The Jaguars suck this year, everyone knows that. But what if we peel back that superficial layer of suck, and delve deeper into the fetid onion that is the 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars? It's actually astonishing how terrible this team is.
Just how pitiful are the Jags? First, a quick survey. Football Outsiders has kept a running list of the best and worst teams, according to DVOA, since 1989. The 2013 Jaguars are currently ranked as the third-worst team through 10 weeks since 1989, behind the 1993 Buccaneers—a 5-11 team that enjoyed two bye weeks and played 11 games against eventual playoff teams—and the 2005 49ers. Before Jacksonville's first win of the season against the Titans, it was dead last with an overall DVOA of -66.3%. After the win, the Jags "improved" to -62.3%. They are, empirically, nearly the worst in a quarter century.
(DVOA is Defense-adjusted Value Over Average is used to compare parts or the entirety of a team to league average. So, 0.0% is average. Positive is good, negative is bad—unless we're calculating defense, in which negative is good, and positive is bad. And all of this is adjusted for strength of opponents.)
Here's some modern context: Remember the 2008 winless Lions? Their season-ending team DVOA was -48.4%. The Jaguars still have seven games to play, and DVOA isn't the end-all, be-all statistic, but that is simply astounding. It gets so much more astounding, though, when you down the pieces making up this catastrophe.
This offense, as a unit, has been the kind of hot garbage you cross the street to avoid smelling. According to FO's drive stats, Jacksonville has scored touchdowns on 8.3% of its drives. It's gone three-and-out on a ridiculous 34.3% of its drives. They're just as horrendous in the red zone, too, where the Jags' touchdowns per red zone appearance percentage is a dismal 30.4%. It has taken the field with an average lead of -10.98 points. In all of these categories, Jacksonville ranks dead last in the league.
One more league-worst stat: Jacksonville has scored 0.92 points per drive. For context, as if being at the bottom of the league wasn't enough context, the Buccaneers, the second-worst in this category, have scored 1.34 points per drive. The Jags are getting lapped by the most dysfunctional NFL team in Florida.
In a pass-oriented league, bad offense starts with the quarterback. And oh sweet god, the Jaguars' quarterbacks. The opening day starter, Blaine Gabbert, is STILL the second lowest quarterback by DYAR despite playing in only four games. This would be like leading the majors in home runs in late July after playing in just 20 or so games. New starter Chad Henne and Gabbert have also managed to rank 30th in the NFL for interceptions per drive.
Henne and Gabbert have combined for four passing touchdowns. Yes. Four. It would be easy to poke fun at them in comparison to Peyton Manning, who's thrown at least four touchdowns in five games this season, but let's aim lower. Minnesota's Christian Ponder, who's been usurped by Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel at different points of the season, has five passing touchdowns in six games this season. No, wait. We can go lower. Jason Campbell, who's started two games for the Browns, has five passing touchdowns. There we go.
But at least the Jags have Maurice Jones-Drew, right? Well, about that. Jacksonville has rushed for just 585 yards in nine games, the second-lowest total in the league. Jones-Drew has rushed 143 times for 432 yards and three touchdowns. His game-high this season is 75 yards. Even apparent highlights, like the Jags being fourth best in rate of fumbles per drive, are dimmed when you remember that they're probably just too busy going three-and-out and throwing interceptions to remember to fumble. So is Jones-Drew washed up, or does he just have no offensive line? Tough to say, but adjusted for opponents, he's been worse than human tackling dummy Trent Richardson, and is ahead of only Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, and Willis McGahee in DYAR.
Injuries have been a big reason for the failures of the offense—sort of. During Week 5's game against the Rams, Gabbert hurt his hamstring, and left tackle Luke Joeckel suffered a season-ending fractured ankle. This came after the Jaguars traded former starting left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Ravens for a couple of late-round picks. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon—the glimmer of hope and 2012 team leader in receptions who was suspended for his first four games—lasted all of four games before being suspended for the rest of the season, though this opened the door for Cecil Shorts, the long decent skill player on the Jaguars' roster.
Before Gus Bradley became Jacksonville's new head coach, he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, and a good one at that. So you might think that the Jaguars' defense would be the stronger side, right? At least next to that offense? Yes, actually!
There are a couple bright spots on the defensive side. The Jags cause fumbles often, with a fumbles per drive rate of .076, second-best in the league—while recovering fumbles is almost entirely random, forcing them can be a good sign. Another strength (in the context of being dead last in many, many categories) is that when opponents' offenses are in the red zone, they only score touchdowns 60.5% of the time, 22nd best in the league.
Any strengths of the defense, though, are nullified because of its starting situation. Jacksonville's D takes the field with an average lead of -8.63. Can you guess where that ranks in comparison to the rest of the league? (Yes, it's the worst.) The Jets' defense, a group that also suffers from a questionable, turnover-prone offense, starts out with an average lead of -3.17, second-worst in the league. So not only do the Jaguars, on average, not have a lead, they're also, on average, behind by more than a touchdown.
In fact, in a 60-minute game, the Jaguars spend an average 5:10 tied, 8:59 leading, and 45:51 trailing. (I'm growing tired of writing this, but yes, those are all league-worsts.)
No offense to the Jags' four-man defensive line of Tyson Alualu, Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, and Jason Babin, but it is not good. Running backs earn 4.55 yards per run against it. If running backs break to the second level—getting to linebackers and the secondary—they earn 1.20 yards per attempt, 24th-worst in the NFL. Jacksonville also sucks at getting to the quarterback, racking up a league-lowest total of 12 sacks, and dead last in adjusted sack rate at 4.3%. Can't stop the run, can't stop the quarterback.
The defense hasn't suffered many crucial injuries—outside of safety Dwight Lowery going on injured reserve in Week 5 and eventually being cut—but it's rather demoralizing when your team's offense constantly turns the ball over and puts you back on the field.
Hey, the Jaguars are not the worst at special teams! Jacksonville ranks in 16th with a 1.6% special teams DVOA. This is a team that prides itself on doing the "foot" part of football well, dammit.
Placekicker Josh Scobee has made all nine of his extra point attempts, and hit all 12 of his field goal attempts, with his longest measured at 53 yards. Punter Bryan Anger—a third-round draft pick—has punted 54 times for 2502 yards, the third-highest total out of all punters. He's got a top-10 net average of 40.9 yards. Exactly half of Jacksonville's offensive drives have ended in Anger punting the ball away, so he's getting plenty of work.
One argument in the Jaguars' favor is that they've faced many tough teams. The total DVOA of Jacksonville's opponents so far is 5.4%, the sixth-toughest. It's daunting to face playoff contenders like the Chiefs, Seahawks, Colts, Broncos and 49ers. But Jags are miserable even (especially) in opponent-adjusted stats. And again, this isn't about losing; it's about how the team loses. Points are left on the board. Offensive drives stall out with little effort on the defense's part. For those eight losses, the Jags have never come close to a victory.
Maybe it'll get better with less fierce opponents; Jacksonville's future schedule has a -9.0% DVOA, one of the fifth easiest. There might even be a few wins to be found in there. But so far, the 2013 Jaguars have shown that being a historically awful football team really is an extraordinary accomplishment.
Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images