By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
If you had told me a year ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be two games away from the Super Bowl, I would have laughed.
Heartily. Out loud, full body laughter.
After the Urban Meyer era (or should we say “error”) of Jacksonville football, Jaguar nation was particularly disheartened…and that’s saying something, considering the soul-sucking levels of angst & frustration this fan base has had to endure since the Titans went 3-0 against us while we were undefeated against the rest of the league back in 1999.
From the barstool boogie incident to the disgraceful treatment of a beloved kicker, Coach Meyer proved above and beyond that he was 100% not ready for prime time. My OSU friends warned me. Oh, how I hoped they were wrong.
Spoiler alert; they weren’t.
The performance of rookie signal caller Trevor Lawrence didn’t help the cause. Heralded as a generational talent coming out of Clemson, his less-than-lackluster performance had more than one prognosticator questioning whether everyone was wrong about “Sunshine.”
Then came the long, drawn-out offseason. The seemingly unending wait for a replacement head coach, the cries of the Jaguars faithful to hire Teal & Black alum Byron Leftwich away from the Buccaneers, the in-the-moment questionable free-agent signings of Christian Kirk, Zayn Jones, and Even Engram.
All of these had many in the Jaguars fanbase to call for GM Trent Baalke’s head on a platter, and saw dozens – nay, hundreds – of Twitter profiles change their picture to the clown emoji sporting the distinctive Shad Khan handlebar moustache.
And yes, mine was one of them.
My, my, my, how the tables have turned.
Enter Doug Pederson. A head coach with not only pro experience but a Lombardi Trophy on his resume.
While the hire was not as flashy as what the Leftwich hire would have been, it’s obvious in hindsight how the results were superior.
Pederson brought the Jags their second winning season and playoff appearance in the last 15 years.
He coached the team to a six-game win streak to end the season, including an instantly canonized come-from-behind victory over the San Diego – I mean Los Angeles Falcons – I mean Chargers.
Trevor Lawrence showed not only flashes, but blindingly bright moments that showed that yes, Baalke made the right decision in drafting him. Kirk, Zayn, and Engram proved to be extraordinarily productive weapons, and Travis Etienne got the bounce back sophomore season we all hoped was in store.
The much-discussed selection of UGA’s Travon Walker as the team’s second straight #1 overall pick got some sideways looks, and while his performance has been…shall we say “unpolished” at times this year, it’s easy to see why he and Josh Allen (no, not *that* Josh Allen) will be cornerstones of the “Jacksvillians” defense for years to come.
Then there’s the trade deadline acquisition of suspended WR Calvin Ridley. If he’s even a shadow of the player he was before the suspension (which came, ironically enough, for betting *against* the Jags), he will go down as an all-time free agent steal. That’s some next-level management right there by any metric.
I made it official earlier, but I’ll reiterate it here; I hereby formally apologize for doubting Trent Baalke.
Byron Leftwich, on the other hand, was fired.
For once, Jaguar fans can say they dodged a bullet, and aren’t dismissed as delusional when we say “just wait til next year.”