Todd Smith asks a Jaguars blogger 7 questions leading up to the 2011 season finale for both teams.
Jacksonville is a city known more for its love of college football (and Tim Tebow) than their love for the Jaguars. Much has changed this year including the dismissal of their head coach, a new owner and their attempts to break in a rookie QB. Shane Clemons of The Jaggernaut and This Given Sunday took time to answer a few questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peyton Manning and the upcoming season finale from the perspective of their fans.
Q: Peyton Manning has been a thorn in the Jaguars side. With Andrew Luck waiting in the wings, would Jags fans prefer a win over the Colts or a loss which could prevent them from drafting Luck?
A: You hit the nail on the head. Manning is a thorn in the Jaguars’ side, and the prospect of playing Andrew Luck twice a year isn’t much more enticing. As a fan, I want to see the Jaguars beat the Colts, no doubt there. I think that if the Colts did pick second, the Rams would try to act as if they’d take Luck if no one traded up, and I’d be willing to bet the Colts would call their bluff. But, if there was interest from other teams, the Colts may have to spend a small fortune to trade up just one pick, and I’m not sure they’d be willing to break the bank to do so.
Getting back to the question, I want to see the Jaguars win, but I won’t lose too much sleep if the Colts win their third straight game. I guess my heart’s always with the Jags, but my brain is with the Colts on this one.
Q: Blaine Gabbert has been shaky in the pocket this year. In a town known for toughness are Jaguars fans happy with the development of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert?
A: Until recently, I had been very critical of Blaine Gabbert’s development (or lack thereof) in terms of stepping into pressure to make a good throw, but he’s finally been showing significant progress in recent weeks. I think that Jaguars fans will be patient for the moment as the franchise goes through an ownership transition as well as getting a new head coach. For the moment, yes, I think most of us are happy with his development, but he won’t be working with much patience from the fan base next season, especially if the Jags can bring in some legitimate receivers for him to work with.
Q: After 9 mediocre years Jack Del Rio was fired mid-season and replaced on an interim basis with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. How did the city react to the firing of Jack Del Rio?
A: I was one of the few people left that wasn’t thrilled to see Del Rio go, but I’ve been pleased with the clear push to move on from the Del Rio era by the fans, the city, and the Jaguars’ ownership. When he was fired, it was clear to everyone that his time as the Jaguars’ coach was over, and he was the definition of a lame duck. The sentiment from most seemed to be one of, “Thanks for all you’ve done, but it’s time to move on. Good luck in the future coach.” While he had a lot of mediocre years, he did give the Jaguars some great moments (beating Pittsburgh at Heinz Field twice in 2007).
Q: Illinois businessman and Pakistan native Shahid Khan will assume ownership of the team in early January. What does new ownership mean for the Jaguars?
A: To this point, Shahid Khan has been saying all the right things to make the city of Jacksonville fall in love with him and his style. He seems to understand that coaches know the Xs and Os of the game better than he does, and he wants to empower his employees to be able to do their job effectively and efficiently. He’s also said that he’ll do whatever it takes to put a competitive product on the field. On top of all that, he’s said that he’s committed to making pro football work in Jacksonville. Time will tell how effective he is, but signs are good, and the city loves him.
Q: When schedules are made many fans circle this game due to its importance to the AFC South and playoff picture each year. What kind of crowd can we expect at the game?
A: To be honest, the Jaguars will be hard stretched to avoid a blackout. There will be empty seats, and that’s to be expected in a game between two bad teams this late in the season. The Jaguars haven’t had a blackout since the 2009 season, so I think the city will try very hard to avoid the big blackout monster. Unfortunately, I don’t think crowd noise will be a problem for either team on Sunday.
Q: Maurice Jones-Drew was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster and has now passed Fred Taylor on the Jaguars all-time rushing charts. He has two more years on his contract but he’s incredibly frustrated with losing. Will he remain a Jaguar or force his way out of the city?
A: While he is frustrated, I think Maurice Jones-Drew likes Jacksonville, and he realizes it isn’t easy to build a great team. I think he wants to be a part of bringing the Jaguars back to being a playoff caliber team, but if he doesn’t like the direction Shahid Khan and Gene Smith are taking, who can blame him if he wants out? If he does go into free agency, he’ll be one of the top free agent prospects. That being said, I expect him to be in Jacksonville for a long time.
Q: This season has definitely been a disappointment for both the Jaguars and the Colts. What can we expect from GM Gene Smith as we approach the draft?
A: I think the Jaguars have to be looking to improve their offensive line (especially their depth) and their wide receivers. There’s no doubt that those are the two biggest weaknesses in the Jaguars’ offense, and Gene Smith will address them in free agency, the draft, or both. Other than that, Gene Smith is a self proclaimed “best available player” drafter. He’ll take the best player on the Jaguars’ board, regardless of need, and the Jags will fill in the rest in free agency. The idea of a top prospect is very enticing for Jaguars fans, and we’re counting on him to make the Jaguars’ top 10 (and possibly top 5) pick count.