Thursday, January 3, 2008

Endgame: Jacksonville Jaguars



The NFL Playoffs are at hand. As such, Alex and Zac will be revisiting all twelve playoff teams, the characters that have made it to the final chapter in this season's story, and digging deeper to find out just who they've become having arrived at this point. Today, Zac takes a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars

"Trouble isn't the word, Superman! I'm telling you right now - It's like DOOMSDAY is here!"
-Booster (in the Death of Superman series)

If the Jaguars were a song, they would be:

Battles – Atlas



Behind the unsettling menace that drives the track, there is a precise system of mathematics that goes unnotices.

If the Jaguars were a political figure, they would be:

Joseph Stalin



This is retro scorched earth tactics of destroying your opponent’s will.

If the Jaguars were a vacation locale, they would be:

Mount Everest

You don’t go there thinking it’ll be easy, and the mountain makes you pay for each step gained.

If the Jaguars were a vicious snake that squeezed the life out of its prey, they would be an:

Anaconda

The Jaguars are a lot like a vicious snake that squeezes the life out of its prey.

Who are the Jaguars?

I like to think that Jack Del Rio is a Raiders of the Lost Ark fan. I imagine him watching the DVD one night before the season, and suddenly arriving at a moment of clarity. Listening to how the Nazis had a master plan to use the Ark of the Covenant, an ancient relic forgotten by the masses, as a weapon of destruction, I like to think that that Neanderthal-looking bastard found the secret to turning his team into the dark horse of the AFC. This season, with every team trying to find whatever speedy new toy they can add to their resources in order to become faster, flashier, and more vertically dangerous, Jack Del Rio has decided that the Jaguars are going to transcend the norm, or, at the very least, stop caring about how far behind it they are. I know; Jack Del Rio, avant garde football philosopher. It’s as weird to type as it is to read.

The Jaguars are a punch in the mouth in a league where everyone stopped hitting in the face a long time ago. Maurice Jones-Drew, the mighty mouse of the Jags backfield, is a torpedo of muscle and Napoleon complex, pinballing off of defenders who are stupid enough to think his size defines him. Fred Taylor looks like he found his inner Jay-Z, told himself that 30 is the new 20, and has been living in the joy of self deception all year long. Oh, and there are two other running backs and a fullback who can hustle? This isn’t a ground game; it’s a ground way of life, and the Jaguars seem hell bent on making every step forward into a turf war. Time stands still for opposing offenses, who find themselves staring at an offensive war machine that chokes the life out of fun and buries vertical passing games alive.

But for all the revolutionary anachronisms in Del Rio’s brutal running offense, the most daring move has been in the pass game, where the coach trusted not only his team, but also his career to an unproven backup simply because he bought into the system. The football aristocracy calls David Garrard a game manager and bars him entry into their pantheon of "great quarterbacks". One solid postseason, and we may all rethink what that signifier signifies. All year long, the new signal caller has been showing fans that just as important as the ability to make amazing plays is the ability to consistently avoid bad ones, throwing an absurdly low three interceptions. The run game works because he forces defenses to remain honest or be made to look stupid by the guy who used to hold Byron Leftwich’s clipboard.

On top of all this, add a defense that has always been happy to manhandle its opposition, and the Jaguars look like a team with the physical gifts found in the 21st century playing a game meant for the 20th. They don't give up easy points, play ball control and grind teams into submission, and they’ve got just enough spark to throw the aerial knockout punch when you’re expecting the land based jab for the hundredth time. This team may not win decisively, but they’ll win, and they’ll do it because they play a game that nobody else understands anymore. This is the smallpox epidemic we keep hearing about played out between the hashmarks, with opponents unable to find a cure for a disease they thought had died off a long time ago. Impressed with the Colts’ and Patriots’ ability to put up 30 on a regular basis? In awe of Big Ben’s 70-yard arm strength? Gawking at the beauty of the Chargers versatile passing game? Fine, but until they find a way to score without the ball, Neanderthal Jack isn’t scared.

2 comments:

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