A week after looking inept against the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers showed a completely different personality Monday night with a convincing victory against the Detroit Lions.
The same can be said about most of the teams in the NFL this year. The Dolphins win on the road at New England one week, then return home to be shut out 35-0 the next. Pittsburgh was emphatic in Week 1 at Buffalo and unimaginative in front of their home fans a week later.
After just two weeks, only seven undefeated teams are remaining, and five of them are in the NFC. More telling is the fact there are 18 teams at 1-1, proving just how unpredictable the league has become.
The one thing that’s remained constant, however, is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re still dreadful after all these years.
There was so much optimism going into the new season. Urban Meyer was lured out of retirement – again – to bring his college-level success to the big leagues. The Jaguars earned the right to draft quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick by having the worst record in the league a year ago. Free agents were added to the roster, especially on the defensive side.
The new and improved Jacksonville team, so far, has turned out to be the same old thing. In two games, the Jaguars have been outplayed and outcoached. It doesn’t matter that Meyer won two national championships at Florida and another one at Ohio State. The NFL is a different game. Meyer now has to play with a level playing field. He can’t go out and recruit the top 20 players in the country and he can’t pay smaller programs to fill holes in his schedule with easy victories.
Now the team on the other sideline is as good, if not better.
Things are so topsy-turvy, the only reliable player, kicker Josh Lambo, has missed all three of his field-goal attempts. He went into last Sunday’s 23-13 loss to Denver having made all 42 of his kicks at home since signing as a free agent in 2017.
There are three pillars of success in the NFL Draft. Teams focus on quarterbacks, edge rushers and offensive tackles. Jacksonville got their quarterback. If he doesn’t get beat to a pulp by a game plan that gives up on the running game at the first whiff of distress and an ineffective offensive line, Lawrence will be just fine.
A year ago, despite missing two games with an injury, undrafted rookie James Robinson finished fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,070 yards. Now he’s ranked 39th with 72 yards.
Lawrence never lost two games in a row in his career. Neither had Meyer. It’s how they both respond to the reality of the challenges of rebuilding a franchise that’s been broken for years that will determine Jacksonville’s football future.
“I’ve seen nonsense seep into organizations when you’re 2-0 and I’ve seen it when you’re 0-2,” Meyer said. “Well, I guess I haven’t seen it when you’re 0-2, but I’ve seen it when you lose a game. We can’t allow that. The good thing is I don’t see that happening. If I do, I told the players and staff that’s the one thing that will not be tolerated with the Jags is nonsense. I see 0.0 of it. A bunch of good players, good guys and coaches working their tails off.”
Meyer also is trying to keep the fanbase from going rogue.
“‘Don’t give up on us,” he said. “‘We’re going to get better. The one thing about Jacksonville and the 904, go to sleep knowing there’s not going to be any group work harder to get this thing flipped.”
To be fair, nobody expected Jacksonville to go 15-2 this year. Anything close to a breakeven season would have been a significant improvement and put the Jaguars in a good place to add more pieces to the roster in next year’s Draft.
It’s not fair to keep asking the fans to be patient. We’ve been promised changes and improvements for the better part of the last 20 years. A team that’s only posted one winning season in the last 13 years – and went 1-15 in 2020 – still drew 58,461 fans last Sunday in Jacksonville. Although we’ve been asked to go “All-In” and “Stand United,” nothing seems to change. We continue to have faith and do our parts.
Now it’s time for our football team to do the same thing.