By Nick Jones
As long as I can remember, the Jacksonville Jaguars have sucked. I still remember the bus rides to Landrum Middle School in the fall when I would unsuccessfully try to defend our team whenever someone made the obligatory “Jags Suck” remark. It was a guaranteed hit for anyone looking for some chuckles.
“Yeah dude we suck so bad”. I had always prided myself on sticking up for the home team, but as far as my chubby-faced friends were concerned, it wasn’t even up for discussion: We suck. No matter what excuses I would conjure up to explain our lack of success (dating back to 2007, when I was only 10), my Jags would let me down on Sunday every time.
As the years dwindled by, even I gave in to the joke. It seemed as if the players were striving to find new ways to botch games. I remember Leftwich getting run out of town, then Garrard fizzling out, then… the plague that was Blaine Gabbert descended upon Jacksonville. While not making the playoffs for a few years was a bummer, the Jags did not truly become a laughingstock until Blaine came. He was the perfect scapegoat for our ineptitude. I can still picture my dad and I laughing at the TV as Blaine flailed around in the pocket behind our miserable offensive line. This was peak Crappy Jags. MJD was cool and all, but for some reason we couldn’t get it together.
In 2012, the power duo of Gabbert & coach Mularkey posted a 2-14 record. And as a parting gift from much maligned GM Gene Smith, we selected Justin Blackmon as our first pick. He would go on to be the worst draft pick ever selected in the history of football. I continued to sarcastically tune in, but somehow things got worse.
It was clearly time for a change, so everything was flipped upside down from ownership down to the QB. Shad Khan and Dave Caldwell took the reins and proceeded to place the hopes of the franchise in the hands of Gus Bradley and Blake Bortles. All of the scouting checked out for both of these guys initially, but us poor Jags fans had no idea about the calamity brewing on the horizon. I blindly warned all of the bandwagon NFL fans at Nease High, “Watch out for my Jags, this Blake guy looks like the real deal. And we got Seattle’s DC!”
To this day, I am perplexed at how I managed to be so wrong. These men posted a 14-48 record from 2013 to 2016. And let me tell you, these were excruciating losses. There were two kinds of Jags game-plans that Bort and Gus concocted in the locker room before games. One was Garbage-Time Bort: get blown out from the start, then once all the fans leave in frustration, run up the numbers in the passing game. The alternative was Self-Imploding Bort: Keep it close and keep the fans on the edge of their recliners for 50 minutes, then make an inexplicably stupid mistake and have the game wrenched from our hands. I can still picture Blake valiantly marching the Jaguars down the field, only to spike the ball into Yeldon’s foot and watch haplessly as the Texans return it for the dagger pick-six. Everyone across Jacksonville groans in pain and numbly reaches for the remote, then carries on with their Sunday.
In all honestly, this year was looking like it was going to be more of the same Jaguars buffoonery. The turnstile that is Chad Henne almost supplanted our once-prized Bortles in the preseason, and the national media continued to laugh at us. However, in the midst of all this desolate mockery, Caldwell had been assembling a very impressive roster behind the scenes. We ousted the scourge of Gus Bradley and replaced it with Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin, and added some free agents for good measure. Regardless of these promising developments, none of us even ventured that the Jaguars would make a playoff run this season. When you have been subjected to a certain level of futility for 10 years, the idea of actually winning becomes inconceivable. After all, we have Blake Bortles, right? Turns out, all he needed was a little bit of faith from the city. Oh, and an offensive line.
The season has been a blur, but it feels like I blinked and now we’re 9-4 on top of the AFC South (which we have never won). I am still in disbelief, and frequently have to remind myself that this is actually happening. If
anyone had said prior to the season that in Week 14, the 8-4 Jaguars were going to be hosting a sold-out night game versus the 8-4 Seahawks, then proceed to stomp on them behind a 300 yard passing clinic from Beach Bar Bortles, I would have legitimately cracked up. But it’s actually happening, and our Jags are in contention for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
It turns out that good things happen when you hire management that is willing to put money into the organization, and a coach that is willing to put confidence in his quarterback. There’s no reason we can’t win the
Super Bowl, as hilarious as that sounds. Regardless, this season wouldn’t be as legendary as it’s shaping up to be if it wasn’t for the past 10 years of irrelevance. As long as I can remember, the Jags have not only been comically bad, but simply irrelevant. I remember watching SportsCenter or NFL Live, cursing the analysts who would routinely mock our abhorrent coaches and disastrous quarterbacks. Finally, we have a chance to make them take it back.
Nick Jones is a student at University of Florida and a Ponte Vedra Beach native. He’ll be attending the Jags game this Sunday, December 17, in hopes for a win against the Texans.