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The weather got cold; they got hot


It was this week a year ago when the Jaguars began a run of football that is arguably their best in the six years under coach Jack Del Rio. Beginning with a 37-6 blowout of the Carolina Panthers, the Jaguars began a march to an AFC divisional-round playoff game in New England.

Included in the Jaguars' late-season dash were two exhilarating wins in Pittsburgh. In the first, Fred Taylor scored the game-winning touchdown amidst a swirl of snow. In the second, David Garrard's fourth-down scramble led the Jaguars to their first playoff victory in eight years.

Those were good times. They were the best of times. Garrard longs for their return.

"There are going to be good times like we had last year. That gives me hope," Garrard said, as the Jaguars prepare for a game in frigid Chicago this Sunday.

The weather at Soldier Field is likely to bring back memories of last year's regular-season classic in Pittsburgh. When the first flake flies in Chicago on Sunday, those Jaguars players who were at Heinz Field last year will likely be reminded of the white-out conditions that greeted them when they came out for pregame introductions.

This, however, is not last year. In many ways, it's the exact opposite. The Jaguars were 8-4 when they hosted Carolina. They'll take the opposite record, 4-8, to Chicago.

Everyone is asking, what happened? Nobody seems to have the answer. Even if they did, it's something they're not going to reveal until the season is over because players are being careful to make sure their focus remains on what's left of this season, not on postseason analysis.

"We need to finish the season on a high note, showing that we're getting better. I'm trying to get back to basics because it's the basics that help you improve," Garrard said.

This hasn't been an easy season for Garrard. When the Jaguars went to Pittsburgh last December, Garrard had risen to the top of the passer rankings. He was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league and he was headed for a major offseason reward in the form of a rich, long-term contract.

When the Jaguars go to Chicago this weekend, they will take with them a quarterback who is in the bottom half of the league's passer rankings. Garrard's 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions equate to an 82.8 passer rating.

"It's no fun," he said of the team having lost five of their last six games. "There are some positive things but it's hard to focus on the positive things. It's a tough league. You're not going to win them all. We're just trying to get the next win."

When will the Jaguars' get their next win? In Chicago? At home against Green Bay or Indianapolis? In Baltimore on the final day of the season? Or will it have to wait until next season?

It wasn't supposed to be like this; certainly not after those rousing wins in Pittsburgh late last season. Everything seemed so bright. How quickly it changed. The hope is that it will just as quickly change again.

"I've been a fan of football for a long time. Teams aren't going to have outstanding seasons every year," Garrard said when asked to speak directly to the team's fans. "We are definitely not having one here but if you are a fan of the team, you still have to be a fan and you still want to come out and show your support. We're still trying to win."

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