As the astute reader knows, the lead-in to the pre-game "10 things" column typically focuses on the game at hand, as it should. Not today. Today, before we can think about things the Jaguars must do to beat the Chargers Monday, we must put the Week That Was in proper perspective.
And what a Week That Was it really was.
More happened on Tuesday than has happened on a single Jaguars day in nearly two decades, and the franchise followed it with a change-filled Wednesday, too.
That was the week's theme, of course: change. Close followers of the team locked onto that quickly.
But there was a bigger theme, too, and that was direction, because in a very real sense the course for the Jaguars' immediate and perhaps long-term future was set this week, too.
A new owner. A general manager with a contract extension.
So important were those stories that they overshadowed the end of a head-coaching era that felt like a little like a merciful move and a lot like a foregone conclusion.
First, we'll touch on ownership.
Shahid Khan – those who know him call him "Shad" and I'm told Jacksonville soon will, too – has agreed to buy the Jaguars. I'm told in conversations public and private by people who know him and people who have much to lose by being wrong that what is being said on the record is true off of it. Those people say Khan is committed to Jacksonville, that he wants to make it work here, that he's an owner fans will embrace sooner, not later. They say this week's understandable anxiety over change soon will be replaced with the energy of a fresh start, a new era.
That's the really good, big-picture stuff, and in the interest of keeping the 10 things column to an internet-friendly length, we'll in a few paragraphs try to quickly sum up the on-field stuff that the Khan news somewhat overwhelmed.
The tone for the franchise on the field is set now. That's what happened when Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver on Tuesday announced he had offered General Manager Gene Smith a three-year extension. That was a move about stability, but it was also a wise football move.
The extension angered some fans, the ones who see 3-8 and wonder why Smith deserved an extension. He deserved it because he is the best person to set the organizational tone. He deserved it because the roster is improved since he took over three years ago. He deserved it because to build for the long-term you have to see the big picture.
Smith leads with a measured, disciplined approach. He certainly will have a major say in the next coach, so it's right to assume that next coach will take a similar view of many things football.
That means the next head coach will be about discipline.
He'll be about setting a standard and demanding players live up to it.
Time will tell if interim coach Mel Tucker, who replaced former Head Coach Jack Del Rio Tuesday, will become the permanent one. The thinking here is he has chance if the Jaguars win four of the final five regular-season games. But whether Tucker is the next permanent head coach or not, the next permanent head coach will have a lot of the attributes that Tucker brings.
That's because those attributes are ones Smith admires, and that he covets in a head coach, and it's safe to say the two agreed there were things going on this season that were unacceptable enough that change couldn't wait.
The moves made Wednesday – firing wide receivers coach Johnny Cox, moving Mike Sheppard to wide receivers coach, giving offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter the added duties of quarterbacks coach, releasing wide receiver Jason Hill – reflected that. They were about more than "shaking things up." They were a little about getting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert one on one with Koetter, and a lot about bringing accountability and a level of expectation to a wide receiver position that has dramatically underachieved throughout the season and that had digressed since training camp.
Perhaps the moves were overdue, and it remains to be seen how much improvement can be made in five games. Whatever the results, the message of the week's moves, as well as the up-tempo, crisp practices Tucker ran throughout the week, is clear:
The future begins now, and a lack of discipline and sloppy lack of production isn't acceptable.
And that's really the theme for the week and the theme for Monday's game – that whatever the recent past may have been about, the future begins now. If the moves of the week are any indication, it's a future that could start looking a lot better in a hurry.
In the meantime, here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat the Chargers on Monday:
- Forget the Week That Was.Tuesday was crazy. Wednesday was a little less crazy. On Thursday, players answered questions about all the craziness. By the weekend, things had settled and the bottom line for players and coaches this week is this: You can only control one thing, and that's the game. Concentrate on that.
- Channel the energy.Change can be good. It can lead to increased focus, increased energy. Use that, and take it to the field Sunday.
- Eliminate the avoidable error.The Jaguars have lost at least four winnable games this season, and in three of those losses, there were avoidable mistakes at the end of the game. Eliminate those and you give yourselves a chance.
- Get up early.I know, I know. How do you get an early lead when you can't score? Well, this week was about change. Let's change that, too. The Chargers have lost six consecutive games, and if you get an early lead on a slumping team, they start to believe the slump will continue.
- Run Maurice Jones-Drew.You don't run him because he's close to the NFL rushing title, although that's nice, too. You run him because he's having a remarkably overlooked year. It's stating the obvious, but you have to run him and let everything else work off that.
- Support Gabbert.There's no question players support him. They believe he's the guy of the future, and believe he will be very, very good. He's partially at fault for his struggles this season, but as Jones-Drew said this week, a quarterback is only as good as the players around him. Make a few plays, guys. Make your quarterback look good.
- Impress the new owner.You can't play with the idea in the forefront of your mind that Shad Khan is looking on, but a victory certainly wouldn't hurt his morale now, would it?
- Make plays in the passing game.A message was sent this week with the release of Hill and the change in coaching staff. The receivers haven't done enough. That's not acceptable. It has to change. Now's as good a time as any.
- Make Rivers make mistakes.In recent years, Philip Rivers has been one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. He still is, but he has shown a tendency this season to throw interceptions. He has 17 interceptions to 16 touchdowns. As has been the case all season, the defense needs to create opportunities and maybe even score points. Rivers will give you a chance.
- Win it for the Weavers.Because of the nature of the week, the 10 things have strayed a bit more from the Xs and Os than is ideal, but this is a different week and therefore a different column. This is the last nationally televised home game at which Wayne Weaver will be the owner. The man brought the NFL to Jacksonville. He is as good an owner to work for as there is in the NFL, and as classy and honest a guy as you want to meet. What he brought to the city can't be measured. Send him out in style. He deserves it.