Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Why Are the Jaguars So Bad?
Why Are the Jaguars So Bad?
How Bad Are They?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-8. All of their losses are by double-digits. They have scored the fewest points in the NFL (86) and allowed the most (264). The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the record for worst single-season point differential, -287. The Jaguars are on pace for -356. They lose by an average of more than three touchdowns (22.25 ppg).
Jacksonville ranks last per game in the NFL in each of the following categories: points, yards, touchdowns, third down percentage, passer rating, points allowed, rushing yards allowed, rushing first downs allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed, passer rating allowed, sack yardage.
The Jags' team passer rating (64.2) is more than 40 points below what they allow (106.0). They've given up more than twice as much rushing yardage (1,294) as they've gained (531), and twice as many rushing first downs (71) as they've gained (34). They've allowed more than four times as many TDs (33) as they've scored (8). This year's Jaguars have a real shot at becoming the worst team in the NFL's Modern Era, the worst since ownership stabilized in the 1940s. As recently as 2010, Jacksonville was a pretty average team, 8-8. What happened?
Reasons For Decline
The most obvious difference is at quarterback. In 2010, David Garrard went 8-6 as the starting QB. He averaged 197 net yards per game, with 28 TDs, 19 turnovers, and a 90.8 passer rating. The team's other quarterbacks combined to go 0-2, and averaged 183 net yards per game, with 3 TDs, 5 turnovers, and a 61.8 passer rating. Evidently blaming Garrard for having Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis as his best receivers, the team drafted Blaine Gabbert and cut Garrard. Gabbert and Luke McCown combined to go 5-11, and averaged 144 net yards per game, with 12 TDs, 21 turnovers, and a 62.2 passer rating. Gabbert (66.4 career rating) has never improved, and Chad Henne (73.5 rating with Jacksonville) has been little better.
Garrard, playing with no-name receivers, posted above-average stats and a winning record in 2010. No other QB the Jags have tried in the last four seasons has come close to matching his performance. Offensive ranks (out of 32):
The offense has declined mostly for four reasons:
1. Sub-par quarterback play. Gabbert is not an NFL-level quarterback. Even as the team has upgraded its receiving corps with players like Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, he's never taken the next step. On nearly every play, he's guessing. Henne is better, but not by much.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew. Long the team's only offensive standout, he didn't play much last year and hasn't looked good this season.
3. Coaching Instability. Over the last 2½ seasons, the Jags have had four head coaches (Jack Del Rio, Mel Tucker, Mike Mularkey, and Gus Bradley) and three offensive coordinators, running three different systems.
4. Bad drafting. Blackmon looks like he could become a star, but for the last seven years or so, the team's major acquisitions haven't worked out, and there are holes at almost every position. Free agency has largely failed to yield impact players, as well.
Defensive draft picks have fizzled, too, and the team's veterans — guys like John Henderson and Rashean Mathis — got old and eventually left. Pass rush has been a problem for years now. Ultimately, of course, these failures fall on the front office, particularly former general manager Gene Smith. Constantly changing coaches, expecting too much from Garrard and drafting Helpless Blaine Gabbert, failing to identify talent in the draft and free agency ... that's awfully poor management. The Jaguars today have a weak roster, so weak that it's tough to imagine them being competitive any time soon. Last year's Chiefs went 2-14, but had good personnel in place; the Jags are far worse.
Worst Team of All-Time?
Jacksonville has faced a very tough schedule so far. Six of their eight opponents have winning records, and the Jags should look better over the second half of their schedule, which is substantially easier. The opponents so far are 42-17, while the next eight are currently a combined 25-34, with only one winning record in the bunch. The Jaguars won't really get outscored by 356, and they probably won't go 0-16. But just in case they do, let's compare them to some of the worst teams of the Modern Era...
* The 1952 Dallas Texans went 1-11, got outscored 427-182 (an average of 36-15), and lost by double-digits 11 times. Their strength of schedule was .597, and they faced faced four playoff teams. In 1951, they went 1-9-2 as the New York Yanks. In '52, they moved to Dallas and all of their defeats were by at least 10 points, including a pair of 30-point losses to the NFL Champion Lions. Since going to Dallas didn't improve their luck, in 1953 they became the Baltimore Colts. They went 3-9 the next two years but stayed in Baltimore until 1984.
* The 1960 Dallas Cowboys went 0-11-1, got outscored 369-177 (an average of 31-15), and lost by double-digits 7 times. Their strength of schedule was .538, and they faced both playoff teams. As an expansion franchise, the Cowboys ranked last in the NFL in most major stats, including points scored, points allowed, turnover differential, and yards allowed. They ranked second-to-last in yards gained.
* The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14, got outscored 412-125 (an average of 29-9), and lost by double-digits 10 times. Their strength of schedule was .520, and they faced four playoff teams. Probably the worst team of the Modern Era, they were shut out five times, and in their best offensive game scored only 20 points.
* The 1990 New England Patriots went 1-15, got outscored 446-181 (an average of 28-11), and lost by double-digits 11 times. Their strength of schedule was .594, and they faced nine playoff teams. After a close loss in Week 1 and their lone win in Week 2, the Pats went 0-14 and lost by a combined total of 405-141, dropping 11 of their last 14 games by 13 or more.
* The 1991 Indianapolis Colts went 1-15, got outscored 381-143 (an average of 24-9), and lost by double-digits 10 times. Their strength of schedule was .504, and they faced seven playoff teams. This is the only Modern-Era team to be outscored by a single player over the course of a season (Washington's Chip Lohmiller, 149).
* The 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16, got outscored 517-268 (an average of 32-17), and lost by double-digits 10 times. Their strength of schedule was .559, and they faced seven playoff teams. The offense, with an emerging Calvin Johnson, wasn't terrible. The defense ranks among the worst all-time, giving up at least 30 points 11 times.
* The 2009 St. Louis Rams went 1-15, got outscored 436-175 (an average of 27-11), and lost by double-digits 9 times. Their strength of schedule was .520, and they faced six playoff teams. Scored under 14 points in 12 of their games. Probably the worst team of the last 20 years, depending on what happens with Jacksonville.
* The 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-8, outscored 264-86 (an average of 33-11), and lost by double-digits all 8 times. Their strength of schedule is .712, and they've already faced five probable playoff teams. Their average margin of defeat is the worst since it became legal to throw a forward pass from any point behind the line of scrimmage.
The best comparison for the Jags right now is probably the 1982 Baltimore Colts. They went 0-8-1 in the strike-shortened season, against a very tough schedule (.648, eight playoff teams) and gave up more than twice as many points as they scored. The Jaguars are worse than that, but how much remains to be seen when the schedule eases up a little.
The Greatness of Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson is doing things only Jerry Rice had done. Calvin Johnson is doing things only Lance Alworth had done. Calvin Johnson is doing things no one else has done. Calvin Johnson is earning a nickname even cooler than Megatron.
I wrote this last year, too, and I'll repeat it to remind myself: it's too early in Calvin Johnson's career to say he's the best receiver I've ever seen. He is phenomenal, but Jerry Rice was phenomenal. Randy Moss was phenomenal. Alworth, Paul Warfield, Steve Largent, Marvin Harrison ... phenomenal. Those guys sustained greatness over long, productive careers, and it is too soon to say that Megatron is better. But I don't think any of them had a peak quite like Calvin Johnson.
This weekend, of course, Johnson gained 329 yards, the 2nd-highest single-game total in history. The record, 336 by Flipper Anderson, was set in overtime. This was Johnson's fifth career 200-yard receiving game, tying him with Alworth for the most ever. Johnson had two 200-yard games in 2011, plus a third in the playoffs. He had two 200-yard games in 2012. This week's game was his fifth or sixth in the last three seasons (depending on whether or not you count the postseason). This was only Johnson's 99th game (100 with playoff). Alworth played 138 regular-season games. Jerry Rice played 303. Johnson, barely 28, might only be halfway through his career. He's topped 200 six times in his last 27 games. It is reasonable to believe he might eventually double Alworth's record.
The single-season record for 200-yard games is 3, by Charley Hennigan in 1961 (and by Johnson in 2011 if you count his playoff game). Second-place is a six-way tie among Don Hutson (1942), Choo-Choo Roberts (1949), Alworth (1963), Don Maynard (1968), and Johnson twice (2011-12). That's three AFL seasons, one during World War II, and another by a one-year-wonder RB. Johnson is the only player in the last 45 years with two 200-yard receiving games in a season, and he's done it twice.
Even with passing records falling, seemingly by the week, 200-yard receiving games have not gotten cheap. If anything, defensive schemes have gotten so sophisticated that it's easy to devote extra coverage and prevent one guy from beating you — unless that one guy is Calvin Johnson. Since his rookie season, 2007, there have been 33 games in which a receiver gained at least 200 yards. Six of the 33 are by Megatron, and no one else has more than two.
Last year, Johnson tied Michael Irvin's single-season record for 100-yard receiving games (11) and broke the record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games (Hennigan and Irvin). His 122 receptions tied for the 3rd-most in history and he broke Rice's single-season yardage record, gaining 1,964 yards. He already has 96 receiving TDs, and will probably rank among the top four within a few seasons (Cris Carter is currently fourth, 130).
It's too early in Calvin Johnson's career to say he's the best receiver I've ever seen, but he's maybe the most exceptional receiver of the Modern Era. Enjoy the show, football fans.
Week 8 NFL Power Rankings
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Denver Broncos
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Indianapolis Colts
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. New England Patriots
10. San Diego Chargers
Same order as last week, except that I dropped the Seahawks a little, and flipped the Niners with the Colts. I never downgraded Indianapolis for the Reggie Wayne injury, and he's worth at least one ranking slot.
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bucs, 18-point underdogs at Seattle in Week 9, aren't on a historically horrid pace like Jacksonville, but they are quite bad.
Click here for last week's article.