Jags: So Close, Yet So Far

Posted: December 21, 2011 in Jacksonville Jaguars
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve said many times that the difference between the NFL’s best team and the NFL’s worst team is about five players, maybe fewer. The Jaguars, for example, are clearly one of the worst teams in the league. But what if they added Drew Brees at quarterback, Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, Jake Long at left tackle, Jared Allen at defensive end and Joe Haden at cornerback? Would the Jaguars’ other 48 players be talented enough to make the team a championship contender?


The point I’m making is if you can play in the NFL you’re a talented football player. Obviously there are some great players and, yes, there are some who don’t belong in the league. But we’re talking about a handful of players. Most of the 1,700-plus men who play in the NFL each season are capable contributing to a championship team.

I chuckle when Jaguars fans marvel when rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert makes a particularly good throw – you know, like firing a strike between two defenders for a touchdown – and say that’s proof that he has what it takes to be a stud NFL quarterback. I chuckle because, the way I see it, if he couldn’t make such a throw he never would have been a draft pick – much less the 10th overall pick.

The differences between the great quarterbacks and the also-rans aren’t which throws they can make but how consistently they make them. The same is true of every position.

Think about how difficult it is just to get an opportunity to play in the NFL. Think about how many outstanding college players never make it to the next level. We are, indeed, talking about the best of the best. Often the difference isn’t physical but mental. I’m talking about everything from having the work ethic to stay in top physical shape to the desire to be mentally prepared through film study.

It is the mental aspect where players tend to get better or worse. Using Gabbert as an example, his ability to throw a football isn’t going to improve a great deal, if at all. The unknown is whether or not he’ll grind to make himself more fundamentally sound? Will he handle the criticism and become more determined? We did study and become smarter? How will he handle his wealth and the lifestyle of a pro athlete?

It is the basic parity of talent that makes the NFL so unpredictable. It is why teams go from first to worst, or vice versa, in a single year. It’s why the 13-0 Packers lose to the 5-8 Chiefs and the 0-13 Colts beat the 7-6 Titans. It is why only about half the NFL playoff teams make the post season in consecutive seasons.

It is why high draft picks become busts and undrafted players become stars. It is why NFL coaches are serious when they talk about “the next man up” to replace injured starters.

You don’t get an NFL paycheck unless you can, in some combination, run, throw, catch, block and tackle. It’s the other stuff that makes signing players a gamble. It is why the Jaguars are close to being a title contender, but just as close to remaining a bottom feeder. Ultimately, it is why the NFL so successful.


  1. Tampa Jack says:

    This trained eye has already seen enough from Gabbert that the Jaguars wasted their first round pick on him. Busted.

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