Where Exactly Did It Go Wrong for the Jacksonville Jaguars?

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

Blaine Gabbert fell flat in Year 2.
Blaine Gabbert fell flat in Year 2.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars were doomed before the season even began.

It's not hard to trace the origins of the worst record in football. Before the first game was played, Jacksonville faced its share of problems.

To really get at the heart of what went wrong, however, you have to go back to April 28, 2011.

That was the night Gene Smith selected Blaine Gabbert in the first round of the draft.

Obviously, Gabbert's play wasn't the only problem with the Jaguars this season, not by a long shot. The roots of the disease go back to that fateful selection, however, and spread out from there like a cancer.

Where did it all go wrong?

The Team Never Had a Viable Quarterback

Winning begins with a credible option at quarterback, and before the season even started, observers around the league were already fingering Jacksonville as a candidate to be one of the worst teams in football.

Blaine Gabbert was the reason why.

As much as Gabbert suffered from poor line play (and yes, we'll get to that), elite quarterbacks can overcome shoddy lines to make a difference. Note what Andrew Luck did in Indianapolis despite a horrid line.

Mike Mularkey and company spend their entire offseason rebuilding Gabbert's mechanics in the pocket, a clear sign he was nowhere near ready to lead a franchise.

The Jaguars spent big money on Chad Henne to back him up, and many wondered if Henne wouldn't win the starting job outright. As bad as Gabbert was, Henne was consistently worse throughout camp and the preseason and couldn't unseat Gabbert.

The end result is an offense ranked 30th in the NFL in points.

Controversy Dominated Training Camp

The Jaguars never made it easy on themselves.

Before the season started, they were plagued with ugly front-page stories. Justin Blackmon had a DUI, followed by a protracted holdout.

Maurice Jones-Drew missed all of camp with a holdout.

Given the obvious limitations in skill Gabbert possessed, the team losing its two best offensive players for a long stretch didn't get the season off on the right foot.

The Injuries Mounted

Daryl Smith went down before the first game and touched of a wagon train of injuries that stretched to Orlando. Though Smith eventually returned in time for the 15th game, more than 20 other Jaguars wound up on injured reserve throughout the season.

The offensive line was forced to constantly shuffle as injuries and bad play required retooling on a regular basis.

Eight different Jaguars wound up seeing at least 100 snaps on the offensive line, and with the exception of Eugene Monroe and maybe Uche Nwarneri, almost all of them were various shades of terrible.

The Jaguars were not long on talent to begin with and simply could not absorb all the bumps and bruises that went with the season.

Whatever hope or blind optimism remained for the Jaguars and their fans, it was stomped out of them by Week 5. A 41-3 loss to the Chicago Bears was the third-straight home blowout and dropped their record to 1-4.

It was clear then that a winning campaign was not in the cards.

When you cut through the excuses and the distraction, all that's left to say about the 2012 Jaguars is that they simply did not have the talent to compete on a regular basis with other NFL teams. They were outscored by 189 points on the year, the second-largest disparity in the league.

Gene Smith assembled a lead balloon in Jacksonville and paid for it with his job.


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