The Jacksonville Jaguars Deal With the Microwave Effect

Tim McClellanCorrespondent INovember 3, 2009

With so many things going on in the world to distract us, it is a tall order for anything to crack the attention of most Americans. Unemployment, elections, war, and disaster (natural and man made) tend to get the spotlight. 

Americans look for an escape, so they take up hobbies and other distractions to keep their minds occupied in hope of avoiding the inevitable slide into insanity accompanying a full time obsession with the news wires in the world today.

In Jacksonville, a popular source of distraction is the Jaguars. When they are winning, it is certainly a pleasant deviation from all the ills of the world. When they lose, this is not the case.

With wildly inconsistent performances through the first seven games of the season, fans suffer mood swings ranging from nearly orgasmic to possibly suicidal, and it happens from week to week.

When the Jaguars laid an egg in Nashville over the weekend, the team once again disappointed fans in a game where the Jags should have been able to take care of business but did not. Only a few weeks removed from completely dominating the Titans, the Jaguars had already shown they were the better team.

All they needed to do to complete a sweep of their oldest division rival was to show up, play fundamentally sound football, limit mistakes, and all would be right with the world.

Unfortunately, the team forgot how to tackle, took bad angles, and missed numerous opportunities.

The end result: another disappointing division loss.

It is no wonder the Jacksonville Jaguars are struggling to get the attention of their fan base. When the team has a difficult time cobbling together consistent performances from game-to-game, it makes the challenge even more difficult.

Fans never know what to expect, and rather than suffer through the possibility of another disappointing loss, they opt to sit on their hands not purchasing tickets, and not going to the games.

It is a shame because they also risk the possibility of missing a very good football game where things appear to be clicking on all cylinders, and the team is living up to expectations.

It is this Jekyll and Hyde mindset with the Jaguars which makes the team a tough sale to local fans.

Yes, it is still the NFL.

Yes, there are always bright spots to latch on to which make attending the games worthwhile for the die hard fans.

But, for the NFL novice, or the casual Jaguars fan, these inconsistent performances leave them wanting for more, and unwilling to invest in the team until they see some tangible, consistent improvement.

Everyone has an idea of what the team needs to do in order to fix the problem.

You hear the chorus howling for the head of the coach, or the quarterback, or the defense, or a host of targets depending on the outcome of the game.

People who had realistic expectations for this team understand the process at play here. The Jaguars are a rebuilding team despite the denials from the stadium. Any time you turn over half your roster, you are clearly in rebuilding mode regardless of what is being said.

Normally, for a team rebuilding, a .500 record would be considered a major victory providing hope for a turnaround in the near future.

But, when the fans set unrealistic expectations for the team, a .500 record is considered unacceptable.

The Jaguars were 5-11 a year ago, and gutted their front office, coaching staff, and roster at the conclusion of the 2008 season. What exactly should fans have expected at that point?

This is a young roster. Inconsistent play is simply part of the landscape for a team in transition from one era to the next. There were a lot of holes to be plugged, and one offseason is not enough to right the ship and suddenly become a legitimate playoff contender. Not with the turnover that took place under the guidance of Gene Smith.

What started off as a promising plan as the team built up for the season turned south quickly as the Jaguars began losing. For a certain segment of the fan base, the bloom was off the rose for Gene Smith before he had even finished a season at the helm.

What began as quiet excitement for the moves Smith made has quickly turned into a finger pointing session where Smith is being targeted as being a part of the problem by a segment of the fan base.

"In Gene we trust" has quickly transitioned into "Smith drafted another first round bust."

With such a lack of patience, you would think the Jaguars had a winning tradition which made it unacceptable to slip, but that is hardly the case.

The demands of fans can be ridiculous, and in the age of Madden where everyone with a game console and a controller can play general manager, the logic and understanding of how rebuilding a roster is a long, methodical process is tossed aside for immediate results.

Every time the team loses, the phone lines light up for sports talk radio shows in Jacksonville calling for Del Rio to be fired, or Garrard to be benched in favor of McCown.

Fans are passionate, and they care about the team. However, they do not understand what is required in order to build a roster, and they do not subscribe to the mindset that it is a long process. Not when joystick general managers can make a roster change and see immediate results with the simple flick of the thumb.

The Jaguars are not a playoff team in 2009. They are a young roster trying to find an identity. There are going to be good and bad games along the way, but the path they are following will hopefully lead them back to prominence.

It is a process requiring time and patience.

At a point in time for the franchise where the sense is that neither of these commodities is an abundant resource, fans must find a way to man up and become more savvy about the NFL and what is involved in building a quality roster. It will not happen overnight, or with the punch of a few buttons.

This is not a frozen dinner requiring a couple of minutes in the microwave oven. It is a complicated process to build a roster where the chemistry and talent blend perfectly to produce a successful team.

The Jags will get better. Fans simply need to be patient and realistic. Respect the process. Instant gratification never leads to long term success or satisfaction.

Strong fan bases stick it out through the tough times in hope of being there when the team turns the corner, and that is going to happen at some point.

Ignoring the team between now and then does little besides sending a message to those outside of the Jacksonville market that the locals do not care about the team, and that is not the case.

Just tune into talk shows after a Jaguars loss and the passion is syrupy thick.


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