As the Jaguars close on a season that seems sure to end without a playoff berth, the topic slowly turns toward the future. What's ahead for the Jaguars?
That question was put to Assistant Head Coach Mike Tice on Thursday, with the idea that Tice is likely to become one of the "horses" in the head coaching carousel that is sure to begin spinning when the season ends. Several jobs are expected to be open.
"I'd love to get another shot," Tice said. "The lessons you learn the first time are important. You say, 'Boy, if I get another shot I'll be better at it.' "
Tice's former team comes to Jacksonville this weekend. Tice was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2001-05 and had the Vikings in the playoffs once in addition to two winning seasons. Two notorious events were more to blame for his exit in Minnesota, where he was a popular sports figure, than his coaching record: Tice was involved in a Super Bowl ticket-scalping incident and, of course, he was blamed for the infamous "party boat" ordeal that left the franchise embarrassed.
"This is a very forgiving country. You learn from your mistakes and, if you don't, you either don't care or you're dumb," Tice said. "That's the one that bothers me the most. I made a mistake with tickets but the 'love boat' bothers me because you can't control players 24 hours. I wish the commissioner then had been as involved as the commissioner is now."
Tice describes himself as a "little more humble" and he hopes to have a chance to show that new side of himself to an owner looking for a head coach.
"The first thing you have to do is win and we're not winning," he said of the Jaguars, who were considered preseason Super Bowl favorites but had disappointingly fallen out of playoff contention by midseason.
Did high expectations sabotage the Jaguars this season?
"I didn't hear us talking about the Super Bowl. We knew we had some offensive line depth issues going into the season. We had to sort through some issues at wide receiver. Super Bowl? We were just trying to win the opener," Tice said.
Defensive end Paul Spicer also allowed for conversation on Thursday about what the future might hold.
"What's gonna happen with this team? Jack's gonna do some evaluating. We haven't played up to the potential in this locker room," Spicer said. "I haven't been playing very well. I'm going to battle through. I just didn't get it done. I'll get back to work. People want to blame age and all that. I don't go that route."
At this time last year, Spicer was having the season of his life. He was on his way to a team-leading 8.5 sacks, including one in the playoffs. Heading into the final six games of this season, Spicer has just 1.5 sacks and was taken out of the starting lineup for last Sunday's game against Tennessee.
"I don't think the expectations hurt the team," Spicer said. "Everybody reads their press clippings but it's about reading them and letting them where they are."
Evaluations for next season may not begin until the season ends, but the information that'll be used in those evaluations will be compiled in the final six games of this season. Simply put, players are playing for their futures.
"It can be tough, but if you're a real football player and love this game, it shouldn't be tough for you. You're getting paid for it. It should be inside you automatically. If we were 0-12 right now, I'm going to go out and play the game how I was taught and that is hard," Spicer said.
In some ways, the future is now, for players and coaches alike.