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Time for Khan to Address Jags Fans

Oct 12, 2015 -- 10:58am

We haven’t heard anything from Jaguars owner Shad Khan about his football team this season. Not a peep.

That could change Sunday after the bottom-sucking Jaguars play host to Houston.

It’s obvious to everyone that the Jaguars are a bad team, the most recent evidence being the 38-31 loss at Tampa Bay. And listening to talk radio and reading about the team give a strong indication the fans are fed up.

But how fed up? How many have already jumped ship? If Everbank Field is half empty to watch the Texans that will be a clear sign the problem is deep and serious.

For an owner, losing is bad, empty seats and fan apathy is worse.

I don’t think Khan is going to fire GM David Caldwell and/or Coach Gus Bradley, not just yet. But a half-empty stadium, likely will convince him it’s time to speak out and laid down some demands for his football team.

And what should those demands be? 6 victories? 7? 8?

Maybe it’s already too late for Caldwell and/or Bradley to save their jobs. Should they be viewed as a two-man team or individually?

We keep hearing how the Jaguars have far better individual talent than their 1-4 record would indicate. If that’s true, then Caldwell is doing his job: Providing the players. That scenario says Bradley and his staff aren’t developing the players and putting them in the right places.

But there’s a strong argument the Jaguars simply lack talent, and that falls on Caldwell. Clearly the Jaguars have drafted poorly, both BC (before Caldwell) and WC (with Caldwell), particularly at the top of the draft. A glance at the team’s first-rounders in recent years reveals such names Derrick Harvey, Justin Blackmon, Blaine Gabbert, Tyson Alualu and Luke Joeckel. They are total busts to backups to mediocre starters.

Caldwell has almost completely made over the bad roster he inherited but how much has he improved it in his third year? Free agents Toby Gerhart, guard Zane Beadles and tailback Bernard Pierce, for examples, look like bad signings.

If the situations doesn’t turn around quickly (that means win a couple of games before midseason), I’d hand Caldwell a pink slip and put Bradley on notice: six victories or goodbye. (That means winning five of the last 11 games.)

Why Caldwell? Because losing a GM in midseason is less disruptive to a team that losing a coach. GMs do their most important work during the offseason. 

Advice for the Jaguars

Oct 09, 2015 -- 9:40am

It has been my experience that losing fans complain more about play-calling than anything else. They’re convinced they are smarter than the coaches. And, of course, they sound smarter because they’re calling the plays after the fact. It’s that old “hindsight is 20-20” thing.

But how often can these armchair experts tell you what the defensive alignment was when the play was called?

I’ve seldom second-guessed the play-calling for that very reason. I don’t pretend to be smarter than the coaches.

But – and, yes, there’s a but – I do have some play-calling advice for the Jaguars: Please quit calling the “fade route” when you have the ball near the goal line.

Quarterback Blake Bortles can’t make the throw. Accuracy and touch aren’t Bortles’ strengths. He’s proven it time after time, particularly in last week’s 16-13 OT loss at Indianapolis.

And if he could throw it you’d think Marcedes Lewis would be the perfect target for such a pass. But making that play if one of many things the big tight end can’t do.

How many times do the Jaguars have to fail executing the “fade” before they try something else?

Since I’m obviously in the mood to offer free advice I’ll give the Jaguars an alternative to the “fade”.  

I suggest spreading out the offense and letting Bortles use his legs, moving left or right, while his receivers run crossing routes. Maybe Bortles can take it in himself. More likely he’ll have several options among the receivers.

It’s the kind of play you see mobile quarterbacks such as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Seattle’s Russell Wilson do almost every week.

I know Bortles isn’t in the same class as Rodgers and Wilson, but it’s worth a try – starting this Sunday at Tampa Bay. Anything is worth of try for a team that struggles scoring as much as the Jaguars.

Anything, in fact, would be better than seeing him throw another “fade” that lands closer to the stands than a receiver.

The 1-3 Jaguars are a 3-point underdog at Tampa Bay against the 1-3 Bucs. While this should be a game the Jaguars are capable of winning, I can’t make myself pick the Jaguars to beat anybody, particularly on the road. So my prediction is Bucs 17, Jaguars 13.  

FSU-Miami No Longer Must-See TV

Oct 07, 2015 -- 9:59am

Things I’ve been thinking about:

  • For nearly 20 years, starting in the mid-1980s, my favorite football game every game was FSU-Miami. As soon as one game ended I was looking forward to the next.

The build-up was always great and seldom did the game disappoint. FSU-Miami put the best college football had to offer on the field year after year. The game was truly a look at the NFL stars of tomorrow.

How times have changed. FSU and Miami play again this Saturday night in Tallahassee. I didn’t even realize that until earlier this week.

Now it’s just another ACC game, matching a title-contender in FSU against a middle-of-the-pack team in Miami. There’ll be a lot of future NFL players in the game, but few stars of tomorrow.

I always felt like a hypocrite watching the game. For years I ranted about how college football should demand higher academic and character standards for players. I knew most the players in this showcase game had no business taking up a classroom seat, but I found the game too delicious to ignore.

But then Miami cleaned up its act and  . . . well, now it’s just another game.  

  • If the Jaguars had taken advantage of all of their learning experiences they’d be geniuses by now.

Year after year, month after month, week after week and game after game I keep hearing the Jaguar coaches and players say after losing games that the experience provided learning opportunities.

“We’ll take what we learned from this and move on,” is a standard post-game quote.

Well, I’ve finally come to the obvious conclusion: No team in the NFL has learned how to lose by playing awful offense as well as the Jaguars. The numbers under the David Caldwell-Gus Bradley reign tell a simple story: 8-28 record and scoring fewer than 20 points 26 times.

The 16-13 OT loss at Indianapolis was, unfortunately for Jaguar fans, a typical autumn Sunday afternoon.

Why can’t the Jaguars score?

Sadly, there’s no simple answer. Everyone deserves his share of the blame. But apparently everyone has learned how to stay out of the end zone.

  • On the eve of the Major league Baseball playoffs Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia informed the team he was sick and would enter an alcohol rehab center immediately. The Yankees were understanding but stunned by the news.

Shame on Sabathia and the Yankees.

Sabathia’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Although he is no longer a top pitcher, he was being counted on in some small way. To wait this long to leave the team was selfish.

As for the Yankees, how could they not know of his problem? No group of athletes spends more time together than pro baseball players. If the Yankees didn’t know there was a problem it’s because they were blind to the obvious signs. Or maybe they did know but simply chose to ignore the signs.

Whatever, don’t look for Sabathia to ever pitch again in pinstripes or for any other MLB team.

Gators Make a Statement in Win vs. Ole Miss

Oct 05, 2015 -- 10:57am

Before you could say “Vernon Hargeaves” -- or even “Will Grier” -- the Gators are relevant again.

The victory against Tennessee was a game to remember. The bashing of Ole Miss was a statement.

Are the Gators already back among the elite? If not, how close are they? Road games the next two weeks will provide some of the answers.

What we do know is the defense is as strong as advertised; Coach Jim McElwain is making a huge difference; and Grier is closer to playing like a 5-star quarterback recruit than the skinny kid who showed up on the Gainesville campus 18 months ago.

Perhaps the biggest surprise – and the most obvious sign of improvement to come out of the Ole Miss game – is the offensive line. The fear was the offensive line would be dreadful. The reality is it thoroughly out played Ole Miss’ highly-touted defensive line.

You can excuse the Gators for being giddy. They have to go back six years to remember the last time they were taken seriously in championship talk. (I know they were 11-1 in 2012, but who thought that team was anywhere near being elite?)

When the Gators lifted the national championship trophy to conclude the ’09 they were on a 20-year run on being among the best programs in the country. Then Urban Meyer resigned, un-resigned and finally quit for real, all in about 12 months. That chaotic period was followed by the Will Muschamp Experiment.

McElwain inherited some talented individuals and a group of high-character young men, but there were gaping holes on the offensive side and apathy invading the fan base. And the hiring of McElwain from Colorado State didn’t inspire Gator Nation.

“Colorado State? Are you kidding me?” was the common response from many Gators.

Give McElwain credit for not most forcing his philosophy on his new team. The first-year coach sees Xs, not Os, when he dreams of football. But he knew defense was the strength of the team and he went with that, slowly working to improve the offense by putting players in better positions to win. Who knew Florida had any tight ends of their roster?

In the Ole Miss game everything came together.

The situation can change quickly, but for the here and now, as McElwain would say, it’s pretty cool to be a Gator -- again. 

Jaguars, Gators and Bulldogs all Skeptical

Oct 02, 2015 -- 9:22am

Jaguars fans are skeptical and ready to bail. Florida fans are skeptical and ready to celebrate. Georgia fans are skeptical, and there’s nothing new about that.

All three teams play games this weekend that could define their seasons.

The Jaguars are hoping to show some signs of life against the Colts after being embarrassed in New England. Another stinker in Indianapolis will be more than most Jaguars fans can take.

Few expect the Jaguars, a 9-point underdog, to win, but a respectable, competitive performance is a must if the Jaguars want to keep even their most loyal fans on board.

An offseason filled with promise has turned into the reality the Jaguars could be in for another miserable season. Year 3 of the David Caldwell-Gus Bradley regime looks a lot like the first two years. Where’s the improvement?

The 51-17 loss at Foxboro ranks with the worst in team history. Even though the Colts (1-2) have struggled out of the gate, QB Andrew Luck and Co. must be feeling good about their chances after watching film of the Jaguars against the Patriots.

The always upbeat Bradley says the Jaguars have had good practices and are ready for their next challenge. We’ve heard that before, many times in fact. Makes you wonder if Bradley knows what he’s talking about.

The Gators could prove this 4-0 start is meaningful if they defeat visiting Ole Miss, ranked third nationally after winning at Alabama.

Florida has started strong before only to see the team collapse. A 3-1 start last season turned into a 7-5 record. In 2013 the Gators were 4-1 and then lost their last seven games.

The big difference this year is first-year Coach Jim McElwain. He knows how to coach the offense and he isn’t afraid to call a downfield pass play. Now the questions are: Will QB Will Grier have time against Ole Miss’ fierce pass rush and, if he does, will he be accurate?

After Ole Miss the Gators play at Missouri, at LSU and Georgia. Florida needs to win two of those four to prove the program is headed in the right direction.

Georgia fans are convinced their Dawgs can’t win big games. A loss to visiting Alabama will only amp up that negative feeling.

No one can expect QB Greyson Lambert to be as outstanding as he was in the last two games, but if he’s anywhere near that effective this could be a special season for Georgia.

Of the three, I think UGA will be the only winner.

Kudos to McElwain and Papelbon

Sep 30, 2015 -- 9:17am

The No. 1 mantra in sports is publicly you always have your teammate’s back. Most coaches and players would rather take a stick in the eye than break the rule – no matter how egregious their teammate’s act is.

I agree you never publicly rip a teammate for a physical error or a mental lapse, but acts of selfish stupidity and showing up the game deserve no defense from anyone, including teammates.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to players say they had their teammates’ backs after those teammates had committed acts of violence or done something stupid and/or selfish to take themselves out of the lineup.

Nor can I remember many times when players have ever been called out for loafing or acting as if they were bigger than the game. I’m talking about such things as jogging to first base, not running hard on pass routes and making no effort on defense.

Well, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. In my world the above examples are obvious exceptions to the rule, and I happily report we recently witnessed a couple of them that were called out.

Kudos go to Florida Coach Jim McElwain and Washington closer Jonathan Papelbon.

McElwain earned my praise for tearing into Kelvin Taylor on the sideline, with TV cameras rolling, after Taylor gave the slash sign after scoring a 4th quarter TD against East Carolina. If more coaches did what McElwain did we’d have fewer such displays.

That Taylor’s stunt came in a close game and cost his team 15 precious yards made McElwain’s sideline tirade all the more appropriate. (Taylor, by the way, has been a better teammate since the incident.)

As for Papelbon, I certainly don’t defend him for turning the matter with teammate Bryce Harper into a dugout fight seen by the TV audience. But chewing out Harper for not hustling to first on a fly ball was totally justified and refreshing.

If players, especially stars such as Harper, knew they’d be called out by their teammates for a lack of effort, then maybe we’d feel better about the big bucks we pay to watch these prima donnas perform.   

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