They quit. Everybody said it. It was the easy explanation.
Those people owe the Jaguars an apology today following the Jaguars' come-from-behind, 20-16 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The manner in which the Jaguars won this game, in a week that'll see them play twice in five days, is not indicative of a team that has quit.
Teams that have quit don't start as fast or as crisply as the Jaguars did on Sunday. Remember, this was a team that had trailed after the first quarter in its previous eight games.
What team that has quit gets stronger as the game wears on?
Teams that have quit don't have quarterbacks running in and out of defenders' arms. They don't have 5-7 running backs bowling over defensive linemen and linebackers.
Call the Jaguars a bad team, if you'd like. Call them a disappointment – that's OK, too – but don't call them quitters. They didn't quit and they proved it against the Packers, and that might be the best thing we can say about this season.
"That was a hard-fought win. No, they wouldn't have won that game because Green Bay was giving it everything they had," defensive end Reggie Hayward said. "A team that had mentally quit would've lost that game."
Hayward played his best game of the season. He sacked the quarterback twice, forced a fumble and made two tackles for loss.
Are those the actions of a player who has quit? Hayward is a veteran with veritably nothing to gain but his self-respect, and that's what he won on Sunday.
"There's no quit," defensive tackle Derek Landri said. "If you quit, you don't make plays like that. David (Garrard) doesn't make a run like that. Maurice (Jones-Drew) doesn't make a run like that," Landri added, referring to Garrard's 16-yard run on a quarterback draw and Jones-Drew's tackle-breaking dash for a touchdown on a short pass over the middle.
"This team isn't just going through the motions," Landri said.
The mood in the Jaguars' locker room wasn't festive. After all, this is a team that scored just its fifth win in a season that was expected to end in the Super Bowl. There was, however, a degree of contentment in the Jaguars' postgame locker room. The Jaguars felt good about themselves. Teams that quit don't enjoy that luxury.
"The effort has always been there," Fred Taylor said, on a day when he was a spectator. "David was on point. The defense got the stops."
At this time of the year last season, the Jaguars were on fire. They were arguably playing the best football in franchise history. Heading into Sunday's game, they were playing some of the worst football in franchise history and they were in danger of tying the inaugural team for the fewest wins.
How could it happen so quickly? How could a team go from such heights to such depths in a year's time? Those are the questions to which everyone wants an answer, but nobody can say for sure. Paul Spicer gave it a try.
"At this time last year, we knew the identity of this team. That's been a question mark most of this season. Who are we? Are we the killer Jags on defense that makes you give up? Or are we going to run it down your throat?" Spicer asked.
The answer is neither. The answer is that with just two games remaining in this season, the 2008 Jaguars are still attempting to define themselves, and that's why the decline has been as precipitous as it has.
OK, call them a team without an identity, but just don't call them quitters. Maybe that'll be their identity.