Bad start for Jags and Bucs is so predictable

October 12, 2009

In the wake of yet another debilitating loss, the rah-rahs for new coach Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have just about faded away completely.

Instead we now have columnists wondering if Morris is up to the job as head coach.

Psst. It’s a bit too late to ask this question.

This train wreck of a season was set in motion months ago and back in April I warned that both the Jaguars and Bucs were heading in the wrong direction.

The decision to rebuild the Bucs and jettison everyone associated with past success made no sense earlier this year. And it’s being shown out on the football field on Sunday.

Let’s just face facts here.

1. Morris was rushed into this job with no proof that he was ready. It doesn’t mean he can’t be a good coach, but there was no evidence that he deserved it.

2. In the NFL there is one position that matters the most. It’s called quarterback. If you don’t have a half-way decent quarterback, you will lose most weeks. Only if you have a ferocious defense can you afford to have a mediocre player. Just look at the Tennessee Titans. If their defense isn’t playing the way they did last year, Kerry Collins isn’t good enough to bail them out. The Bucs had opportunities to go after and bring in a good quarterback and they didn’t do it. They went through the preseason insisting that they had two guys who could handle the job. Of course neither of them is playing now.

3. If you can’t evaluate personnel and talent, you are also doomed. Why bring in a new kicker, or hire a new offensive coordinator if just a few months later you are forced to discard both of them? That’s yet another sign that no one knows how to run an organization.

By contrast, we know that the Jaguars have a good coach in the past with Jack Del Rio.

But the continued off-field problems – such as the need to suspend leading receiver Mike Sims-Walker – reprise questions from last season about whether Del Rio has control of the team anymore. The Seahawks 41-o drubbing on Sunday has to go down as one of the most embarrassing losses in team history.

And there’s still the problem that the team lacks the offensive firepower to win consistently. When a team shuts down running back Maurice Jones-Drew, then there’s got to be someone else who can help. It shouldn’t take the suspension of one player to derail the entire aerial attack of a team.

So two more predictions: Del Rio and Morris will find their coaching careers in the NFL come to a crashing end in the next few weeks unless something miraculous occurs between now and then.

Let’s see whether I am wrong about this one.


Just can’t believe the hype for Mojo and the Jags

July 4, 2009

This past week the NFL has begun pumping up the upcoming 2009 season and one of their questions for fantasy owners was whether Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte should be ranked as the No. 2 back over Jaguars back Maurice Jones-Drew.

While Drew was ultimately placed No. 3 on the list the NFL has this to say about Jones-Drew: “Fantasy owners looking for a breakout season should look no further than Jones-Drew.” Of course this assertion is based on the fact that Jones-Drew is slated to be the main workhorse on the team now that Fred Taylor is in New England.

Hate to sound like a broken record on this but this hype for Jones-Drew hype is flat out wrong. He could prove me totally wrong but until the 5 foot 7 Jones-Drew averages more than 12 carries a game it is just hard for me to believe that he can hold up to the week-in and week-out grind.

As I have noted previously, his rushing total was actually HIGHER in 2006 than it was last year. Granted the Jags offensive line was in bad shape last year but it defies logic to think as the NFL fantasy gurus do that Jones-Drew is suddenly going to bust out for a 1,100 yard, 13 touchdown season. If anything one could argue that his touchdown total will actually go down if the team relies more heavily on fullback Greg Jones who was hurt last year.

Then there’s the nagging question of the productivity of the entire Jags offense heading into 2009. Part of the blame for that is due to the O-line injuries and the lack of a decent wideout. A motivated Torry Holt signed with the team in April but can David Garrard really help the 33-year-old receiver reclaim some of his old glory?

The Jags already play in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. It’s hard to imagine that this team has enough firepower to compete with Indy, Tennessee and now a surging Houston Texans squad that won five of its last six games.

The last time Coach Jack Del Rio was on the hotseat he made the bold decision to bench Byron Leftwich and go with Garrard. I just don’t know what other magic trick Del Rio has left to turn this team into a solid contender. And if Mojo isn’t the answer then it’s going to be an even more dismal season.

Firing Gruden and Del Rio won’t fix problems

December 29, 2008
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Now that the NFL regular season is over, the hand-wringing, speculation and rumors over the fates of Bucs coach Jon Gruden and Jags coach Jack Del Rio will go into overdrive.

But let’s hope the owners of both teams take a deep breath before they do anything rash.

More often than not jettisoning a head coach doesn’t fix a team’s problems. Sometimes it just makes it worse as the team transitions to a new offense, new defense, etc. etc.

Let’s just put two names in the mix: Tom Coughlin and Tony Dungy. Coughlin and Dungy have won the last Super Bowls for their current teams. But both coaches were unceremoniously forced out the door at Jacksonville and Tampa Bay despite their record of success for the two teams.

You would think that the Glazer family and Wayne Weaver would remember their own bit of history before they start down the same path this time.

It could be argued that Dungy was too nice to get his Bucs players to take that extra step, but I think his record with the Colts disproves that. The Bucs won with defense, while the Colts win with offense. Dungy has shown that he can win regardless of the talent level around him. Coughlin, by contrast, likes to do things a certain way. But his undoing in Jacksonville had more to do with a disastrous series of personnel moves that put the team up against the salary cap.

Gruden, of course, lacks charm but he was able to lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title back in 2003. That has been forgotten, however, as Tampa Bay continues to suffer meltdowns in December. On Sunday, the team had a shot for the playoffs but somehow managed to lose to the lowly Oakland Raiders. The Bucs lost the last four games of the season to end 9-7.

One of the arguments being used against Gruden is his constant quarterback shuffling.

Any sportswriter, however, who makes that point just isn’t watching enough NFL games. MOST teams in the league lack a true, bonafide, consistent quarterback. Anyone who thinks that the Bucs could have won 9 or 10 games with Chris Sims or some other cast-off is fooling themselves.

Jeff Garcia the last two years has made a difference. There’s a reason that the Tennessee Titans handed the ball this season to Kerry Collins. Their young quarterback Vince Young just couldn’t get the job done. Gruden’s complex offense needs a smart poised quarterback in order for it to succeed.

Jacksonville’s problems this season aren’t all Del Rio’s fault. Losing two offensive lineman at the start of the season was a killer blow. And a series of once again questionable moves, like signing Jerry Porter, also contributed to the team’s demise. The Jaguars have already announced that the team’s vice president of player personnel James “Shack” Harris has resigned. The departure of Harris may be a sign that Del Rio will get one more season to turn things around.

The one thing, however, that could be used against Del Rio is his handling of the team this year, including a now-infamous blow-up with one of his star linebacker. If Del Rio has lost control of the team then it may be time to close this chapter of the Jaguars franchise.

But at the end of the day it comes down to the players, not the coaches. It was the aging Bucs defense that got ripped for nearly a thousand yards rushing in the closing month of the season. It was the Jags offense that lacked playmakers who could stretch opposing defenses.

And changing coaches will do little to fix that problem.