The number one topic of debate among Jaguars fans is the effort of the team in Houston on Monday night. Fans angry at the Jags' 4-8 record are accusing the team of quitting. The ESPN broadcast crew even did it.
This is not a new phenomenon. It is the lament of losing teams that their late-season efforts will be so judged by their critics. Jump offside and you've quit. Commit a false-start penalty and you've mailed it in. Drop a pass and you've packed your bags.
Every error is unforgivable. Every suspect movement is a strike against a player's professionalism. Every smile in the face of defeat is an indictment against the team's resolve. No longer is it about not being good enough to win. For the Jaguars and all the teams out of playoff contention, it is their character that is being judged.
Four more times this season the Jaguars must endure such review. As a season of disappointment nears a conclusion, criticism will only intensify.
Winning, of course, is the remedy. Win in Chicago this Sunday and the Jaguars will avoid such attacks on their integrity. Hey, how about four wins in a row to end the season? That would turn the tables, right?
Yeah, it sure would, but since victory is something no one can guarantee, I would offer this small bit of advice to Jaguars players for this Sunday's game in frigid Soldier Field: Stay away from the heaters.
Trust me on this one, guys. I know your coach has already so warned you and you really need to listen to him on this one. I've covered football for a long time and most of that time was spent covering a cold-weather team, and we always watched the opposing team's sideline to see how many players were gathered around the heaters; how many guys were wearing the long coats on the "Hot Seat," with their feet in the slots and their bodies in the tuck position.
In the comfort of our little press box, we would turn to each other, smile and say, "They quit." It's the time-honored way of judging the state of mind of a team out of contention, especially such a team from Florida or California, playing in the Northeast or Midwest in December. All eyes will be on the Jaguars' sideline to determine if the Jaguars are more concerned about staying warm than about winning.
Stay away from the heaters. Don't put on the long coat. Limit your time in the "Hot Seat" and when you are sitting on it, don't tuck your feet into the slots; appear as though you're using it only as a place to sit, not a place to get warm. I promise you that if you do as I say no one will accuse you of quitting. It's a cold-weather thing. Take it from a guy who knows.
Now here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Bears.
- Throw the ball—Surprised you with this one, huh? Hey, the Bears are 29th in the league against the pass. It's how you beat them.
- Stop the run—Rookie Matt Forte is a resourceful runner and he's an especially good bad-field runner.
- Feature MoJo—Maurice Jones-Drew has developed into a big-play receiver out of the backfield. He's the AFC's Brian Westbrook.
- Take umbrage—Tony Kornheiser and company roughed up the Jags pretty good on Monday night. Prove them wrong.
- Prove 'em all wrong—Everybody seems to be roughing up the Jags.
- Hold onto the ball—Cold-weather football is about no turnovers and field position.
- Rush the passer—Derrick Harvey is up against a struggling left tackle.
- Contain Hester—He doesn't have the best hands in the world, but he may have the fastest feet. Devin Hester is the Bears' big-play guy and he must be denied big plays.
- Let the weather inspire you—It's December. It's the money month. Play like you want the money.
- Be desperate—A loss clinches a losing record.