Jaguars fans are struggling with acceptance and, in the process, causing themselves unnecessary anxiety.
Come on, why ruin your summer with all this worry? Yeah, it's rebuilding. What's so bad about that? It means things are going to get better; I promise they will. It's going to be a pressure-free season. Relax and enjoy it.
What you just read is my perspective on the 2009 season. It's how I deal with covering a team of lowered expectations. Frankly, I kind of like it. I like the challenge this team is going to face. I like the acceptance and the free and easy feeling it produces. Most of all, I like the potential for pleasant surprise.
As I was out and about the town during the Fourth of July weekend, I sensed a community-wide anxiety for what the 2009 season might produce. I sensed fans who are worried that '09 will be more like '03 than '07. I think that's a reasonable deduction, but it would be OK with me as long as '09 turns out to be nothing like '08.
Last season was the worst. It was everything I don't want a season to be. It was the epitome of disappointment, in that the Jaguars were preseason Super Bowl favorites, yet, found themselves playing out the string before Nov. was a week old.
When it got to the point that the team began questioning its own chemistry, that's when disappointment turned into despair. How bad is that? I'll tell you how bad it was: It was the worst.
You could see it on Jack Del Rio's face. You saw it on his face in that Monday night game in Houston. That blankness you saw was resignation and disgust. It was resignation and disgust combining to create the resolve to never let this happen again.
As a result, this year's team won't be old and tired. That was fixed by a roster reconstruction that could leave the Jaguars with a roster that includes more rookies than any other roster in the league this year. I like that.
This year's team won't be permitted to have 53 separate heartbeats, as last year's team seemed to have. This one will have one heartbeat and I like that, too.
I like what I see in the head coach's eyes and I like the courage of conviction that I have detected in every one of the new general manager's personnel moves. GM Gene Smith is the new broom this team absolutely needed and any concerns that the mild-mannered Smith might not have the guts to sweep clean were unfounded. He has been a dynamo in reshaping this team's roster and I like that a whole lot.
The players in the hallway and in the cafeteria look you in the eye and say hello. Who wouldn't like that?
This morning, my access to the front door of the team's headquarters was momentarily blocked by a procession of players passing in front of me as they moved from the practice fields back to the locker room, which means offseason conditioning is still in progress. Wasn't it about this time a year ago that one of the '08 team's premier players was arrested for drug possession?
So what's not to like? The expectation that the Jaguars aren't likely to challenge for the Super Bowl this season? Really? You're going to let that bother you? Not me.
I'm going to spend the remainder of my time between now and the start of training camp relaxing with the idea that the Jaguars are doing things right and that their arrow is pointing decidedly upward, in my opinion, and that good times will return before long. I like the idea that all I have to do is wait a little and, along the way, watch a young team grow.
I can do that without any difficulty.