The Jaguars have never known a week like this. Sure, the mood was glum following last season's AFC title game loss, but there was no sense of worry for the future that exists this week. It was a case of remorse for opportunity loss, following the AFC title game. This week's mood qualifies as genuine despair.
What has happened to this football team? It is the question almost everyone in Jacksonville is asking.
Here's three theories:
- Injuries have been too many to overcome
Almost certainly, this is a fact in the Jaguars' early-season fall to 2-3. You don't lose the quality of players the Jaguars have lost and not realize some kind of negative effect.
In the Jaguars' case, the effect may go beyond just the loss of a good player, as is the case with players such as Leon Searcy, Carnell Lake, John Wade and, now, Hardy Nickerson and Gary Walker. With the Jaguars already a battered lot in training camp, two-a-day practices were considerably softer than in past years. The Jaguars never got the full dose of training camp that most teams require.
The injury theory is at the top of every list of reasons why this team is struggling.
- They lost their joy for the game in the AFC title game loss
This theory can't be proved, but if you trace this team's fall back to its roots, you'll end up at Jan. 23, 2000. Did something long-term happen to this team that day? Don't forget, there were reports of finger-pointing and halftime bickering between the offense and defense.
Since that game, the Jaguars have had a penchant for second-half collapses, and they have not played at any time with the spirit they had played in a 62-7 win over the Miami Dolphins the week previous to the AFC title game. Clearly, this is not the same team that crushed the Dolphins.
- The Jaguars are not as talented as we think
In most cases, this turns out to be the reason why a team all of a sudden can't win. Water seeks its own level and so do football teams.
Often we are shocked by one team's sudden rise or sudden fall, and we decide it's a fluke. Then time proves it was no fluke.
Yes, the Jaguars seem to have a lot of talented players, but time has a way of eroding players' skills, and time passes quickly in professional football. We know, for a fact, that Mark Brunell is not the scrambler he once was. He does not include that improvisational skill in his repertoire any longer, the result of years of physical abuse to his legs.
However, a player doesn't always lose his skills to age and injuries. Look at Bernie Kosar. He was a healthy young man when, all of a sudden, he was cut because his skills had eroded. And they had. How many young running backs are here today and gone tomorrow?
The emotional stress of playing the game will often take its toll on a player's will. Barry Foster was one of the top running backs in the league between 1992-94. A year later, he was out of football.
You may refuse to buy into the theory that the Jaguars' skills have eroded, but the fact of the matter is a lot of Jaguars players are turning in especially poor performances this season. How else do you explain being physically manhandled by the Steelers, who were largely considered to be one of the least-talented teams in the league? Was it just a fluke?
What do you think? Go to the Message Boards and let us know.