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Wright On

Florida Times-Union reporter Michael C. Wright covers the ins and outs of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this blog, he'll share behind-the-scenes anecdotes not published within the pages of the T-U, in addition to offering up incessant ramblings about nothing such as road trips, crummy hotels and not-so-delicious press box food. Perhaps he'll even delve into serious discussions about NFL issues. So ask questions, participate in conversations, or just learn more about the Jags.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blithering idiot

Other than reading Monday Morning Quarterback, one of the highlights of the day after a game for me is to check my voicemail in the office. Lots of gems can be found there including the weekly "You're an idiot" remarks. It's kind of my personal version of Monday Morning Quarterback.

This week, I've officially reached the level of "blithering idiot" which essentially means I'm an idiot who speaks incoherently. I love it. Here's the text of what I'd like to call the "voicemail of the week."

Voice call received 8:35 p.m. , Monday September 17. 20 seconds.

Hey, you are a blithering idiot. Your [darn] articles suck. All you are is a, uh, copycat, uh, stats, uh, reporter. And your statement about not much of an impressive game is way out of there. What is not impressive about winning? Why dont you get a clue idiot.

The introduction to this blog says that readers will sometimes be subjected to incessant ramblings about nothing. Well, this was the first of many to come. By the way, what do you guys think about S Gerald Sensabaugh possibly being out for an extended period of time? With Donovin Darius now in Miami, perhaps the club brings back Jacksonville native Jamaal Fudge.

Your thoughts?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your totally candid, deeply personal revelation that someone called you a "blithering idiot".

For some reason we just aren't seeing the myopia we used to. Thanks for opening our eyes.

September 18, 2007 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For whatever reason, our safeties seem to be our first line of run defense - making an awful lot of tackles. I think our new strong safety needs to have better run stopping skills like DD in his prime. I don't know Knight's skill set well enough to know whether he's the guy. I'm not sure even Sensabaugh was strong in that area, and I doubt Fudge fits that either. I guess we'll find out about Knight when we play Denver.

September 19, 2007 at 4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hoping the team does bring back Fudge. He played well in the preseason, and it was tough letting him go.

September 19, 2007 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Michael C. Wright said...

Well, Sammy Knight has played the last two seasons for Kansas City, a team that plays with Denver in the AFC West. So Knight should be pretty familiar with the Broncos. In four games against Denver from 2005-06, Knight has posted 15 tackles as the Chiefs won two games over the Broncos and lost two more.

September 19, 2007 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Michael C. Wright said...

Just to let you guys know, the Jaguars brought back Jamaal Fudge on Wednesday.

Fudge was re-signed after a workout on Tuesday that included Travarous Bain, Dustin Fox, and former Florida Gator Reggie Lewis.

September 19, 2007 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

I would love for them to bring back and really use Jamal Fudge. I thought he was pretty good and was very disappointed to seem him released yet again.

I can't believe anyone would call you a blithering idiot. That does seem to be the response of people around here hearing the truth though.

September 19, 2007 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

I would love for them to bring back and really use Jamal Fudge. I thought he was pretty good and was very disappointed to seem him released yet again.

I can't believe anyone would call you a blithering idiot. That does seem to be the response of people around here hearing the truth though.

September 19, 2007 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read this article in the Rocky Mountain News?Makes me sick.I live in Denver,but I'm from Jax and a huge Jags fan.

NFL's Cheshire cats have lost their grin
Wonderland of early success erodes into turmoil for Jaguars
Email this story | Print

Falcons sign former Jaguars’ starter Leftwich
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By Clay Latimer, Rocky Mountain News
September 18, 2007
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When he walked into the lights of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium three weeks ago, seeing his former teammates and hearing the rumble of friendly fans, Mark Brunell couldn’t help himself.
He started toward the Jaguars sideline.

Wishful thinking?

Certainly for Jacksonville fans, who still carry mental snapshots of the left-handed quarterback who helped transform the Jaguars into one of the most successful expansion teams in NFL history, leading them to the AFC Championship Game twice in their first five years.

But the storybook stuff ended years ago, even before Brunell was traded to the Washington Redskins.

The Jaguars, who play the Broncos on Sunday (2:05 p.m., CBS4) at Invesco Field at Mile High, have pressing concerns.

Owner Wayne Weaver reportedly is trying to sell the team.

All tell has declined to renew a naming-rights agreement on the stadium.

The game Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons was blacked out because 4,000 premium seats went unsold.

Critics are circling around coach Jack Del Rio, who alienated many players when he cut quarterback Byron Leftwich before the opener after naming him the starter before training camp.

"Before, you couldn’t pay anybody to say something bad about the Jaguars," said Jacksonville native Rashean Mathis, a Pro Bowl cornerback. "But not now. There’s been a big change."

Leftwich troubles

The Jaguars bounced back from an opening loss to Tennessee with a 13-7 win against Atlanta on Sunday. Quarterback David Garrard completed 17-of-25 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, but his performance nearly was overshadowed by the Leftwich imbroglio.

The seventh pick in the 2003 draft, Leftwich was the starting quarterback for nearly every game during his four-year tenure — when he was healthy.

He seemed on the verge of a fabulous career until injuries — he missed 10 games last season because of a left ankle injury — and a lack of mobility created an opening for Garrard.

So strained was Leftwich’s relationship with Del Rio that the pair rarely spoke. Del Rio suspected Leftwich misled him about his health several times, and Leftwich reportedly had little respect for Del Rio’s dealings with quarterbacks.

Yet during the offseason, Del Rio stressed Leftwich, who signed Tuesday with the Falcons, would be the starting quarterback — only to turn around and cut him, fueling an image of a foundering coach.

"That whole notion was thrown out and floated early in the offseason by one of my buddies in there," said Del Rio, pointing to the media room. "It just happens to have stuck. I feel good about what we’re doing and where we are — it’s all positive. It isn’t always portrayed the way it really is.

"I was grateful, as a young coach, for the opportunity," said Del Rio, who was 39 when hired. "A young coach isn’t going to inherit a team chock full of talent and ready to roll. There were a lot of challenges that first year. We had some work to do. But we worked through it and built the roster stronger and yet continued to keep a very healthy salary cap. We haven’t mortgaged the future."

No return of buzz

Del Rio replaced Tom Coughlin after the 2002 season, promising to return the buzz to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

After several losses, the rookie coach placed a tree stump and ax in the locker room, a reminder to "keep chopping wood." Chris Hanson, then the Jaguars’ Pro Bowl punter, gashed his leg while taking a swing at the stump.

In the third game, Brunell went down with an elbow injury that required surgery, creating an opening for Leftwich. After his first two games, Del Rio said Leftwich would be the starter — even after Brunell returned — angering a city already embittered by bad ball.

Attendance slipped to an average of 53,509, the lowest in the history of the franchise. After the 2004 season, the team covered nearly 10,000 seats so it could avoid blackouts — a plan that worked until Sunday.

Del Rio and the Jaguars hit their stride in 2005, finishing 12-4, mainly because of a rugged defense. But poor drafts, inconsistent play and an inferior passing game contributed to an 8-8 record last year, with the Jaguars finishing out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

"There’s definitely (a sense of urgency) now," said guard Chris Naeole, a former University of Colorado All-American. "Everyone knows that. If we don’t win, heads are going to be on the block. It doesn’t matter who you are."

Tough market

Located about 20 miles south of the Georgia border, Jacksonville is overshadowed by Miami, Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla., and is derisively called "Hooterville."

It isn’t an easy place to play, especially with Florida State and Florida an easy drive away.

Angry about being arrested for speeding and driving under the influence after he thought he passed field-sobriety tests, offensive tackle Khalif Barnes called Jacksonville a "hick town" last year, complaining his arrest was racially motivated and about his having to play in the city.

"I don’t want to comment too much on the city now," running back Fred Taylor said. "I have in the past, and it’s done nothing for us.

"We’ve got to be careful about our approach as an organization, about trying to get back to successful times when we made the playoffs. This is one big college town, and in college, the game is supposed to be exciting and fast- paced, and Florida and Florida State have been so successful, back to back to back.

"And that’s what people are expecting here. Our response is that we’re not perfect, we’re human like you are, so don’t give up on us."

Good old days gone

No Jaguars fan will forget that January afternoon in 1997, when Brunell out-Elwayed John Elway at Mile High Stadium, running and passing his team to a 30-27 stunner in an AFC divisional playoff game.

As Elway stumbled into the locker room in a daze, Brunell whooped it up, celebrating a breakthrough moment for the second-year franchise.

That moment, though, seems long ago for an embattled team and its coach.

"I don’t know if you can prepare to be a head coach," Del Rio said. "I don’t know that you can really do anything other than experience it and to continue to grow and learn."

Del Rio has heard the critics but insists they won’t change the way he goes about his business.

"Look, Tony Dungy is in Tampa Bay and he’s conservative — he’s a defensive guy. Now he’s in (Indianapolis) and he has the most explosive offense in the league. So what happened? Did he change? No, he’s the same guy I knew when he coached me in Minnesota. He just happens to have a quarterback who’s pretty good and a system that fits him well.

"That’s how I approach it: I’m the same guy. I have the same principles. I believe in what I’m doing."

latimerc@RockyMountain News.com

Jaguars history

1991: Jacksonville joins Charlotte, N.C., St. Louis, Baltimore and Memphis, Tenn., as finalists for one of two NFL expansion teams but is considered a long shot.

November 1993: Awarded a franchise. 25,000 fans celebrate at the Gator Bowl.

1995: Finish 4-12 in debut season, eclipsing the record for most wins by an expansion team (three, set by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968).

Jan. 4, 1997: Stun Broncos 30-27 in an AFC divisional playoff game. About 40,000 fans welcome the team back to town. They go on to lose the AFC Championship Game at New England 20-6.

1999: Finish 14-2 in the regular season but lose to the Tennessee Titans 33-14 in the AFC Championship Game at home.

2002: Third straight losing season culminates with coach Tom Coughlin’s resignation. Jack Del Rio, 39, seven years removed from his final game as a player, takes over.

2004: Because of declining attendance, management decides after the season to cover almost 10,000 seats to avoid TV blackouts.

2005: Finish 12-4 but in the final 10 games, face nine teams that finished with at least 10 losses. Despite a 28-3 wild-card playoff loss at New England, hopes are high for 2006.

2006: Beat the Steelers and Cowboys and split two games with the Colts but are swept by the Texans and finish 8-8. Del Rio fires offensive coordinator and four other assistant coaches. Del Rio has fired or demoted 13 assistants since the end of his first season.

2007: Pass on Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn in the NFL draft — twice. Del Rio stresses Byron Leftwich will be the starting quarterback during the offseason, then cuts him before the opener.

Sept. 16: Despite covered seats, home game against the Falcons in blacked out in Jacksonville.

Suiting up

Bill Belichick might be the NFL’s most successful coach, but he doesn’t exactly dress for success.

Not like Jack Del Rio.

Belichick paces the New England Patriots sideline in a baggy, gray sweat shirt, looking more like a P.E. teacher than a three-time Super Bowl champion.

Del Rio favors the formal look, taking the field in a smart-looking suit, more GQ than the Sporting News.

But only for home games. On the road, the NFL requires Del Rio to wear Reebok gear as part of a reported $250 million licensing agreement between the league and the sportswear company.

Del Rio and San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan have fought hard for the right to wear suits, hoping to follow in the stylish steps of Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Dan Reeves, the last NFL coach to dress formally on the sideline.

The NFL and Reebok granted them an exemption for home games with one stipulation: Reebok would make the suits.

September 21, 2007 at 12:14 PM  
Anonymous CresceNet said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 21, 2007 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Michael C. Wright said...

I read that article in the Rocky Mountain News. I didn't think it broke any new ground. What was reported in the piece has been reported several times around here. Someone asked me about the "Hooterville" line. It's funny, but that's what a lot of people call my home town (Wichita Falls, Tx.).

September 21, 2007 at 9:02 PM  

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