There is a harsh reality for Jaguars fans to face. One could argue it’s an even harsher reality than the Jaguars’ 38-90 record since Shad Khan purchased the franchise prior to the 2012 season.
It’s the reality that the hated Tennessee Titans are everything the Jaguars wanted to be.
The Tennessee Titans find themselves just one win from the Super Bowl after upsetting both New England and Baltimore on the road; they have done so in very Jacksonville Jaguar style – or at least the style the Jags aspire to.
Ever since Doug Marrone was brought in to be the head coach and Tom Coughlin to be the senior vice president of football operations following the 2016 season, the Jaguars have preached that they were going to be a tough, physical team.
Under Marrone, Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell the Jaguars drafted Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor along the offensive line. They paid big money for offensive guard Andrew Norwell in free agency. They drafted running back Leonard Fournette in the top five of the 2017 NFL draft.
Defensively, the Jaguars used a first-round pick on defensive tackle Taven Bryan and spent big money to go out and get both Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell, Dareus via trade and Campbell via free agency.
There is no doubt by the moves that were made along both lines of scrimmage that the Jaguars wanted to be the toughest team in the league; the problem is they’re not the toughest team in the own division.
The Titans are doing exactly what the Jaguars had envisioned. Tennessee beat up the Patriots and the Ravens.
Tennessee invested heavily along the offensive line in recent years. They drafted offensive tackles Taylor Lewan in the first-round of 2014 and offensive tackle Jack Conklin in the first-round of the 2016 NFL draft. Tennessee also spent money to go out in free agency and sign offensive guard Roger Saffold prior to the 2019 season.
Running back Fournette has been good in two of his three seasons in Jacksonville, but Titans tailback Derrick Henry, a second-round pick in 2016, won the rushing title and is currently taking the league by storm, completely overshadowing what Fournette did here in 2019.
Defensively, Titans rookie defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons is everything the Jaguars thought they were getting in Bryan. You could already say that Simmons has had as much of an impact for Tennessee in nine career games as Bryan has had here in Jacksonville in two full seasons.
The Titans have also drafted and acquired young playmakers in their secondary and at linebacker, something Jacksonville has tried to do with spotty results.
Then there is the obvious issue at quarterback. Both Tennessee and Jacksonville have drafted first-round busts in recent years. Marcus Mariota for the Titans and Blake Bortles for the Jaguars.
Tennessee realized it made a mistake with Mariota, but didn’t compound the mistake by signing him to an extension. Jacksonville, on the other hand, gave Bortles an extension, then realized it made a mistake, but only after giving him $26 million.
Tennessee brought in former first-round pick Ryan Tannehill to compete with Mariota, ultimately taking the job from him.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, while still paying off Bortles’ contract, signs quarterback Nick Foles to an $88 million deal, $50 million of which is guaranteed. Foles gets hurt 10 plays into the 2019 season and was never the same afterwards.
When it’s laid out in front of you, it’s truly amazing how well the Titans have done in hitting on draft picks and free agent acquisitions and how poorly the same has gone here in Jacksonville.
That is why Tennessee is playing for the AFC title this weekend, while Jacksonville is picking in the top 10 of the draft yet again.
Most Jacksonville fans hate Tennessee with good reason. The Titans have caused the Jaguars a lot of pain and misery over the years.
But maybe, just maybe, the hatred for Tennessee now is because the Titans are everything the Jaguars wanted to be.
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreen1010XL)