marrone didn’t trust Bortles with the football in his hands which led to conservative play calling, and the rest is history. This was evident once again this past Sunday versus the Steelers as with Jacksonville nursing a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Marrone called for three straight running plays into the mouth of Pittsburgh’s defense. And although that the Steelers were stacking the box in order to stop the run, Bortles and Marrone never decided to audible to a passing play.
In watching these Jaguars, they are eerily similar to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the late 1990’s under head coach Tony Dungy. Those Bucs consistently had one of the top defenses in the NFL, but it didn’t mean a thing as their offense consistently struggled to score. These Jags do not have the shutdown power of those Buccaneers on defense, and when they can no longer stop opposing offenses, Marrone might as well throw in the towel.
So now at 3-7, this season has become a lost cause for the Jaguars. They are stuck with a quarterback who cannot get it down as he heads an offense that is 21st in the National Football League in total offense. The Jags are fourth in the NFL in total defense, but they don’t have the swagger that they did last season which also led to defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. being traded to the Los Angeles Rams a few weeks ago. And for the outspoken Ramsey, he has been forced to eat humble pie as aside from being torched by some of the top wide receivers in the NFL, it is hard for him to talk smack if you’re not winning games due to the fact that you are relying on Bortles to win.
Like the old saying goes, “talk is cheap” as it takes more than just poking out your chest to call yourself a champion. The Jaguars began this season as most people’s “flavor of the month”, but they are about to be taken off of the shelves as their expiration date is past due.