The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2016 season came to an end Sunday in heartbreaking fashion. After Jason Myers kicked a go-ahead 41-yard field goal with 1:33 to play, Andrew Luck drove the Indianapolis Colts the length of the field to take a 24-20 win at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
It was certainly a different way to lose. Jacksonville led 17-0 at one point, but could not close the deal. It was the second time this season the Jaguars had a 17-point lead on Indianapolis. The other occasion came in early October when the Jags were able to hang on for a 23-20 win in London on October 3.
The game brought back memories of the December 19 game in Houston, when the Jags held a two-score lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Texans scored late to win the game, 21-20, after which Head Coach Gus Bradley was fired.
It is always difficult (exhausting when talking about the Jaguars) to find the upside after a painful loss, but there is actually is one: the play of quarterback Blake Bortles.
Since Bradley was dismissed two games ago, Bortles has looked like the quarterback the Jaguars management and fan base hoped to see. On Sunday, he was 25 for 39 passing for 301 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Over the last two games under interim coach Doug Marrone, Bortles has completed two-thirds of his passes for 626 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. That is no coincidence.
There can be little argument that Bortles regressed this season, but his recent play shows there is still a strong upside.
Corey Grant was given the nod at running back on Sunday and he responded with 122 yards rushing. He had the play of the day with a 57-yard scoring run. Jacksonville, who struggled all year on the ground, rushed for 182 yards on Sunday.
With all of that in mind, this was still a devastating loss. Jacksonville finished the season with a 3-13 record, the six straight year of double-digit losses.
“I told the players at halftime, you are either going to be the hunter or the hunted,” said Marrone. “You’ve got to learn to hunt, you really do. We had an opportunity at the end of the half to go up by three scores and we didn’t do that. We didn’t answer in the third quarter when they got themselves back in it.”
As Marrone closed his second and final post-game interview as head coach, attention will now shift to the search for a new head coach. It could be a familiar name or one not on many people’s radar.
The Jaguars need another version of Adam Gase. One year ago, the Miami Dolphins hired the Offensive Coordinator of the Chicago Bears to take over in south Florida. He got the Dolphins into the playoffs in his first season.
Other coaches will be fired this week and some of those will likely be interviewed for the job. Former Jags’ and New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin has already had one interview.
The rumors will begin in earnest starting Tuesday morning.