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Era of patience begins


Now the real test begins. Is this team and its administration strong enough to weather the storm of an 0-2 start? Is the new era, whose arrival was trumpeted as the salvation of the franchise, committed enough to persevere through what is sure to be a firestorm of discontent?

They are the legitimate questions this franchise faces in the wake of today's 38-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the Jaguars' home-opener. Forget about, "Can the Jaguars contend for the playoffs?" This team needs a sharper focus on right now and the most important question of all: What can it do to be competitive this week? That's a question this team will face on a weekly basis this season.

Let's not forget the roots of today's opponent. Two years ago, the Bills were a 3-13 football team. They won one home game all season; a one-point win over a 1-15 Carolina team in the gloom and doom of a Buffalo December; a loser's December.

It was a season Bills fans never want to remember; one of the worst seasons in the franchise's history. But it was also one of the most important seasons in the Bills' history because it was the foundation of something that may now be on the verge of greatness.

Losing begets winning. It is the "biblical" law of the NFL.

If this is to be that kind of season in Jacksonville, then it is most important that two years down the road we may similarly look back on this season as the foundation of the Jaguars' reconstruction. That's the key to this season's success. It must be a springboard to better days.

You expected more of this new era? You thought everything would change overnight? Be honest with yourself. Did you really?

A new era truly did begin today at Alltel Stadium. It is the era of patience. It's a new concept in Jacksonville, where patience has never been a community characteristic. Anything good takes time.

But that wasn't the case the first time around. One 4-12 season and, bang! The Jaguars were in the AFC title game the next year. Spoiled? Without a doubt.

Well, three consecutive losing seasons and an 0-2 start this year will change all of that. We're all getting a new appreciation for winning, just as Buffalo did two years ago.

Time will pass judgement. Jack Del Rio and this new era in Jaguars football are deserving of time to establish their program. But they are already at a critical juncture. They must guard against the despair that accompanies defeat. Losing must not dull the effort.

"I'm not going to let two games get me down," veteran defensive end Hugh Douglas said. "There's nowhere to go but up.

"I believe in what's going on. I'm going to give it up every Sunday, regardless of what you guys write in the paper. This is a long season. We're going to continue to fight. I'm going to fight all the way to the end," Douglas added.

It should be this team's mantra, for it will be judged ultimately by its effort. This new era of patience that began today on such a sour note must be punctuated by all of the old-fashioned virtues that are representative of hard times: Perseverance, humility, commitment, strength and belief.

Now we find out if this franchise and its fans are capable of those true virtues. They are at the root of better days ahead. Ask the Buffalo Bills.

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