JACKSONVILLE – Well, that was unexpected.
The Jaguars' 38-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field Saturday was not only that, it was a remarkable turnaround from the team's most embarrassing loss of the season a couple of months back.
Indeed, this victory Saturday was the polar opposite of that one-sided ugly 36-22 loss to the Titans in Nashville in late October – you remember, the one that pretty much decided for sure that the Jaguars' 2016 season was not going to feature a happy ending.
Saturday's result doesn't mean a happy ending, either, but for a day the Jaguars and their fans were able to feel good. That the performance came in the first game after Head Coach Gus Bradley was dismissed gave it a bittersweet taste to players and coaches alike. This was how this team expected to play this season, and there was real disappointment and sadness in the locker room afterward that this very good performance came too late to save Bradley's job.
There's a lot to sift through with this one, but a couple of takeaways: rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey is a stud and wide receiver Allen Robinson played like he has wanted to play all season. Oh, yeah – and quarterback Blake Bortles at last played like he has wanted and needed to play all season, too.
When that last thing happens, it turns out this team isn't bad.
Let's get to it …
Colton from Emporia, KS:
Zone! Quick! Come help me! I found the real Blake Bortles we have all been waiting for! Felt good getting a 'W' today, and watching him play good, don't you think?
John: Blake Bortles' play was without question the overriding storyline of a game with plenty of them Saturday. For one game at least, he was everything he and others expected of himself this season. He played with poise, confidence, accuracy, effectiveness, efficiency – all of the things he needed to show this season and all of the things he has not shown nearly enough. The result perhaps unsurprisingly was the team's most impressive victory of the season. That it came in the first game after Bradley's dismissal is the tricky part of the equation. Bortles told reporters afterward he felt he had been placing pressure on himself before, and that he was able to exhale Saturday. For that reason, perhaps this was the first time we saw Bortles play this season like he is capable of playing. That he can perform like that is a positive. That he was unable to do so before for whatever reason is a concern. Still, from the Jaguars' perspective it was better to see that performance Saturday than to not see it at all. You have to feel better about his future now than you did this morning – even if there's still a long way to go on this story.
David from Duval:
This is not helping your coaching argument.
John: This not unexpectedly was the much-anticipated, much-ballyhooed, much-discussed First Email of the Game – and the content of the email made a whole lot of sense. (It is, after all, always coaching in the NFL.) But you know what? If a coaching change magically made Bortles and Robinson play like they did Saturday … then yeah … the Jaguars should probably change coaches every week.
Theo from the Midwest:
Not much good out of this season but Jalen Ramsey is a monster. He might be the best corner in the league pretty soon.
John: True that.
Bruce from Gotham:
Who is this team and where were they all season?
John: This is a great question, and it's not one players were able to answer. While players felt good about the victory afterward, there was some frustration and disappointment afterward that it didn't happen when Bradley was the head coach. Interim Head Coach Doug Marrone said afterward that Bradley was a big part of the victory, and players echoed that sentiment. While Bortles said he played relaxed, linebacker Paul Posluszny had a different perspective, and said he thought it may have been a case of a lot of young players fully realizing for the first time that not performing in the NFL can have significant consequences. Whatever it was, the performance was impressive Sunday.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
THIS is the team we expected to see this season. Just makes me wonder if Gus being let go has the players now fearing for their job too.
Richard from Jacksonville:
It's a shame Khan didn't have the testicular fortitude to do this sooner. We would be in the playoffs.
John: This is certainly something that will be floated by more than one person this week – and we'll obviously never know what would have happened had a coaching change been made earlier in the season. But while history shows that teams often get a quick surge from a coaching change, that same history shows that such a surge fa more often than not is short-lived. This is not meant to throw water on what happened at EverBank Field or to say that Marrone is not a capable coach. The Jaguars and their fans deserve that feeling Sunday, and Marrone did a good job this week. But it's a bit of a stretch to say the change for sure would have put the Jaguars in the postseason.
Jesse from Kissimmee, FL:
John, maybe it was the coaching …
John: Perhaps, because as a great man once wrote: "It's always coaching in the NFL."