We're in the final days of 2007 and before I start looking ahead to '08 and considering resolutions that won't last a week, I wanna look back on this year because this has the potential to have been something great. This is the season that could root this franchise for good.
Let's go back to when it all began, and I'm not talking about Jan. 1, I'm talking about Feb. 22. You know what I mean; the day Jack Del Rio reinstated Byron Leftwich as the team's starting quarterback. That was watershed event number one.
Now let's fast-forward to watershed event number two, which was Del Rio's voluntary admission that the team had interest in signing Daunte Culpepper. It was at the tail end of spring practices and I remember distinctly that it followed one of the worst practices I have ever seen. At one point in that practice, which was a collection of poorly-thrown passes, a ball threatened to sail over the fence.
With the culmination of spring OTAs and the admitted interest in Culpepper, it became obvious to me the Jaguars quarterback position was not stable. At that point, I considered anything to be possible.
Training camp began and Leftwich was on top of his game. With each solid practice, he began to erase memories of spring failures. Then, in the week of the first preseason game, David Garrard began to make his move. It was Aug. 7. We all saw it. It was stunningly obvious. It is watershed event number three.
Garrard began to push. His performance in the preseason games was superb. Meanwhile, Leftwich began to struggle, and that brought us to watershed event number four: the preseason game at Green Bay.
Leftwich had a terrible night. He was all over the place. Garrard replaced Leftwich in the second half and Garrard buried his competition. I remember standing with another reporter waiting for Del Rio to arrive for his postgame news conference, and then saying to the other reporter: They're gonna cut him. He nodded.
Watershed event number five was the event of the year for the Jaguars. It occurred on Fri., Aug. 31, when the Jaguars hastily called a late-afternoon press conference in which Del Rio announced that Garrard was officially the team's starting quarterback and Leftwich would be cut. He was.
It was the right move. Del Rio had lost confidence in Leftwich. Del Rio knew in his heart Garrard was the better player. I think Del Rio knew his players felt that way, too.
Cutting your starting quarterback nine days before the season-opener, however, is not considered to be standard operating procedure. Del Rio was assailed nationally.
So who's laughing now? The Jaguars are headed to the playoffs. They are being hailed as the team nobody wants to play. They have been tagged the team that can beat the Patriots.
It all began in late February, with what might've been the earliest naming of a starting quarterback in NFL history, and it culminated on Aug. 31 with one of the latest cuttings of a starting quarterback.
Here we are; last game of the regular season. Ten things? How about doing one thing 10 times?
1-10. Stay healthy—Get out of this game without any injuries.
Next up: the playoffs.