By Bruce Allen
If you haven’t heard it already, you will at some point this week. It’s been building for weeks now, and has gained great momentum as of late. The Jaguars are built to beat the Patriots. The Jaguars are a blue collar, hard working team that is made to play in cold weather, playoff football. They are America’s best hope to knock off the evil Hatriots.
The following words are from a December 19th column from ESPN.com’s Jeremy Green:
There are a couple of things I am pretty sure about as the 2007 playoffs approach: the New England Patriots are going to finish the regular season at 16-0 and the Jacksonville Jaguars will beat them if they play in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Well, Green did get the first part right, we’ll see about the second part. (He’s not backing down.) His sentiments, however, have been echoed across the country. CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf had the following to say about the Jaguars in yesterday’s The NFL on CBS conference call:
Jacksonville got that moniker – “the team nobody wanted to play” because of how physical they are as a hard-hitting, muscular, testosterone-filled team. And I don’t mean that in terms of illegal drugs. I’m talking about a team that muscles up when they play. They are just a reflection of Jack Del Rio.
Yup, the beat is getting louder, as the media hopes to see Goliath knocked down by David (Garrard). The Patriots all of a sudden have morphed from America’s team, to America’s Most Hated. Spygate is certainly part of it, but I firmly believe that while the Patriots broke the rules, that episode served in a larger purpose as the excuse for the rest of the country to turn on and hate New England. All the individuals who had been dying to take a shot at the Patriots finally had their chance, and they teed off. Bill Belichick has been all but linked to the Zodiac killer. (Has anyone reported seeing him in Vallejo, CA in 1969?) The Patriots cheat and they run up the score, and they’ve been called the second coming of the 1970’s Oakland Raiders. (Honestly, I don’t get that connection.)
Meanwhile, the Jaguars are being anointed as the latest saviors for football. They’re being portrayed as the blue collar, hard working team with the, fiery no-nonsense coach. One troll Jaguars fan in the comments section of this site this week cited the “honesty and hard work that the Jaguars have put up all season.”
Besides the media adulation and lusting for an upset, want some more reasons to hate the Jags?
They also had 7 players arrested in 2007, good for tops in the league. 14 Jags have been arrested since Del Rio took over as head coach.
The Patriots had no players arrested in 2007 and besides the marijuana arrest of short-timer Johnathan Sullivan in 2006, they haven’t had anyone appear on the blotter since the immortal Marquise Walker picked up a DUI in July, 2004 and was released within the week.
Del Rio appears be quite the mentor. You’ll recall that after the Patriots and Jaguars last met, (December 2006) Del Rio was asked about a play in which Tom Brady faked out the defense during a first half running play, which caused the Jacksonville defenders to hold up, thinking Brady was going to slide. The Jags coach responded “They should’ve speared him then,” – spearing of course is hitting straight-on with the helmet and has been illegal in the NFL since 1979. (Just like taping the opposing sidelines.)
The Jaguars were also very outspoken in the wake of Spygate. Apparently the incident offended their delicate sensibilities. You know, the team giving the Vikings and Bengals a run for their money for the most players arrested this decade. Jags lineman Paul Spicer and that coach of his both weighed in on the subject and Spicer recommended harsh penalties. He wanted the Patriots banned from the playoffs. There’s some bad blood between these two clubs, and I think it’s going to be seen on the field come Sunday. (Even if David Garrard and Kyle Brady are BFFs)
This quote from Bill Belichick in reaction to the Del Rio comments about spearing Brady is priceless:
“Considering Tom’s great games over the years against Jack Del Rio’s defenses, you can understand the frustration,” Belichick said. “I’m all for supporting your players, but it was a little surprising to hear he said that.”
You never hear Belichick talk like that. You can guess that Del Rio and the Jaguars are going to do all that they can to get to Tom Brady and knock him around. Doing that and controlling the ball with their running game seems to be their best bet. Maybe they can do it, and knock the Patriots perfect season and Super Bowl ambitions off to the side.
If they do, don’t buy the line that these are a bunch of choir boys out there for Jacksonville. As these things usually are, things have been clouded by public perception fueled by a media that loves their power of being able to build teams up and then tear them down again. The Jaguars are being painted one way…while the Patriots are being painted the opposite.
If that’s not enough to get you fired up, then perhaps this will: