NFL: Are the misfiring Jaguars all clapped out for Wembley?

The Jaguars are a blot on the NFL's good name

Ahead of London's Game Two, Romilly Evans profiles Jacksonville and asks if the Jags are the worst team in history or just the NFL...

"The Jags' make-up is so makeshift, it looks like it’s been assembled from a rogues’ gallery of Dad’s Army volunteers"


If you dare to dream, work hard and run towards lofty goals, you can still fall flat on your face. It may not be the sort of maxim for life to teach your children, but it's worth remembering. Just ask the Jacksonville Jaguars who are growing up the hard way - and have been for a while. 

The Jags have now lost 21 of their last 23 matches, including 10 of their last 11 at home. These days, fans are either out of their seats and the stadium as soon as the opponent takes the lead. Or worse, wallowing in their bizarre ritual of watching the rest of the game behind brown paper bags. It's that ugly. 

Little wonder, then, that Jacksonville were willing to give up those supposed home comforts for a game at Wembley this weekend. They are the AFC's only 0-7 side and a ready contender for the NFL nadir. They can be backed at 18.017/1 for a Wembley victory at this early stage, with the 49ers red hot favourites at 1.081/12.

The Jaguars are even closing fast on the ill-starred Houston Oilers of 1984, who lost their opening 10 games that season by 10 points or more. They already have seven double-digit defeats in the locker and are staring down the barrel of another drubbing this weekend when the resurgent San Francisco 49ers join them in London Town.

So will these lowlights continue to live down to expectations when the primetime spotlight is shone upon them? And are they the worst team in the entire league? These are questions, I'm sure, which head coach Gus Bradley would rather not be fielding. However, considering he isn't even fielding his best starting outfit on either side of the ball, he can't be surprised. 

They say there are two kinds of coaches in the NFL: those that have just been fired and those that are about to be. Yet prospects are so poor in Jacksonville that Bradley's dejected press conferences seem perfectly aligned with the Jaguars' fate. Perhaps he's found his kind of town and they can all revel in their squalid shows for the rest of the year. 

After their latest capitulation to the aggressively average San Diego Chargers, Bradley genuinely appeared to be wondering why people were looking to him for answers. "Listen, we talked about playing with toughness, playing with endeavour, playing with enthusiasm and playing smart - we didn't do any one of those four," the 47-year-old lamented. "That's what's disappointing. I don't know what the reason was. I told them afterwards: blame yourself or you blame me." The inference, though, was blame yourself. 

Bradley has helped sculpt some pretty useful defenses in his time, particularly at Seattle where the Seahawks provide a lasting legacy. All of which makes his current team's efforts on D so deflating. The San Diegan offense whopped them to the ball all over the park last weekend, with Philip Rivers connecting with 85% of his throws for 276 yards. The Bolts added another 158 on the ground and boasted an alarming 58% strike rate on those all-important third downs.

Strangely, that abject performance arrived hard on the heels of their most promising. For Jacksonville had previously restricted Peyton Manning and his stampeding Broncos to season lows in both points and passing. Granted, Denver went on to prove themselves fallible against Indy, but it was certainly a step in the right direction for the Jags. Trouble is they have since taken four steps back again.

That Broncos game had made the pedestrian Jaguars the biggest outsiders on the handicap (a staggering 27 points) since the league merger of the Seventies. True, they covered it (35-19). But their porous secondary (frequently followed with the commentator's cries of "wide open") was poked apart by Manning's precision in the latter stages. Their make-up is so makeshift, it looks like it's been assembled from a rogues' gallery of Dad's Army volunteers.

Let's not forget the Jags offense, though, which is also struggling mightily. In fact, they still haven't managed a touchdown at home, so this Wembley venue counts for getting the monkey off their backs. 

In fairness, they are ravaged by injuries. Their top three receivers again missed midweek practice, for example - hardly encouraging news for struggling QB Chad Henne. However, the one ray of light from the treatment table is the impending return to form of star rusher Maurice Jones-Drew.

Granted, MJD has still been taking the field, but he has been running on an injured ankle sustained in Week Three. According to reports, this is the first time when Jones-Drew will be playing at full tilt. It's an awesome sight and one the Wembley faithful desperately need if they are to witness much of a contest. Even at half pace, MJD remains their offensive leader, so look for him the step it up on the hallowed English turf.

The Niners know to their own cost that even the hottest favourites can come up cold. And these prize pigs may fly. However, it's more likely Jacksonville will take another step along the rocky road to Worst Team Ever. Either way, history could be in the making here.

Most reckon Jacksonville have hit rock bottom. But maybe they have merely come to rest on a jagged ledge. The stark reality is that there's plenty farther for the Jags to fall down this gaping abyss.


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