Jags Relish Role of Underdog

When the Jaguars take the field this Sunday they will be one of the biggest underdogs in the league this season. The last time they were in Pittsburgh the team won their Wildcard playoff game, a game which cost the franchise dearly.

The Jaguars, who have lost four consecutive games since winning their opener against Tennessee, head to Pittsburgh on Sunday a 13-point underdog.

Only St. Louis, a 15-point underdog to Green Bay on Sunday, is a bigger dog.

The Jaguars have the worst-ranked offense in the league and have suffered two of those losses to rookie quarterbacks.

And they seem like a team in disarray that implodes at the end of games.

In Carolina, they ignored the fact the clock starts after a replay verdict and were huddling at 16 seconds when the clock was restarted.

They got only one play off and the game was over. Against Cincinnati last week, a miscommunication led center Brad Meester to snap the ball on a third-and-one play to kill their final drive.

Still, the Jaguars could pull a surprise in Pittsburgh, a place where they tend to do well. In 2007, the last time they played there, they beat the Steelers twice in the regular season and then did it again in the playoffs.

It was their first playoff win in eight years and their only one since 1999.

The ironic thing is, the 31-29 victory for the Jaguars may have caused problems for the team in the long run.

Combined with a good showing in a loss to unbeaten New England the next week, the Jaguars thought they were on the verge of starting a run as a contender.

What they overlooked was that the team was getting old.

As coach Jack Del Rio said last year, "We probably underrated the number of players we had that were getting up in their years, that weren't going to continue playing for a long time.

"I would say that's absolutely something we have to admit looking back, that to package that many picks and try and move, thinking you're that close, that's not really the sound way to do things. I think we gave into some of those thoughts, some of those feelings. To acknowledge that is just being honest."

He was referring to the fact they packaged draft picks to trade up in 2008 to get Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves and wound up with only five picks in the draft.

Harvey and Groves and the other three players are long gone and the team collapsed to 5-11 in 2008.

That prompted vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris to resign with a game left. He was replaced by Gene Smith, who was named general manager.

But after the season, quarterback David Garrard got a $60 million extension with $9 million guaranteed. And Del Rio got a four year $21 million contract extension that runs through 2012.

Garrard went through three losing seasons before getting waived at the start of the season.

But Weaver, who would have had to pay Del Rio $10 million to fire him at the end of last year, decided to keep him another year with a mandate to make the playoffs.

At 1-4, the playoffs seem to be a pipedream and Del Rio will likely be fired at the end of the year.

Without the contract extension, he probably would have been fired in 2008 when Harris left and the franchise could have started over. The odds are against Del Rio surviving this time, but the Jaguars need to spring a big upset in Pittsburgh to end the losing slide.

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