In his final interview of this training camp, coach Tom Coughlin told reporters what they had come to suspect. These Jaguars are in much the same situation as they were in their inaugural season.
"Is it more raw talent?" Coughlin said in repeating a reporter's question. "No, but it's a good group," he added.
Coughlin had been asked if the 2002 Jaguars have more raw talent on their roster than the 1995 collection, which included several veterans acquired in the expansion draft and in free agency, and multiple high draft choices such as Tony Boselli and James Stewart. Coughlin hesitated and appeared to give considerable thought to his answer before speaking.
The '95 group had a young quarterback named Mark Brunell who, within a year, would emerge as one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. And there was a twice-rejected wide receiver named Jimmy Smith, who wanted only for the chance to make the team's final roster and earn a minimum-wage salary.
Now, as the Jaguars prepare for this afternoon's final practice of this training camp, Brunell is a soon-to-be-32-year-old quarterback frustrated by a passing offense that's at an all-time low, and Smith remains a holdout.
"I've been hoping that would be resolved all along … but we'll have to make plans otherwise. I thought he would be in," Coughlin said of Smith.
All of this has left Coughlin to swallow large doses of humility. "Lord, I have all of the humility I need. I say that every night," Coughlin said jokingly to reporters.
His words had a purging effect on the mood of the question and answer session. He was speaking from the podium of raw truth. This is going to take time. The admission didn't hurt nearly as much as it might've been thought.
"If we grow, it'll be a really great thing. I was down a little bit Saturday night and Sunday, but you look at some of these young guys and they just keep coming back," Coughlin said.
"I expect us to come together. I don't know when it's going to happen," the coach added.
Actually, this should be Coughlin's kind of team. He did a marvelous job in '95, winning four games and keeping his team competitive in all but a couple. At midseason, Coughlin took his team to Pittsburgh with a chance of claiming the AFC Central Division lead.
He'd like to be in the same situation at midseason this year. It would be no less stunning an accomplishment, and Coughlin believes it can happen, with time, patience and development.
"We prepared for this throughout the spring. I would want to accelerate the ones and hope the young players could keep close. It hasn't happened as well as I'd like. It does get frustrating at times," Coughlin said.
The Jaguars will give development one more chance in this training camp, this afternoon, and Coughlin said he'll have defensive end Tony Brackens in action for the first time since the second day of training camp. That's at least a start.