Winless Jaguars on path to making NFL history
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
The most entertaining aspect of the Jacksonville Jaguars right now is the team's mascot.
Yep, that high-flying daredevil who talks trash, makes outrageous wagers and occasionally shoves opposing players has produced more highlight clips in 2013 than any of those Jaguars wearing pads and a helmet.
He's the best thing going in the River City. And it's not even close.
The Jaguars (0-4) have scored a league-low 31 points through four games - all double-digit losses - and have become the laughingstock of the league. They can't run, can't throw, can't stop anyone and can't do much about it now.
And with the season just a quarter of the way done, talk already has begun about whether the Jaguars will win a game.
''Nobody likes losing,'' tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ''It's not a positive 0-4. We've just got to keep rolling along and not worry about the negative noise outside.
''What can we do about that? Nothing! If you worry about that, then you'll continue to just be in the dumps, and that's not what it's about.''
Jacksonville is in this position thanks to a rash of poor draft picks, several failed free-agent signings and three coaching staffs over the last three years. Former general manager Gene Smith is the obvious scapegoat, but the blame stretches well beyond how he shaped the roster. After all, this is a franchise that has missed the playoffs 11 of the last 13 years, a stretch of futility that falls on former owner Wayne Weaver as well as former personnel chief James ''Shack'' Harris and fired coaches Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey.
With new general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley in the early stages of a complete overhaul, the Jaguars have lost games by 26, 28 and 34 points this season. And many wonder whether things will get any better, especially since Caldwell traded left tackle Eugene Monroe to Baltimore on Tuesday for a pair of third-day draft picks in 2014.
They insist the trade is not a sign of things to come or an indication that they've given up on the season.
''We just don't care about what people are saying on the outside,'' guard Uche Nwaneri said. ''There are a lot of people who have a lot of opinions, but a lot of those people have never been in our positions, so how could they understand what's going on here? How could they understand what the vision is here? I don't pay attention to it. It has no effect on me.''
The Jaguars do understand that winning is the only thing that's going to stop the comparisons to the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went 0-14 in their inaugural season, or the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
''You don't want to go 0-16,'' receiver Cecil Shorts III said. ''You want at least a taste of winning.''
Winning is far from a sure thing in Jacksonville, which plays at St. Louis (1-3) on Sunday.
The Jaguars' anemic offense, which is averaging less than eight points a game, is on pace to challenge the lowest-scoring teams in NFL history. If it holds up, it would be the lowest in the modern NFL.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only four teams - the 1992 Seattle Seahawks (8.75 ppg), the 1991 Indianapolis Colts (8.9 ppg), the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8.9 ppg) and the 1974 Atlanta Falcons (7.9 ppg) - have averaged single-digits scoring.
The Jaguars believe their offense will improve, beginning with Justin Blackmon's return from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Players also point out that: running back Maurice Jones-Drew is showing progress from a foot injury that forced him to miss 10 games last season and most of the offseason; quarterback Blaine Gabbert is feeling more comfortable in his second week back from a hand injury; and Lewis, who has missed most of the season with a nagging calf injury, eventually will return.
Nonetheless, Jacksonville is projected to be a 28-point underdog next week at Denver, where Peyton Manning & Co.
The largest spread in NFL history came in 1976, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were 27-point favorites over winless Tampa Bay.
Jones-Drew scoffed at the potential spread.
''Let's be generous and say 99.9 percent of those people have never put on pads at this level before,'' the running back said. ''It's easy to say certain things and write things. But if you've never gone through this - if you've never been through this and understand what it's like to learn how to win and to do certain things and compete at a high level - then it's easy to write teams off.''
No one is writing off Jacksonville's mascot, Jaxson DeVille.
After a 45-17 loss at Seattle, Jaxson videotaped himself dancing in a tight-fitting body suit and a leopard-printed thong. Following last week's 37-3 loss against Indianapolis, Jaxson videotaped himself getting pelted by 40 paint balls while wearing spandex and a speedo.
The clips garnered national attention - something the Jaguars are getting for all the wrong reasons right now.
''I wanted our fans to know that no matter what, even when all odds are against us, Jaxson will always believe in our team and go into every game believing we can win,'' said Curtis Dvorak, the man behind the mask. ''I truly believed we could win the last two games.
''Even if there's a small percentage of chance, what fun is it to accept defeat before you've even fought?''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org