NASHVILLE—It wasn't the purple fedora, but with each succeeding week the ensemble David Garrard wears into his postgame press conference gains in flair and fashion, much as the team Garrard quarterbacks improves in substance and style.
On this particular Sunday, Garrard walked to the podium outfitted in a tastefully blue suit that was perfectly complemented by a stark-white dress shirt and stunning-yellow tie. Around Garrard's neck hung a strategically-draped scarf of blended blue and gray stripes. The quarterback, an admitted fashion bug, is on his game, baby, both on the field and at the podium.
Actually, Garrard didn't have to do much in guiding the Jaguars to a 17-6 victory over the Titans at cold and snowy LP Field. Don't be fooled by the 17 points. The Jaguars could've scored a lot more, but why risk it? All 17 points were scored in the first half, which left the Jaguars to do little more on offense in the second half than hold onto the ball and kill the clock. The outcome of this game was never in doubt. The Jaguars dominated from beginning to end.
The purple fedora? Come on, you remember the fedora. Garrard had it perched atop his head as he strode into the postgame locker room at Heinz Field following a win over the Steelers that propelled the Jaguars to a playoff berth and a return trip to Pittsburgh. Three years later, there are indications Garrard and the Jaguars are headed back to the playoffs.
All they have to do is win three more games, maybe only two more games, provided one of those wins is in Indianapolis two weeks from now. That's where it is. The Jaguars don't wanna talk like that, but they know it's that way.
"This team is resilient. This team has bought in. They brought in the right guys that are hungry to win. We're not going to beat ourselves this year. It truly is a team and everybody has bought into that idea," Garrard said.
The Jaguars are 7-5. They were 7-5 last year, which they finished with four straight losses after heading into that stretch of games as the leader for a wild-card berth.
What's the difference between this 7-5 team and last year's 7-5 team?
"Last year's 7-5 didn't have us in first place," coach Jack Del Rio said.
"Same guys, just more mature," guard Vince Manuwai said. "Look at this locker room; everybody is excited. The morale is better than it was last year."
"Last year at this time, we didn't feel the same way. We're excited. That's the difference," tight end Marcedes Lewis said.
Truth be known, and we knew the truth last year, the 2009 Jaguars weren't very good. They rode a soft schedule to 7-5 and the national media was outraged by the chance the Jaguars might make it into the playoffs. There was relief when the Jaguars collapsed.
None of that is true this year. This is a good team playing its best football at the right time of the year. This is a team no one will wanna play. This is a finesse team's nightmare, which is to say a team that can physically beat you up.
Does all of that sound familiar?
"It's a different team with a different mentality. The difference is we're still improving. We're still climbing that mountain," cornerback Rashean Mathis said.
That's exactly what the Jaguars were in 2007, when they won in Pittsburgh twice in three weeks and came close to giving the Patriots their only loss of the season. This is, by all appearances, '07 all over again.
Now, all we need is the purple fedora. When will it make its reappearance?