SEATTLE--The coach was angry. That was no surprise.
"It won't be a very good bye week. You want to feel good about yourself in the bye week. We ended that opportunity today," Tom Coughlin said following the Jaguars' 24-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.
These are the worst of times for this football team. It is reeling from a rash of early-season injuries that have decimated its upper-most ranks. It has all of a sudden lost the confidence it built in season-opening wins over Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Now, as they head into their week of "rest" before beginning a rugged middle-of-the-season grind, the Jaguars know they must answer to their coach for a soft and lifeless performance against a Seattle team whose season was all about disappointment, until yesterday.
"We didn't win the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. They ran when they wanted to. We had two fourth-and-one (plays) and didn't convert either," Coughlin said.
He was in one of his typical worst-game-of-the-season tirades. Last year, it followed a week-two loss in Baltimore. This year, it followed a loss in which the Jaguars allowed the Seahawks' Shaun Alexander to set an all-time Jaguars opponent rushing record.
Alexander ran through and around the Jaguars for 176 yards, eclipsing the 165 yards Eddie George established as a Jaguars opponent record last season. It would be an understatement to say the Jaguars defensive line didn't hold the point, not even against a Seahawks offensive line whose most productive blocker is a rookie, Steve Hutchinson.
Coughlin wondered out loud how it was that the same defense that didn't allow a touchdown in either of its first two games -- against Steelers and Titans teams renown for their strong running games and overall physical play -- was ravaged by a Seahawks offense that was missing its starting running back, Ricky Watters, and was giving quarterback Trent Dilfer his first start of the season.
"He ran right underneath us like we couldn't see the ball exchanged," Coughlin said of Alexander, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry in 31 rushing attempts and scored two touchdowns.
A star was born. The Jaguars gave him birth.
"I think some people have to look in the mirror and see how important this is to them," Coughlin said.
At that point in the postgame press conference a reporter mentioned that the coach's players seemed to leave the field lacking the same remorse, grief their coach was experiencing.
"Don't ask me that question because I'm upset," Coughlin said.
This week, he will search for answers. He will raise his voice, call some players out, threaten the same kind of unpleasant reactions to poor performance that caused Stacey Mack to be benched in the second quarter. This will be one of those typical weeks of purging that has always followed these such defeats.
Then, at some point late this week, Coughlin will reach a few undeniable conclusions about his team. When all of the bitterness has faded into logical evaluation and necessary acceptance, he'll begin dealing with the consequences of his decisions.
So, what are the consequences? Where does this team stand? Two games ago, it had raised itself to the level of a playoff contender. After two straight defeats, is it still a playoff contender?
It would be so easy and so gratifying to say, yes, the Jaguars are still a playoff-caliber team, but, to not have doubts would be an exercise in denial. If each player needs to look into their mirror, then this team needs to look into its mirror and decide of what it is capable collectively.
"We're playing to be 3-1, yet, we play like this? That bothers me a lot," Coughlin said.
And a week earlier, they were playing to be 3-0 and to take sole possession of first place in the AFC Central, and they were judged to be without spirit or emotion. How does that happen?
Are we sure that's the case? Can all of this be blamed on a lack of fire?
The bye week is a time for self-evaluation. By the end of this week, this team must know itself. That would be the first step toward fixing what is wrong.