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Just the facts, please


It's the hottest topic of the season: the play-calling. Everyone is blaming offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. He's the reason the Jaguars lost to the Steelers. He's the reason the Jaguars lost to the Vikings and to the Titans, too.

Never mind the players. What they do doesn't count. This is the video age. Players are nothing more than real-life blips on a grass screen. Football today isn't about blocking and tackling, it's about picking plays, right?

Well, if you believe that, stop reading now. The rest of this is going to be about the facts, not about wild visions of plays drawn in the dirt of football fantasy. You won't like it.

But how would you like some red-zone facts? How about all of the red-zone facts?

• The Jaguars are currently last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, having converted only 14 of 35 (40 percent) possessions into touchdowns.

• In 2003 the Jaguars were 20 of 45, 44.4 percent, 13th in the AFC; '02, 28 of 51, 54.9, eighth; '01, 24 of 48, 50.0, seventh; '00, 27 of 57, 47.4, ninth; 1999, 29 of 63, 46.0, seventh; '98, 31 of 55, 56.4, third; '97, 33 of 63, 52.4, sixth; '96, 24 of 58, 41.4, 14th; '95, 23 of 44, 52.3, fifth.

The above figures represent all of the red-zone facts from every season in Jaguars history. That history includes these offensive coordinators: Kevin Gilbride in 1995-96, Chris Palmer in 1997-98, Tom Coughlin in 1999-2000, Bob Petrino in 2001, Coughlin again in '02 and Musgrave in 2003-04.

All of those coordinators have one thing in common: Their play-calling was harshly criticized. It was so harshly criticized during the Coughlin years that owner Wayne Weaver found it necessary to promise at Jack Del Rio's hiring press conference, "No more three yards and a cloud of dust."

Gilbride and Palmer, however, immediately became head coaches following their two-year stints as offensive coordinator, Coughlin has long been considered one of the game's best offensive minds, and Petrino is currently one of the hottest head-coach properties in college football and is hailed as one of the college game's offensive innovators.

So what's wrong here? Frankly speaking, the Jaguars have never been a great red-zone team. Their highest conversion percentage is 56.4, which is OK but certainly not a figure to compare to the Colts' 71.2 this year, or San Diego's 68.0 or Kansas City's 65.2.

Why have the Jaguars traditionally struggled in the red zone? Have they always had bad play-callers? Or have they lacked something else?

This is a truly puzzling problem. After all, it's not as though this team has lacked weapons. Through most of its history it had one of the best quarterbacks in the game throwing to one of the best pass-catching tandems in history. Its had one of the game's best running backs and arguably the best left tackle of his day.

These days the Jaguars are blessed with a sensational young quarterback, two rookie receivers who look down on defensive backs and a rookie running back who looks like you could break rocks on his back. But something is still missing.

What's the problem? The play-calling? No, that's too easy. This is a chronic problem. Coordinators have come and gone and the problem has remained. Something or someone is missing. When the Jaguars find it or him, play-calling will no longer be an issue.

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