In getting to know the fanbases of the AFC South, I've been impressed with the passion and fervor they bring.
I've been consistently impressed with the fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars. I've known enough over the years to know that, while some can be irrational, the vast majority are realistic and quite frustrated with the lack of recent success of the team.
Frustration can cause fans to miscast blame, however. While In general, the Jags' fans have accurate and realistic expectations from the club, there is a segment of fans that have a huge blind spot when it comes to he overall quality of the roster.
Simply put, the Jaguars are much better than some of their fans give them credit for.
Typically, this dispute arises during discussions of Blaine Gabbert's performance. I have no interest in going down that trail again, but the gist of the debate is who to blame for Gabbert's season (which everyone agrees was terrible).
I believe the fault lies with Gabbert himself. Many Jags fans blame his supporting cast.
I understand the need of fans to defend Gabbert. The future of the team is inextricably tied to him. That's what happens when you draft a quarterback early. If he turns out to be a bust, the team will suffer. It's easier to find new linemen and receivers than to replace a top quarterback.
However, I think the defense of Gabbert undersells just how much talent the Jags really do have. I'm a big believer in Marcedes Lewis at tight end. Were his struggles last year the result of personal issues or were they the result of Gabbert's play?
While the offensive line had some blocking issues, they also got outstanding play from Brad Meester and Eugene Monroe. Will Rackley was terrible in doing his best impression of a human turnstile, but overall the Jaguars' line has talent.
My encouragement to the Jacksonville faithful would be this: give your team a little credit. Yes, that will mean a little less apologizing for Gabbert, but it also means that if he can manage to improve, the team will be that much closer to contention.
Don't turn a blind eye, Jags fans. There are rosters with lots of little problems. The Jaguars are a roster with one big one. Gabbert is further away than many would like to admit, but the rest of the team is much, much closer.
If they can solve the Gabbert question, the Jaguars are ready for the playoffs.