January 17, 2012
On a pleasant evening in the River City, fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars gathered at Everbank Field to see the franchise’s new owner and head coach, Shahid Khan and Mike Mularkey along with general manger Gene Smith.
Jaguars great Tony Boselli served as the master of ceremonies for the event. Before the team management appeared, he hosted a random assortment of Jaguars on stage, including Montell Owens, Derek Cox, Jeremy Mincey, Greg Jones, Brock Bolen, Zach Miller, John Chick, Ebben Britton,Corvey Irvin, and Corvey Orvin. Conspicuously absent was quarterback Blaine Gabbert. A sharply dressed Derek Cox enthusiastically addressed the crowd as did Montell Owens.
Once the leadership took the stage, Gene Smith was the first to speak. It will be interesting to see whether he continues to be a public face. 1010 XL’s Rick Ballou has complained many a time that the public never sees Smith, that the general manager is ‘always in his bunker.’
The new head coach came was next to stand with the microphone.
He introduced the defensive coaching staff that has been assembled thus far. There were big cheers, biggest of the evening in fact, for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Finally, it was Shahid Khan’s turn.
None had anything of note to say in their remarks. The question and answer session did have a few things worth of mention:
- Mike Mularkey was asked whether the interview of Keenan McCardell (who was a star wide receiver opposite Jimmy Smith in the team’s glory days) for Wide Receiver coach was a ‘courtesy interview’ or there was a legitimate interest. Mularkey was emphatic that there’s no such thing as a courtesy interview and McCardell was seriously being considered (along with others) for the position. The crowd made it’s support of McCardell known; Boselli acknowledged that if the franchise were a democracy, Keenan would be the WR coach.
- A question directed towards all three concerned whether the Jaguars would be aggressive towards acquiring offensive stand-outs in free agency as they were in (quite successfully, I may note) acquiring defensive players in the previous off-season. Gene Smith acknowledged that he is looking to “upgrade the team’s weapons on offense”. Mularkey was content with Smith’s answer and had nothing further to say. Khan qupped “Gene, Mike, please do that!”
- Shahid Khan enumerated a few things he is going to do to make Jacksonville the benchmark for the fan experience
- Wireless antennas in the stadium so everyone could check on their fantasy football team without suffering slow connections.
- An upgraded sound system for the stadium
- More screens in the stadium. He further added that there would be “no advertisements ” on the screen; he noted that while he appreciates the advertisers’ support, he does not want anything to detract from the fan experience.
The owner ought to have been pleased with the turnout. The crowd photo was taken from a few rows back, just right of center in the south end zone, looking left. The “wrap-around” crowd was equally sizable to the right. Indeed, he seemed to be beaming throughout the event.
January 14, 2012
Just over ten years ago, then-coach Steve Robinson’s Florida State Seminoles were in the midst of a five year home losing streak to the premier basketball teams of the ACC Conference, Duke and North Carolina. In advance of a visit by the top-ranked Blue Devils, Robinson showed his players a video containing a highlight reel of great moments in FSU basketball history. At the end of the video, the screen faded to black, with the word “BELIEVE” displayed. FSU won the game 77-76 in what ended up being Robinson’s finest moment at Florida State.
Robinson was forced to leave, but the belief that the Seminoles could hold their own against the ACC elite remained. The following year, FSU again beat Duke at home, while 2004 featured a home win against the Tar Heels. Another home defeat of #1 Duke took place in 2006. Neither team came to Tallahassee in 2007, but the ‘Noles beat Duke in Cameron Indoor for good measure. Mind you, these were all teams that fared no better than the NIT quarter-finals in the post-season, none qualified for the NCAA tournament. FSU’s 2009 tourney appearance came on the heels of defeating a Ty Lawson-less UNC in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. In 2010, FSU beat UNC on the road and 2011 featured yet another defeat of a top-ranked Duke team.
Today, Steve Robinson again manned a bench in Tallahassee. Unlike 10 years ago, though, he was on the losing side. Unlike the aforementioned games, the result was not a close one as Florida State defeated the University of North Carolina by 33 points.
At half-time, though, it did appear it was going to be another tight game. While Florida State had a 12 point lead with six minutes to go in the first half, FSU only managed one additional point during the final stretch and held what seemed to be a precarious eight point lead given that the Tar Heels are the third ranked team in the country.
However in a four minute stretch early in the second half, Florida State turned the seemingly insecure lead into an insurmountable one. After the Tar Heels made it a 10 point game with 18:42 remaining, the Seminoles went on a run and built a 23 point lead with with 14:33 to go. After that, the narrowest lead for the Seminoles would be 21 points.
Deividas Dulkys was the star of the game. While the senior guard had scored only 32 points in his past nine games, he equaled the total in today’s game. His career high came in a performance that featured 8 of10 shooting from three point range. The most boisterous moment for FSU (or the most soul-sucking for UNC) came with just over seven minutes left in the second half. After a Dulkys assisted lay-up, Luke Loucks stole the Tar Heels’ inbound pass and then had to wait for help to arrive. Relief came in the form of Dulkys who converted Loucks’ pass into a three pointer.
Since that victory over Duke ten years ago, visits by the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are to Florida State basketball are what Florida State football visits were to the rest of the ACC during the glory days. In that light, today’s game was reminiscent of the FSU-UNC football game in 2001. The game was such a rout that watching the game in Maryland, I was unable to see the finish as ABC cut away from coverage to show a more closely contested game. Today’s basketball game was such an energizing rout that UNC’s coach and starters departed with 14 seconds left so that they could be out of the way of the inevitable invasion of fans.
Credit for photo (and caption): Matthew Farrar
The under-rated and under-appreciated news in the wake of Mike Mularkey being hired as head coach of the Jaguars is that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is staying in Jacksonville. Tucker was being considered for the position in Minnesota and it seems that had he chosen to depart Jacksonville, he would have had at least one position coach (defensive line coach Joe Cullen) follow him .
Then-head coach Jack Del Rio gave Tucker greater responsibilities for running the defense and the coordinator proved the decision to be worth-while. While the 2010 Jaguars had one of the worst defenses in the league (dead last in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) , the 2011 edition featured one of the best (fifth in DVOA).
The improved defense came in spite of the unit being ravaged by injuries. As Peter King notedin his Week 17 Stat of the Week, the Jaguars had more players on Injured Reserve than any other team in the past years at least, with 22 of the 31 being from the defense. King remarked upon 12 defensive backs being on the list: “That’s almost worth an exclamation point. I’ve never heard of any position group getting ravaged like that before.”
The ability of the defensive unit to persevere and even thrive under those conditions was one of the very few things from the 2011 Jaguars that needed to be maintained (vice needing to be improved). The renewed presence of Tucker and several of his assistants does much to ensure that the defense does not deteriorate as the offense receives focus.
Tania Ganguli posted on owner Shahid Khan pondering getting a Twitter account. While his son Tony Khan (@tonykhan) is active on the network, the owner has yet to register. Shahid, though said “If there is a clamoring for (me to be on Twitter) , that look, we need that, then hey, we’ll have to do that.”
Well, I’m clamoring!
Clearly, Shahid Kahn needs to get on Twitter and do so before his moustache (@khanstache ?) does.
In the course of discussing quarterback Blaine Gabbert, head coach Mike Mularkey disclosed that he had his (Atlanta Falcons) quarterbacks coach Brad Bratkowski watch film of Gabbert. Wednesday afternoon, Frank Frangie and Rick Ballou of 1010 XL’s afternoon sports talk program immediately jumped on the disclosure as an indication that Bratkwoski was going to become the Jaguars offensive coordinator. Amusingly, the next afternoon, amidst a report that Brian Schottenheimer was in consideration for the position, Frangie and Ballou backed off, saying that they were “just speculating”. They ought have stuck to their original assessment as Bratkwoski spent yesterday driving to Jacksonville so that he could sign his contract.
With the coordinators in place, the next important event will be the hiring of a quarterbacks coach; there are hints that it will be someone Bratkowski has worked with before.
After that, the cherished off-season personnel acquisition speculation will begin.
On Tuesday, Shahid Khan and Mike Mularkey will face the fans at the “Ready to Rise Rally“. Your correspondent will be in attendance.
January 12, 2012
(In response to Pro Football Talk’s post New Jags Owner defines “fan” narrowly)
No, Mike Florio ** , ye whose website never misses an opportunity to bash Jacksonville, Shahid Khan’s remarks during the Mike Mularkey press conference yesterday were not
a candid effort to hinge the privilege of following Khan’s team upon the giving of a large chunk of money to Khan’s team on an annual basis.
The comments that Florio remarks upon begin at the 15:30 minute mark of the video and start off with the need for Jaguars fans to get to know Mike Mularkey the way that Kahn and Gene Smith know Mike (bold-face indicating the ‘controversial’ statement)
We have an event next week; we are going to have a lot of events for the fans to come out and meet Mike. And uh, really, uh, get to know him, frankly. But the bottom line is and you know, I think I can clarify this point , for me a fan is someone who is a season ticket holder for the Jaguars. (press chuckles) so uh that is a key definition we need to get out.
If Mr. Khan’s definition of a fan were as strict as Florio supposes it to be, the event for fans next week that Khan mentioned would be restricted to season ticket holders. It is not. The Ready to Rise Rally is open to the public at large. As the media’s chuckles indicates, it was a tongue-in-cheek remark, not one to be taken seriously.
** Over the course of the season, the Rumor Mill has treated it a routine course of events for the home games of teams not named “Jacksonville Jaguars” to be blacked out or for such teams to offer tickets on a buy one get one free basis. However, anytime a Jacksonville game came near to be being blacked out, the Rumor Mill would report the news in a manner such that it seemed to be an event so horrible that moving vans were on the verge of starting their engines to take the Jaguars to the western terminus of Interstate 10.
January 11, 2012
As first reported by the Florida Times-Union’s Tania Ganguli late last night (and relayed to me by my sister an a sleep-interrupting phone call), the Jacksonville Jaguars named the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, Mike Mularkey, the new head coach.
Already knowing how the early morning host of 1010 XL’s program felt about Mularkey, I tuned into 930 AM’s Tom McManus. I was surprised by the ferocity opposition to the Jaguars’ choice. His rant, though, seemed more focused on past choices rather than the particular decision to hire Mularkey. As such, it was rather pointless. Before the end of the season, the Jaguars organization retained Gene Smith as General Manager. An apprent consequence of that is the decision to continue to consider Blaine Gabbert as the team’s primary quarterback**. Those two decisions were fixed before the serious search for a head coach began. As such, an intial consideration of the hiring of Mularkey should take those as givens. McManus, however, chose to rage about the past rather than consider the truth of the present.
Since I was listening to 930, I did not hear the reaction on 1010. However, I had listened the past two mornings and heard the host rule out Mularkey based on the Falcons’ poor offensive showing against the New York Giants on Sunday. That point was raised to ESPN’s Chris Mortenson on Twitter, who replied that Mike McCarthy’s offense in San Francisco was 31st in the league when Green Bay hired him. Presumably, 49er fans felt the same way that Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley feels about the Jaguars hiring Mularkey; he considers the Falcons lucky to have Mularkey taken off their hands.
Another element of McManus’ complaint about the hire is that it was “another wait and see deal… oh well let’s wait and see” (spoken such that one could hear his eyes rolling). Realistically, that is true of any hire. No matter how great any coach’s prior sucess is, one cannot assume it to carry over to a new and possibly quite different situation. The matter of Super Bowl coaches not winning another Super Bowl with a new team should make that clear.
The next matter of buisness for Jaguars fans is to see whether Mel Tucker, who had been in the running for the head coach position, will remain. There have been some hints that his remaining may have been a pre-condition as well in the head coach search. However, the Minnesota Vikings have expressed interest in bringing him aboard, so it may not be so much a matter of the Jaguars wanting to keep him as Tucker wanting to stay. We shall wait and see.
As is my wont, I listened to the 1010 XL afternoon sports talk team pontificate upon the speculations of the day. Amongst the banter was a reference to this passage in today’s Florida-Times Union, in which Jaguars owner Shahid Khan comments upon the (lack of) success Super-Bowl winning coaches have had with other teams:
“Statistically, we know those are the people who maybe did it once, but I don’t think anybody’s done it twice with another team”
The hosts commented t that they think Khan might have a point, but implied that they weren’t sure whether he was correct. **
I was about to research this for myself, but broke off the effort when I discovered Yahoo Sports’ Jason Cole’s article from earlier this season in which he reveals that “none of the 12 men who have tried have won a Super Bowl title with a second team“. ***
So, the mustachioed owner is essentially correct. History indicates that owners who bring in Super-Bowl winning coaches with hopes of the coach repeating their old success end up disappointed.
That is not to say, of course, that coaches with a high level of achievement in their first coaching jobs do not win the Super Bowl with other teams later on. Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy, and Tom Coughlin all came up just short in their rookie efforts, but won the big prize with their second team. The question which elicited the comment, though, was apparently about Super Bowl winning coaches, specifically.
** As a person who cannot stand trying to remember or fact-check an easily verifiable nugget of information without performing a quick online search, it’s quite frustrating the number of times the hosts will say “I think” , “Maybe”, “Do you remember… I don’t know” on things that are essential to the conversation they are having without actually looking it up. One can understand not stopping the flow of conversation to look something up, but it does seem odd for something to be guessed upon before a commercial break and still being wondered about thereafter when that something could have been very easily and quickly checked online.
***Bill Parcells,Jimmy Johnson, Mike Ditka, Mike Holmgren, Don McCafferty, Joe Gibbs, Mike Shanahan, Hank Stram, Dick Vermeil, George Seifert, Tom Flores and Vince Lombardi
January 2, 2012
Even though a game-day scratch of LaSean McCoy gave Maurice Jones-Drew a virtual lock on the NFL rushing title, Mo-Jo finished the season with a monster performance anyhow. His 169 yards on the ground accounted for 65% of the yards gained by the Jaguars offense. As Gene Frenette records in his column, today, Drew’s single-handed carrying of the offense was the norm this season.
Starting the season with an unaccomplished group of wide receivers ** and making a panic switch to a rookie quarterback in week two put an enormous amount of pressure on Mo-Jo, but he answered the call. His least productive week of the season was the eighth one, at Houston, where he gained a mere 63 yards and a touchdown. As Chris Johnson would attest, that was pretty good for a bad day. In weeks 12 and 13, Jones-Drew was also the team’s leading receiver; in the latter. While he did not drop the ball figuratively, he only did so once literally; a model of reliability.
The 2006 draft was a rare good one for the Jags as it not only the one in which Mo-Jo, was drafted, but it was also the one that brought Marcedes Lewis to the team. Incredibly, in retrospect, it was Jones-Drew who was the second-round pick. Even though he was sharing running duties with Fred Taylor his first three seasons, he still managed to be 25th in rushing yardage his first three seasons ***. Since becoming the primary back, he has been in the top five for rushing yardage each season. Not bad for someone who was said to lack “ideal size, which likely will prevent him from ever emerging as a load-carrier in the NFL“.
That quote is a gem from the 2006 draft, a review of which shows Mo-Jo outperforming all running backs who were drafted ahead of him. LenDale White and Laurence Maroney are out of the league. Joseph Addai and DeAngelo Williams remain with the teams who drafted them, but their output has dropped markedly from peak performance. Reggie Bush, like Jones-Drew, had a career season for yardage in 2011. Unlike Drew, it was his first notable season as a runner.
Let us take a moment, then, to appreciate the superior performance of Maurice Jones-Drew. And hope that help is on the way. At risk of appearing as foolish as the anonymous draft commentator quoted above, I will hazard that Mo-Jo will not be able to carry he load for much longer.
** Realize that the Jaguars have not had a receiver finish in the top 30 in yardage since Jimmy Smith finished 18th in 2005. Their top wide receiver going into this season, Mike Thomas, was 32nd in yardage in 2010 and there was no one to speak of behind him. When injury kept him out of the week 15 game at Atlanta, the Jaguars played Jarett Dillard, Chastin West, and Taylor Price. In week 1, West was on the Packers’ practice squad, while Dillard and Price were inactive for the Jaguars and Patriots, respectively. Mo-Jo’s 112 yards on the ground were not nearly enough to save the day. Maybe they should have thrown to him more (he was only targeted once in that game). Anyhow, the chicken-egg debate over whether Blaine Gabbert’s poor performance as quarterback was caused by the lack of quality wide receivers will be a key one in the off-season.