To get a better understanding of what we’re facing, I linked up with Ryan Day from Big Cat Country, the SB Nation community for Jags fans.
Let's start on offense. After five weeks, yall are fifth in yards but just 19th in scoring largely because you're working a very successful run-strong offense with a deficient passing attack and a defense capable of keeping opponents under 10 points (Jeff Fisher just got a little sweaty reading that, FWIW). Coming off of the strongest ground game and the weakest passing display in a 30-9 win (okay, now Fish is just soaked), how do Jags fans feel about this setup? Is it sustainable even with Blake Bortles at the helm?
We're 3-2 for the first time in a decade with a 65-75 percent chance of making the playoffs. At this point, we don't care if the offensive philosophy is 11 offensive linemen on the field at the same time -- we just want what works. Blake Bortles has actually been not as bad as we thought he'd be in the preseason (good God, we thought he'd be bad) and the offensive line has been much, much better.
Until we get a quarterback worth a damn, I don't think anyone cares how we get wins as long as we get them.
Defensively, you guys look very, very, very good. With all the personnel changes over the last two seasons on that side, what is the ceiling for this side of the ball? And how high are the expectations rising for yall?
The ceiling is an elite defense that is mentioned in the same breath as the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers or 2000 Baltimore Ravens. That will probably take a Super Bowl appearance, something I don't think this offense can bring us to yet, but the level of performance can be there. I think the expectations are slowly transforming from making the playoffs to winning a game in the playoffs -- something I think the NFL has set up to be rather easy if you win your division.
The AFC South is a tire fire so hosting a playoff game in January is a real possibility and right now the AFC is incredibly weak. What if we get the New York Jets in our house? Or the Oakland Raiders? Can we beat those teams at home? I believe so.
Making the playoffs is an unmitigated success for 2017. Winning that game would make me faint.
Speaking of personnel changes, General Manager David Caldwell was on a warmish, somewhat uncool perhaps mildly temperate seat coming out of last season that, understandably, had many of yall seeking potential replacements. Given how well the last two drafts have gone in such a short time, how much time has he bought? I'd guess he's certain to get to next year at the helm in the final year of his contract. What does he have to do to earn another contract extension?
Caldwell has probably bought himself an extension by assembling what could be one of the best defenses in NFL history but his utter swing and a miss on a quarterback makes me wary to see him get a chance to choose another one. However, the only other NFL general manager to get a second chance on a quarterback is Ozzie Newsome who picked Kyle Boller and then was able to get Joe Flacco -- so maybe that's the way Caldwell goes.
Obviously, wins and losses re-define everything for better or worse, but making Doug Marrone your permanent head coach from his interim spot didn't exactly upset a ton of other NFL fans. What have you guys seen in Marrone to this point in 2017 that maybe suggests that he's grown from his two years as the Buffalo Bills' head coach a few years back and what concerns do you guys have that he might not be the right guy to lead the Jaguars during this ascendancy?
It upset us. We wanted a fresh start for this regime and maybe we were wrong. We'll see in five years. A winning record and a playoff appearance in 2017 would be nice, but if keeping this staff in tact prevents us from getting a quarterback when we needed one then was it worth the short-term success?
As far as what we've seen in Marrone this year, he just... I don't know how to explain it... it's just nice to finally have a grown up in the building. Gus Bradley was not ready to coach his own team and the dude got an extension. Now he's in charge of one of the worst defenses in the NFL out in Los Angeles. If there are any concerns with Marrone, it's that he didn't have the balls to pull the trigger on doing something about the quarterback situation this offseason. He knows Bortles is bad. We all do. And maybe he was hamstrung by new VP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, but there's got to be something he can do, right?
Big picture time. You guys haven't had a winning season since 2007. We haven't had one since 2003. Peyton Manning is somewhere plotting his future presidency. Tom Brady is figuring out a way to write his final chapter. Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers are...well. They're doing the same thing as Brady, but it's much sadder. It's time for a new NFL. A new roster of stars and a mixup of the old order leading to the kind of chaos that we saw 15 years ago that ushered in the modern age. Brett Favre and Troy Aikman and the Bills and 49ers and, yes, the Greatest Show on Turf Rams all fizzled into great memories leaving the door open for a new chapter of the NFL to be written. It feels like we're on the precipice of the next chapter of the NFL. Where do the Jags fit in to it? How does Shad Khan manage the flattening of the global economy in the years to come and the creeping (or is it even creeping anymore) internationalism of the NFL? Once yall move on from Blake Bortles (seriously, you guys can do that any time), what does the future look like for the Jaguars and for the NFL in Jacksonville?
The Jaguars are set up for a new quarterback to come in and flourish right away. This is an incredibly good offensive line, blocking for one of the two or three best young running backs in the NFL, supported by one of the best defenses in the NFL. They're becoming the Dallas Cowboys of the AFC or the Kansas City Chiefs with better wide receivers. The Jaguars will get a new guy and I think they're going to be what the Indianapolis Colts were in the 2000's -- a team that consistently dominates its division, playoff appearances become the new normal, and a Super Bowl appearance could be on the precipice.
It all comes down to the quarterback. If we fail in 2018 and beyond in getting the guy, we'll be stuck in a Houston Texans-ish holding pattern that will eventually crash and burn. If we can get our guy, I think it's Super Bowl or bust for this team.
Thanks to Ryan for the time.