Can the Jacksonville Jaguars Avoid Becoming One of the Worst Teams in Recent History?
There have been quite a few surprises so far during the 2014 NFL Season, and as we reach the end of the "first quarter" of the season, surprises that seemed like "flukes" start to become legitimate trends.
Are the New England Patriots really this bad? Are the Houston Texans really this good? Those are questions that will answer themselves over the coming weeks, as we compile more data and see more games played out on the field.
Yet, there's one unfortunate constant that remains from year to year in the NFL lately, and that's the identity of the worst team in the league. For three years running, it's nearly impossible to point the finger at a worse franchise than the Jacksonville Jaguars, and through four games in 2014, they're on pace to have an even more catastrophic season than the one before.
Just how bad have the Jaguars been? And is there any hope to turn things around?
Stumbling Out of the Gate
Through four games, the Jaguars have an Adjusted (for strength of schedule) Offensive Net Expected Points total of -40.60, and an Adjusted Defensive NEP total of 52.69. They are currently 32nd in the league in both categories. (Defensive NEP is how many Net Expected Points a defense allows, so a high total is not a good thing.)
The offense is off to a terrible start due to the poor play of their key contributors in the run and pass games. Toby Gerhart is currently the second-worst running back according to our Rushing NEP metric, while the now sidelined Chad Henne is the worst quarterback according to Passing NEP. Both of these players have certainly not been helped by an offensive line that looks like Swiss cheese when protecting a quarterback, and is run over in run defense.
The defense started off strong, posting a negative NEP against the Eagles (again, negative is good on defense) before getting blasted for two straight weeks to swing their NEP total nearly 45 points in the wrong direction. The run defense has been consistently mediocre over the Jags four games, but the pass defense has been exposed for all but the first two quarters of the season.
But before we provide even more bad news for Jags fans, there is a silver lining. While the passing offense is horrible and among the worst in the NFL, things improved significantly when Chad Henne was removed from the lineup. Through two games, the team had a -23.14 Passing NEP, yet after four games, that total sits at -27.13, meaning things have been significantly better (although still below expectation) after a miserable debut and second game.
The Jaguars may not just be the worst team in the NFL this year, but they may be the worst team over the past 15 years if they remain at their current level of play.
Here is a table of the five worst offenses since 2000, according to our data.
|Year||Team||Adj NEP||Adj PNEP||Adj RNEP|
If the Jaguars keep up the pace they're on through four games, they would finish third on this list, "ahead" of the 2002 Texans.
Here is a list of the five worst defenses since 2000, again, per our numbers.
|Year||Team||Adj D NEP||Adj D PNEP||Adj D RNEP|
If the Jaguars continue their current pace, they would finish second on this list, nearly a touchdown worse than the 2008 Broncos (but nowhere near the 2008 Lions, thankfully).
And you may notice that there are no teams who finished on both of these lists. In fact, only two teams since 2000 have a season during which they finished in the bottom 30 (among all teams since 2000) in both offense and defense according to our numbers: the 2009 Rams, and the 2013 Jaguars.
So the Jaguars are on pace to out-do their awful 2013 campaign by becoming the only team since 2000 to end up with a bottom-five offense and defense according to our data, which would be a truly embarrassing accomplishment.
Can They Turn Things Around?
The Jaguars do have a couple of things working in their favor as they begin the second quarter of their 2014 season. As mentioned above, the offense looks much better with Blake Bortles under center, and as the rookie gets comfortable under center, he'll improve that side of the ball drastically. Not because he's anything special, but because it couldn't really get any worse than Chad Henne.
Also, they play in one of the easiest divisions in football. The Titans and Texans both rank in the bottom-10 in our offensive rankings at the moment, while the Colts have a bottom-10 defense. They've already missed a chance to beat the Colts, but have games against Tennessee and Houston on the horizon.
But nothing drastic will change along the offensive line, at the running back position, at wide receiver, or on defense as the season goes on, as there are no third-overall-pick rookies sitting on the bench waiting to be unleashed to drastically improve any other positions. So the Jaguars may assume a spot in numberFire's history books for all the wrong reasons this year, and finish yet another disappointing season with a high draft pick and nothing but hope for the future.