Let's brush aside the mania for just a few minutes and give some careful and considered thought to the evolution of the Jaguars in the Jack Del Rio era of the team's history.
To what does "mania" refer? Well, to the hotly-debated topic of the Jaguars offense, of course. The whole town is consumed by it. You can't go anywhere without being engaged in conversation about it. When will the first-team offense begin scoring touchdowns? How much longer can this be tolerated?
OK, let's begin with this: The Jaguars are built on strong defense. Don't kid yourself. This is Baltimore south, folks. We're talking about a team with a head coach who is a former linebacker who then became a linebacker coach before graduating to the rank of defensive coordinator. Do you see the word "offense" in there anywhere?
Somehow, and I don't know how, all of that got lost in the hype that accompanied his hiring. Why did fans see Del Rio as some kind of "riverboat gambler?" He's a pro football traditionalist. He believes in the importance of winning the battle of the hitting. He ascribes to the virtues of that time-honored philosophy of "run the ball, stop the run."
Del Rio has said on several occasions he wants a high-powered offense, and I believe that to be true, but I also believe he's not going to compromise his commitment to sound, physical football just for the sake of scoring a lot of points his team couldn't defend. That is not a formula for victory.
The Jaguars have a very logical philosophy for building their team. It's real simple: Use the least expensive venue for player acquisition, the draft, to acquire talent at the most expensive positions.
All of the Jaguars' pricey free-agent acquisitions have been on the defensive side of the ball: Hugh Douglas, Mike Peterson, Reggie Hayward, Deon Grant.
Now look at the offensive side of the ball. Byron Leftwich, Reggie Williams and Matt Jones represent the Jaguars' last three first-round picks. In fact, only three players on the starting offense are not products of the Jaguars drafts. Jimmy Smith, of course, came to the Jaguars as a "street free agent" in the team's inaugural season, and tight end Kyle Brady and guard Chris Naeole were signed in free agency by Tom Coughlin.
Offense is the expensive side of the ball. If you're going to build your offense in free agency, you are not going to have enough money to spread around on the other side of the ball. In fact, that was one of the causes of the Jaguars' legendary salary cap problems of Coughlin's final years. Brady was an expensive acquisition, as was Leon Searcy and Zach Wiegert, and even though Keenan McCardell was originally affordable, that circumstance changed quickly.
Had the Jaguars signed a Derrick Mason, a Plaxico Burress, a Muhsin Muhammad, a Lamont Jordan, a Jonas Jennings this past offseason, the team's salary cap would've taken a major hit. Instead, the Jaguars' philosophy is to grow the offense patiently and affordably with young, developing players whose contracts the team can carefully monitor.
Those players, young draft choices such as Leftwich, Williams, Greg Jones, Matt Jones, Vince Manuwai, LaBrandon Toefield, George Wrighster, Ernest Wilford, Khalif Barnes, Alvin Pearman and Chad Owens represent the core of the Jaguars offenses of the future. They will develop and mature at a measured pace and the Jaguars offense will evolve accordingly. Del Rio would call it a "young team on the rise."
Do you believe that? Do you believe that this is a young team on the rise? More importantly, do you believe this is a young offense on the rise? If you do, do you have the patience to allow the evolution? As that evolution is occurring, the plan is to win games with defense.
Frankly, I just don't see the flaw in any of this. It all makes sense to me.