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It's been a long time…too long


The Jaguars surprising win in Kansas City was the most meaningful victory this team has posted since beating Miami 62-7 in the 1999 playoffs. You don't agree?

Name for me one win in 2000 after which the Jaguars could point to the playoffs. Opening day over Cleveland? Not even close. The home opener that season against Cincinnati was nothing to get excited about and by the time they won again nearly two months later the entire right side of the offensive line was on injured reserve and any hope of the post-season was dead and buried. That season was a constant headache for Mark Brunell who played without his Pro Bowl right tackle and with his Pro Bowl left tackle playing considerable below that level thanks to a tricky knee and ankle. The Jaguars shining moment in 2000 was a Sunday night beating administered in Pittsburgh with a big stick named Fred Taylor who posted 234-yards, the most ever by an opposing runner at Three Rivers Stadium. And while it felt big to push the Steelers around their home field in the Jaguars final trip to a stadium that had been unkind…it wasn't that meaningful.

I've had some opposition to my theory when 2001 enters the discussion. Some think the opening day win over the Steelers had some definite meaning. I don't believe it, after all that was an aging team that had been kept together by stretching the salary cap to inhumane lengths. That Opening Day win, while gratifying for a squad that had spent the entire pre-season defending themselves against those who believed them to be closer to Cincinnati than Tennessee, was nonetheless judged as a 1 o'clock start under heavy heat and humidity between a slow starting team that wears black jerseys and a team that traditionally started fast. You might argue that their win over Tennessee fits the bill as a meaningful affair but they lost Fred Taylor for the season and EVERYONE knew it would be a LONG time before he returned if at all. 2001 was effectively over the next week when we learned that Tony Boselli's shoulders were more than a little sore and so each of the remaining four wins was only as meaningful as the amount of experience the young players gained on hostile ground in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Minnesota. The 2001 team was a veteran unit, one that hung on too long and no matter what they accomplished you knew that if they weren't going to the postseason their efforts were wasted.

This year is an entirely different proposition for the Jaguars. This is a new team, one that has a modern mix of a few star players, some well-traveled veterans and a healthy infusion of young talent. Thanks to the 2001 New England Patriots they can point to a win such as the one they had in Kansas City as evidence of their ability to compete anywhere against anyone.

Fred Taylor's 63-yard touchdown romp at Arrowhead is the longest touchdown run in the league thus far as is Patrick Johnson's club record 79-yard touchdown pass. Mark Brunell has been brilliant with four touchdowns and only 1 interception and the offensive line deserves a lot of credit since they've only given up a single sack. Jimmy Smith's return kick started an offense that has more firepower than any unit in the team's history. Tom Coughlin actually has to try to work Kyle Brady, Pete Mitchell, Bobby Shaw and Stacy Mack into the equation and that's a problem he's been longing for. The Jaguars offense suddenly has those who follow the game calling them a team that 'nobody wants to play,' and that's a decided reversal from the last two seasons.

To be sure the defense looks young and their inability to get off the field on 3rd down, they were last in the league in that category after two games, doesn't bode well with the Jets, Eagles and Titans in the next three weeks. But you have to give them some credit. The Colts came away with only a touchdown on their two long drives in the first half and thanks to four consecutive stops in the third quarter, two of which produced ten points, the Jaguars were in that game until the end. Kansas City mounted identical 15 and 11 play drives to begin the game, but managed only a pair of field goals which in the end allowed Jacksonville to stay close and eventually blow past the Chiefs for the win.

They have an emerging star in cornerback Jason Craft who looks like he can be one of the AFC's best and a group of linebackers who can run and hit like this team has never had. They must find a way to get after the quarterback even if Tony Bracken's knee remains troublesome and Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator John Pease are still waiting for those three young defensive tackles to take over and control the line of scrimmage. But with an offense that is starting to hit stride this group won't have to be as dominant as the Ravens or Steelers. They do have to get teams off the field and if they're going to score they have to settle for field goals like the Chiefs did.

The real meaning behind the win in Kansas City is that it showed the Jaguars themselves that they can be a good football team. They're a talented group of players with a strong coaching staff behind them. Now they have to find the kind of focus and commitment to improving that pushed the Patriots beyond their own expectations last season. That one win in Kansas City provided all the validation that the players, coaches and fans need to know that they are on the way back up…and it hasn't been that way around here since they beat the Dolphins in 1999.

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