Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/6/11
The Mel Tucker era in Jacksonville began Monday night much like the Jack Del Rio era ended with a stagnant offense and another embarrassing performance against a very beatable opponent. And as the seconds ticked off yet another Jaguars loss this one a 38-14 blowout at the hands of the San Diego Chargers, a pitiful team in its own right it became clearer than ever that this is a team whose problems won't be solved simply by hiring a big-name coach. The loss, which was the third straight for the bumbling, 3-9 Jags, revealed an overwhelming need for change within the Jacksonville organization, not just among the men in headsets, but also among the men in shoulder pads. Because this team cannot and will not win at this level with the squad they have on the field. And if Jacksonville continues with its gradual plunge into irrelevance, it may find itself making the long move to Los Angeles sooner than later, regardless of what new owner Shahid Khan says his plans are for the future. Monday night's prime time game started out like many other Jaguars games over the last 12 weeks, with a three-and-out and a punt on Jacksonville's first drive. And San Diego, a team coming off six straight losses and with a coach of their own on his way out the door, responded with an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard Mike Tolbert touchdown run to take an early 7-0 lead. The next Jacksonville drive was more of the same another three-and-out and another punt and on the ensuing San Diego drive, Nick Novak's 29-yard field goal to give San Diego a 10-0 lead with 41 seconds left in the first quarter. Coming into Monday night's game, Jacksonville had scored more than 14 points just twice during a 30-20 home loss to Cincinnati in Week 5 and in a 17-3 win in Indianapolis in Week 10 and the Jags were held to 10 points or fewer on four different occasions, so being down 10-0 less than 15 minutes into the game is not the place they wanted to be. But then a strange thing happened. The Jaguars offense, well, it worked... at least for a few minutes. Jacksonville responded to Novak's field goal by moving the ball with relative ease and putting together a 12-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert was 5-for-5 passing on the drive, which ended on a nine-yard pass to running back Maurice Jones-Drew. After the Jags' defense forced a three-and-out of its own, the offense responded with a second straight score. A 48-yard shovel pass from Gabbert to Jones-Drew set up a five-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts the catch was only Shorts' second reception of the season and the once-hapless Jags took a surprising, it not shocking, 14-10 lead with 2:32 left in first half. But it didn't take long for those once-hapless Jags, whose 14-point second quarter was their most explosive offensive quarter of the season, to revert to the still-hapless Jags. Because by the time the teams trudged into the locker rooms for halftime, Jacksonville's four-point lead had become a 10-point deficit a nearly insurmountable lead for a team that had only reached 20 points once in its first 11 games. After taking over at their own 32 yard line, Philip Rivers and the Chargers needed just eight plays and 1:06 to regain the lead, as Rivers' 22-yard pass to Vincent Brown put the Bolts back on top, 17-14 with 1:26 left in half. And after Eric Weddle intercepted Gabbert at the San Diego 41 with 53 seconds left in the half, Rivers found his other favorite target, 6-foot-5 Vincent Jackson, on the other end of a 35-yard touchdown strike with 16 seconds left. Things didn't get much better in the third quarter for the Jags, who had only given up one third-quarter touchdown in their previous seven games. Just five plays into the second half, Rivers connected with Malcolm Floyd for a 52-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 31-14. And from there, the rest of the game was simply a formality. San Diego would go on to add one more touchdown in the fourth quarter a score that was set up, appropriately enough, by a botched snap and a 39-yard loss on a Jaguars field goal attempt and the Jaguars would never sniff the end zone again. It certainly wasn't the ideal start for Tucker, the former defensive coordinator who was making his head coaching debut Monday night after the team fired Del Rio last Tuesday, and it definitely didn't do anything to help him remove the "interim" tag from his title. But if he knows what's best for him, Tucker will run as far away from this team as fast as possible the second the season ends. Because this isn't your average rebuilding project, and I can assure you, he doesn't want to be the guy tasked with turning this ship around. Offensively, the Jaguars are atrocious, at best. The release of former star David Garrard and the inept play of backup quarterback Luke McCown led to the early insertion of Gabbert a decent enough quarterback, but a player who wasn't ready to start into the lineup. But Gabbert was clearly fed to the wolves far too early, and opposing defenses have eaten him alive. Monday night, the long-haired rookie finished 19 of 33 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but he threw nary a ball downfield, leaving his playmakers of which he has few to pick up the yards after the catch, a technique they're not terribly well-versed in. At receiver, Jacksonville boasts a collection of no-names that rivals some of the worst receiving corps in NFL history, and at tight end, 2010 Pro Bowl selection Marcedes Lewis has been rendered essentially useless by a quarterback that no longer looks for him and rarely has time to, anyway. One bright spot for the Jaguars has been Maurice Jones-Drew, whose 97 yards on the ground Monday gave him the NFL lead in rushing yards this season, but even a running back as talented as Jones-Drew and he's undoubtedly one of the top backs in the league can do so much to help his team win. Up until Monday, the Jags' defense a group that was in the top five in the league in both yards and points allowed per game had been its only bright spot this season, but Rivers and his stable of receivers exposed Jacksonville's second-rate secondary and knocked the Jags' teeth in. On Jan. 4, Khan will the reins from current owner Wayne Weaver a man who now looks like a genius for having the foresight to get the hell out while he still could and priority No. 1 will be to find a new coach. And I'm sure he'll try to reel in the best one on the market. But a new coach won't be nearly enough to turn around this ragtag bunch of nobodies. Khan can bring in Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden or whichever other splashy name he wants. But until he and his leadership bring in some better players a lot of them, on both offense and defense this team will remain one of the laughing stock of the NFL. And if the Jaguars don't make some monumental changes, and make them soon, the Jaguars' days as the laughingstock of Florida may soon be numbered, as well.
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