The coach who has been accused of being too hard on his team, was certainly justified in his remarks following Sunday's 35-16 loss to the Washington Redskins at Alltel Stadium.
Tom Coughlin found it impossible to soften his evaluation of what he had witnessed. He didn't want to believe it was his team, but it is, and another week has ended and begun as the four previous had. Jacksonville is a place of despair and grave concern.
"The football is so bad I don't even recognize it. I don't even want to recognize it," Coughlin said of his team, following what is possibly the most loosely-played and uninspired performance in Jaguars history.
It is the only way to describe the fact that the Jaguars rushed and passed for more yards than the Redskins, but were a threat to win at only one point in the game, and that lasted only for a couple of minutes in the second quarter.
"Twenty-one points given up off turnovers. To have to finish a game like that; it's beyond me," Coughlin said, referring to a second-half performance that was barely of professional football standards.
"This is a very proud franchise. We fought our tails off to get to where we are and, quite frankly, the things I see on this field are unrecognizable," Coughlin added.
The coach's words were laced with anger, hurt and humiliation. He is at a point that he never considered possible, not even in his inaugural season in 1995. He's never had a team play as poorly as this year's team is playing, and the embarrassment goes beyond the Jaguars' inability to play the game.
In this game, the Jaguars' star pass-rusher, Tony Brackens, was disqualified from the game with 1:50 to play in the first half, when he kneed and kicked Washington guard Jay Leeuwenburg after Leeuwenburg had tackled Brackens following a fumble recovery.
Nothing about Leeuwenburg's tackle appeared to be cheap. Brackens found Leeuwenburg guilty of attempting to take the ball as the two were on the ground, then Brackens came to his feet and acted out his rage. It made no sense; especially not to Coughlin.
"If he did kick, that's a totally selfish act, which is, again, an embarrassment to the franchise," Coughlin said, holding nothing back.
Some will say Coughlin pointed the finger in his post-game press conference. Some will condemn his heavy-handedness, again. They will, again, complain that he is too hard on his players, but those criticisms of the coach ring hollow this week, and Coughlin isn't likely to back off.
We've blamed injuries, Coughlin, the quarterback, the play-calling and, even, the fans. Now, it would seem, the scrutiny is going to fall on the players, and there are those players who would tell you, off the record, that it's about time.
One of the unfortunate victims of this new focus is first-round draft choice R. Jay Soward. This loss, unfortunately, falls on his head. It is a bitter pill for a rookie to swallow, but the coach had grown tired of protecting his young receiver.
He dropped a pass that skipped into the hands of Deion Sanders, which led to a short touchdown drive that gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead.
Then, four plays after Soward made his first NFL touchdown reception, which gave the Jaguars a 10-7 lead, he dropped a punt that allowed the Redskins a first down at the Jaguars 12-yard line, and that produced a 14-10 deficit.
It got worse. Shortly after Soward's fumble, he failed to pull in what should've been a sure touchdown pass from Mark Brunell. With that, Soward was benched.
"The guy is undisciplined and had his hand involved in 21 points tonight. He dropped the ball, was careless with hand-and-eye coordination; distracted by a different color shirt, whatever," Coughlin said.
It was probably the most critical Coughlin has ever been of a Jaguars player other than Brunell. Soward has been chronically late for meetings and hasn't displayed the dedication Coughlin expects from any of his players, let alone a rookie. A few weeks back, his teammates threw Soward into the training room "cold pool," in an attempt to awaken their prized rookie.
To Soward's credit, he was in the locker room to greet reporters following the loss. Brackens was not, but Soward was. Apprised of Coughlin's comments, Soward accepted the facts but refused to hang his head.
"Look at it and then go on. If I think about it, it'll happen again next weekend. (Coughlin) expects a lot out of me and I expect a lot out of myself," Soward said.
Soward was forced into the lineup because Jimmy Smith was hobbled by a bruised right knee. Concessions were made to get Soward into the lineup, including having moved Keenan McCardell from the "Z" receiver to the "X" position to accommodate Soward, who knows only the plays for the "Z" position.
"I was thinking that I can't make any mistakes, playing against the best. If you think like that, you're going to make mistakes," Soward explained.
It is a veiled explanation that could be taken a couple of ways. It could be the honest analysis of a rookie who is learning to play the game of professional football, or it could be mistaken as an excuse for a performance that was not of professional caliber. However, you can count on this: Coughlin will read those words and take them only one way; the latter way.
Who would blame the coach? Blame him for this: He has a bad football team.