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What Constitutes "Success" for Jags in 2014?

Jul 31, 2014 -- 10:04am

What do the Jaguars have to do on the field this season to keep the buzz alive?

Anything close to a break-even season would be remarkable for such a young and inexperienced group of players who remain short on proven talent.

What if the Jaguars simply match last season’s 4-12 record? Would a mere one-game improvement be enough for the fans? What if the team’s record is worse?

From my perspective, the fans should be satisfied with the 2014 Jaguars if they’re competitive week in and week out, regardless of their record.

I’m talking about being in a position to win midway through the fourth quarter of games.

I’m talking about knowing your offense and defense are capable of making winning plays late in games. How long has it been since you felt confident the Jaguars’ offense would take the ball down the field   and score at crunch time; that your quarterback would make the tough throw on third down or your wide receiver would make the circus catch or your running back would break a tackle and see daylight? How long has it been since you felt confident the Jaguars’ defense would make the keys stops with the game on the line?

I’m talking about eliminating the embarrassing 30-point losses, the losses that made the Jaguars the punch line of NFL pundits’ jokes?

I know losing gets old fast and I realize fans already have tolerated a lot. Going 6-26 the last two seasons would severely test any fan base -- not to mention 11-37 the last three seasons and six straight non-winning seasons (35-65).

But my advice to the fans is give the Jaguars one more season before losing the buzz and demanding victories. 

Shelly Meyer and Ace Sanders

Jul 30, 2014 -- 1:53pm

The tales of two one-eyed Jacks . . .

  • Shelley Meyer doesn’t understand why so many Gator fans dislike her husband, who coached Florida to two national championships during his six-year visit to Gainesville before bolting for Ohio State?

Really? Is it possible Urban’s wife really doesn’t know why his teams rated so high and he rated so low?

Let me enlighten her.

Based on my experience with Meyer I found him to be disingenuous, vain, standoffish, uncaring about the truth and, in general, a jerk. He was the ultimate one-eyed Jack, but by the end of his Florida run most Gators had seen the other side of his face.

He no more connected emotionally with the Gator Nation than Bobby Bowden or Vince Dooley. His departure from Florida was an 18-month soap opera wrapped in misinformation and confusion. He left the program short on talent but long on bad people.

Oh, the man can coach. I’ll give him that but nothing else.

  • There’s a lot of head scratching about Ace Sanders story.

Comments about the Jaguars 2nd-year wide receiver always include “He seems like such a nice kid”. And you know the Jaguars researched his character looking for red signs, none of which were found.

As a rookie he played reasonably well and did so with enthusiasm and a smile.

So what happened? How did no one see he had a problem with whatever he has a problem with that landed him a four-game suspension?

Truth is the teams and certainly not the fans and media know these guys. And even the ones that are, indeed, “good kids” are likely to change, for good or bad, once they’ve got more money in their pockets and less supervision than they’ve ever had.

Temptation is a powerful drug itself. Combine it with opportunity and nothing should surprise us.

Good Ole Days Back in Jacksonville

Jul 29, 2014 -- 9:01am

It feels like the 1990s again around the Jaguars.

You only have to attend one practice session to see and feel it. If you were among the 50,000-plus people at Everbank Field last Saturday night you certainly felt it.

There’s a buzz and it starts with the owner, Shad Khan. At practice there’s Khan bouncing around with the fans, posing for pictures, signing autographs and probably kissing babies. At Saturday’s mega event Khan said he felt like he’d taken a “selfie” with all in attendance – quickly adding if he’d missed anyone he gladly pose with them, too.  

The players are smiling and actually act as if they enjoy signing autographs and mingling with the fans. They’re not just signing autographs. They’re looking fans in the eye and talking to them.

Coach Gus Bradley is the Energizer Bunny come to life. GM David Caldwell is everywhere unlike his predecessor, Gene Smith, who seldom emerged from whatever cave he lived in.

Another major difference between the Jaguars of 2000-2010 and the current Jaguars is these Jaguars are actually trying to earn your business instead of playing the “guilt trip card” by telling you it was “your job” to support the franchise. Credit President Mark Lamping for this refreshing and accurate approach.

Everywhere I go people are talking positively about the Jaguars, which is pretty remarkable because they’ve won only six of their last 32 games.

All signs are pointing up.

How long can this manufactured excitement last until the fans demand victories? The Jaguars hope one more season.

What to Look for at Training Camp

Jul 24, 2014 -- 1:23pm

Here are 10 things I expect to see in the Jaguars training camp (and a quick observation about each):

  • QB Chad Henne, traditionally a bad practice player, will shine. (I’m not saying he’ll be another Rich Gannon, who blossomed late in his career into a Pro Bowler, but I expect him to play his best football.)
  • DL Tyson Alualu will get cut and join the list of first-round draft busts under former GMs Shack Harris and Gene Smith. (I’m still shaking my head about why Smith took him 10th overall in the 2010 draft. He’d have been a good third-rounder.) 
  • RB Denard Robinson will be the talk of camp, this time for how well he performs. (He has the talent to be a superb third-down back with his quickness, speed, ability to catch the ball and, no small point, his ability to throw the ball.)
  • GM David Caldwell will frantically be checking the waiver wire for linebackers as the end of camp nears. (LaRoy Reynolds is a wild card in this group but overall it simply lacks anything close to a playmaker.)
  • DE Andre Branch will finally figure out how to be a consistently good pass rusher. (Late blooming pass rusher are commonplace because getting to the quarterback is about technique, not raw physical ability).
  • TE Marcedes Lewis will go through his usual “nagging little injuries” and sit out half of the practice sessions. (I’m not a Lewis fan. I put him among the NFL’s biggest underachievers and that’s because I think he’s lazy, mentally and physically.)
  • Rookie WR Allan Robinson will outperform the team’s other second-round pick, WR Marquis Lee. (He has a size advantage and runs better routes.)
  • Retired center Brad Meester will be missed. (If the Jaguars thought Mike Brewster was the answer they wouldn’t have made some a huge offer to Cleveland’s Alex Mack.)
  • MJD will not be missed. (I have high hopes for Toby Gerhart with help from Robinson and Jordan Todman.)
  • Justin Blackmon will be missing, and now he will stay missing. 

McIlroy not in Nicklaus or Tiger Class Yet

Jul 21, 2014 -- 3:45pm

Let’s not anoint Rory McIlroy as the next Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods quite yet.

The world is full of people with great talent in all walks of life, and even more with potentially great talent. The difference between the all-time greats and the rest is whatever it is that drives men and women to succeed after they’ve acquired fame and unimagined wealth.

McIlroy had established his great talent even before winning the British Open. He had climbed to the top of the mountain and then did what most people who reach the peak do: He slipped back down into the world of the very-good-but-not-great crowd.

Will he stay on top this time? Did he learn from his previous fall? Is he content with his fame and wealth?

The truly all-time greats in sports – such people as Nicklaus, Hank Aaron and Michael Jordan – never tired of winning until their bodies betrayed them or their minds went elsewhere.

It’s too early to put McIlroy in that class.

It is a cliché to explain an athlete’s greatness by saying he or she has “it” but regardless of how trite the expression is it also happens to be true. And for me there I no mystery what “it” is.

Simply, it is the continued drive for winning that produces the greatest of the great; it’s not being satisfied with victories already won, money already made and fame already acquired.

It drove Nicklaus to win a Masters at age 46. It kept Tiger going until his body broke down. It pushed Jordan to keep grinding after he was already declared the best of all-time.

It spurred Aaron to work like a rookie during the offseason long after his hall-of-fame status was secure. It kept Pete Rose hustling until the day he retired in his mid-40s.

The great Walter Peyton ran up mountains dragging a giant truck tire in April “after” he became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. It is what keeps Peyton Manning and Tom Brady working on improving at their craft even now.

By contrast, I’ll share with you a story about the late Jim “Catfish” Hunter, the first baseball player to receive a mega signing bonus. I asked him a year after the Yankees gave him $1½ million (indeed, a mega amount at the time) how the money had changed him.

“Now when I wake up early on a January morning to run and see it’s rainy and cold,” he answered, “I tend to roll back over and say, ‘What the hell? I’ll run tomorrow.’ “

Will Rory start “rolling back over” or will he get out of bed and go hit balls? 

A Full Appreciation for the British Open

Jul 14, 2014 -- 9:08am

I appreciate the British Open more every year. What changed my mind more than anything was finally going to the United Kingdom and Ireland and seeing first-hand what the courses in that part of the world looked like and how differently they played.

Like most Americans, I suspect, I was impressed with the “raw look” once I got over my initial shock of thinking, “These courses look like cow pastures.”

This week’s Open at Royal Liverpool promises to be a good one.

It marks Tiger Woods’ “real” return following back surgery. Woods, by the way, won the last time the Open was played on Royal Liverpool in 2006. I realize much of the shine is gone from Tiger’s game, but he’s still my pick to win.

Phil Mickelson is defending. Rory McIlroy is trying to prove he’s as great as advertised. Adam Scott is trying to justify being the No. 1 player in the world and heal old wounds he suffered at the Open.

But I’ll be pulling for golf’s most unusual character Argentina’s Angel Cabrera.

It’s easy to forget about Cabrera. He got my attention a week ago when he won The Greenbrier Open, his first regular PGA Tour victory. That, of course, reminded me how he also won a Masters and a U.S. Open.

He’s 44 and has been playing for a long time, if not that often. He swings at the ball like he’s trying to kill a rattlesnake but few hit it more solidly or past him. He doesn’t speak much English so you seldom see him on SportsCenter or The Golf Channel.

Some consider him an underachiever because he hasn’t won more often. I think he may be the sport’s greatest overachiever when you consider he grew up dirt poor in a country where only the rich play golf. He started as a caddie and never took a lesson.

He’d still just as soon play in a small tournament in Argentina as a PGA or European Tour event.

If he wins his third major and joins the rarified air on golf’s all-time great I imagine he’ll celebrate by drinking a lot of beer.

If he doesn’t win he’ll probably still drink a lot of beer and simply celebrate life in general.

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