CINCINNATI--The end is near. That's the best news with which the Jaguars returned from Cincinnati, where the former Super Bowl favorites handed a 17-14 victory to the laughingstocks of professional football.
What do the Jaguars need in the offseason? How about psycho therapy? Something is wrong with this team, beyond its execution. How else do you explain the fact that the Jaguars have had a seeming year-long affinity for turning victory into defeat?
Go back to week two in Baltimore, when the Jaguars squandered one of the most impressive offensive performances in NFL history, allowing the Ravens to drive for the game winning touchdown as though it was 11 against five. We should've known then that something was wrong.
"When you only win seven games, there's a reason for it. Today was an example," Mark Brunell said.
For some unknown reason, this team has never allowed itself to feel good long-term. Whenever it was on the verge of something significant, it always managed to take one step back into meaninglessness.
They scored a win in Dallas when everyone thought their playoff hopes had died a week earlier. Then, during the bye week that followed, they mapped out their strategy for a win out finishing kick that would put them in the playoffs.
Quickly, that strategy was dashed by an immediate loss to visiting Seattle, and we accepted the fact that this team just didn't have the guns to get it done. There was surrender; even by Jaguars players.
Just as quickly, they turned around and played their best football of the season, winning in Pittsburgh and beating the hated Titans. Two more wins later, we began pleading the Jaguars' case. We said this team should be in the playoffs; that it was the best team not to make the playoffs.
Then, today, they did it again. Just when they were about to cross the threshold of .500 for the first time since they beat the Bengals on Sept. 17, they clinched their first non winning season since their inaugural year. It was another perfect example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Tell it to any shrink. He'll tell you there's something wrong between the ears. This team has some kind of death wish. Maybe it hates itself for having lost at home in the AFC title game last January. You know, hates itself and won't allow itself to feel good; doesn't deserve to feel good.
"You're overstating it," Tony Boselli said when the above theory was posed to him.
OK, Tony, so you explain it. How does a team claiming to be playoff worthy lose to the Cincinnati Bengals? The Bengals?
"When we lose games, we just give things away," Boselli said.
Yeah, but why? Where's the shrink?
"Life takes funny turns. This season has been a test for us. I guarantee you we're not going to have another season like this," Donovin Darius said.
None of the Jaguars players were in the mood to psychoanalyze themselves following today's loss in brand new Paul Brown Stadium. In fact, most players are saying they won't spend any time in the offseason analyzing what happened to a team that began the year in the AFC title game, and will end the year having lost to the Bengals.
Keenan McCardell said there's nothing more to analyze than "we lost. They made plays when they needed to make plays. You have to give them credit. They played hard," McCardell said.
Of course, he could not offer an explanation as to why the Jaguars didn't make plays at crunch time. Why did Mike Hollis fall down on a chip-shot field goal attempt? Why did the defense allow Scott Mitchell to complete a 38-yard pass to Danny Farmer on third-and-19? Why did Shyrone Stith fumble on a kickoff return after the Bengals had tied the score with 1:15 to play? Why did Kevin Hardy immediately put the Bengals in game-winning field goal range by getting caught punching tight end Marco Battaglia?
Answer these questions any way you wish. Blame it on the horrendous field conditions in Cincinnati. Blame it on the frigid weather, or the frustration of a season lost. Use any excuse or all excuses to rationalize why this team has never allowed itself or us to feel good about this season, but at some point we must come to grips with reality, and nothing is more sobering than a loss to the Bengals.
No longer can Jacksonville say, "At least we're not Cincinnati."