Tag Archives: Jacksonville Jaguars

Del Rio and Steve Bruce must wish they had the luck of Stoke City’s Tony Pulis

By Calvin Palmer

It has been quite a week on the sporting front both sides of the Atlantic.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver finally grew some balls and fired coach Jack Del Rio after Sunday’s humiliating and inept performance against the Houston Texans.

When the TV commentator, usually so forgiving like all TV commentators are, expressed surprise that a three-man Texans rush could get past the five-man Jaguars offensive line to sack rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, it was pretty obvious we were witnessing something verging on the pathetic.

I doubt Gabbert will shed many tears over Del Rio’s departure. There is now every chance that his talent will one day flower rather than be crushed into obscurity.

It will be interesting to see if the players start playing to their full potential with interim coach Mel Tucker in charge on Monday night. Whether the game suffers a TV blackout hangs in the balance.

I wonder if tight-end Mercedes Lewis, for older English readers Marina Lewis would be a more appropriate name, will actually start catching the ball and help take the pressure off Gabbert. Lewis was a Pro Bowl tight-end last season. This season he has looked more like toilet bowl material. Still, he got a nice fat contract during the close season and has repaid the franchise in pretty much the same way former quarterback David Garrard did after he received his improved contract.

Weaver did not stop at firing coach Del Rio. He also announced he was selling the franchise to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan who nearly bought the St Louis Rams in 2010.

Quite what the First Baptist Church bigots and Jacksonville’s white supremacists will make of Shahid Khan owning the city’s NFL franchise is anyone’s guess. I can envisage a burning cross on the halfway line at EverBank Stadium.

Already, racist comments have appeared along with the view that an American sport should be owned by Americans; so much for Shahid Khan’s U.S. citizenship. Those comments only serve to show the racist underbelly that sadly still exists in Jacksonville and northeast Florida.

It is probably just as well that the Jaguars did not draft Tim Tebow, given the turn of events this week. Tebow would probably have spent all his time trying to convert Khan rather than converting drives into touchdowns.

Across the Atlantic, second tier Crystal Palace took on Premier League Manchester United and succeeded in knocking them out of the Carling Cup and at Old Trafford. A friend from my university days who is a staunch Palace supporter will be delighted.

Stoke City also secured their place in the last 32 teams of the Europa League on Thursday with a lacklustre performance at home to Dynamo Kiev. Kiev should have had the game sewn up at half-time but squandered two chances that would have put the game beyond Stoke’s reach.

It took a pinpoint cross from winger Jermaine Pennant and a powerful header from Kenwyne Jones to give Stoke a goal they never really looked like scoring throughout the entire game. Stoke’s performance was not much different than that of the Jaguars against the Texans. Del Rio must wish that he had the luck of Stoke City coach Tony Pulis.

The same goes for Sunderland coach Steve Bruce who was sacked on the same day Del Rio was fired.

Writing in The Guardian, Louise Taylor stated:

“Arguably one of the principal reasons Bruce is no longer in charge at the Stadium of Light concerns his apparent inability to tweak formations or tactics during matches. Whenever a rival manager re-configured his system mid-game, Bruce invariably failed to come up with a countermeasure.

“In recent months Alan Pardew, Mark Hughes, Roy Hodgson and, most recently, Roberto Martínez have all seemingly out-thought him as Sunderland dropped points against supposedly weaker sides they really should have beaten.”

Tony Pulis has similarly been out-thought by managers of clubs Stoke were expected to beat and yet he remains in charge with his square pegs in round holes team selections that sees Stoke taking the field in most games without recognized full-backs, a geriatric midfield player and no creativity whatsoever, hence the lack of goal chances let alone goals.

The one bright spot in Thursday’s game against Dynamo Kiev was the performance of Wilson Palacios, playing his first full game since his summer transfer from Tottenham Hotspur. I stand to be corrected but as far as I could see, I don’t think one pass from Palacios went astray and they were all played to a teammate’s feet.

If that basic footballing skill could be passed on to the rest of the team, my fears regarding Stoke City’s future in the Premier League would evaporate.

Tomorrow, Stoke take on Everton at Goodison Park and I am sure it will see another poor away performance that ends in defeat. I hope I am wrong.

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Glazers suffer pain of defeat twice over while soccer fans rejoice at United result

By Calvin Palmer

It was a bad sporting weekend for the Glazer family. First, Manchester United were humbled to a 6-1 defeat by neighbours Manchester City. A few hours later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were beaten by the Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium in London.

For all their wealth, the Glazers were reduced to being losers by the performances of their sporting enterprises. The pain of defeat will no doubt be soothed away by the money the family has earned in the time it has taken to write these two sentences. Malcolm Glazer’s fortune is estimated at $2,600 million.

For many Premier League fans a huge amount of satisfaction was derived by United’s humiliating defeat at the hands of City. Even more pleasing was the manner of the defeat. Gutless, spineless, abject are just a few of the adjectives that fit the performance exhibited by the smug prima donnas wearing red shirts.

Did they honestly believe that all they had to do was to turn up at Old Trafford to beat Manchester City? How about tackling to win the ball or at least closing players down? A little bit of commitment and passion would not have come amiss.

Were Manchester City unplayable? No. They simply played as a highly-talented team, working hard for each other. They had Manchester United in their back pocket from the start. City scored at will in the last three minutes, ramping up the scoreline from a respectable 3-1 defeat to the embarrassing 6-1 final outcome.

I watched the game last night, courtesy of a replay by ESPN. On Sunday I was otherwise engaged watching Stoke City capitulate to Arsenal or should I say capitulate to Robin Van Persie. Up to his introduction as a second-half substitute, Stoke looked good for a draw and with a more adventurous approach might even have secured a win. But Stoke City, thanks to their ultra-conservative and tactically clueless manager Tony Pulis, don’t do away wins.

Prior to the Manchester derby, I watched the Jacksonville Jaguars defeat the Baltimore Ravens 12-7 with a gutsy performance. What the Jaguars lack in offense, they more than made up for with defence. Even the normal waste of space Rashean Mathis stepped up to the mark and played his best game in three seasons, completely snuffing out the Ravens wide receivers and even making a couple of tackles. I know, it is hard to believe.

I number myself among the critics of Mathis but I will hold my hands up and give the man credit for his performance last night. I hope he plays with the same enthusiasm and determination on Sunday against the Houston Texans.

There are strong parallels between the Jaguars and Stoke City. Both are unfashionable sides with limited talent and resources. Both have coaches who seem to inhabit a different planet, or rather view a game in totally different light to that of the fans. Both teams put the emphasis on a strong defence and play a kind of football that the purists label as ugly. Just as Stoke City find it hard to score goals in the Premier League, the Jaguars also find it hard to score touchdowns.

The troubling aspect for me is why I find myself supporting teams like Stoke City and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The answer is simply location and a loyalty to location. I was born in Stoke-on-Trent. I live in Jacksonville.

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Filed under NFL, Premier League, Sport, Stoke City F.C., United Kingdom

Why use five words when 16 will do?

By Calvin Palmer

At EverBank Field on Sunday I was seated next to a New Orleans Saints fan. To be sociable, I struck up a conversation.

“Did you go to the Super Bowl game?” I asked, referring to the Super Bowl 2010 when the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“My career was at the stage where I could not spend $1,800 on a football game,” he replied.

Okay. Good answer, I suppose. But what was wrong with keeping it simple and saying, ” I could not afford it.”

As was expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost 23-10, although rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed one or two nice touches and did throw a touchdown pass.

Pre-game provided me with a few photographic opportunities for the Ricoh GRD III.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The  game had resumed by the time I returned from my half-time cigarettes in the designated smoking area. I asked the Saints fan if I had missed anything.

“Only six Hooters girls streaking across the field,” he replied.

Who says Americans do not have a sense of humour?

Given that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, it would have been an appropriate gesture.

The NFL is doing its bit. Players are carrying pink towels, wearing pink boots and pink mouth guards. Perhaps they could persuade all the cheerleaders to dance topless. It would not only boost attendances for October’s scheduled games but also increase TV viewing figures.

Ah, I was forgetting. The USA is the land of the “wardrobe malfunction”; a country where the sight of a bare breast is considered more egregious than the sale of handguns to the general public.

Only in America!

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Del Rio’s quarterback gamble makes Jaguars a laughing stock

By Calvin Palmer

Ask any sports fan anywhere in the world why a 30-year-old NFL quarterback has only made eight starts in their career and the answer is more than likely to be because he is not good enough.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Luke McCown made the ninth start of his seven-year career on Sunday At the MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets and proved why he has made so few starts. He was unbelievably bad.

McCown made 6 completions from 19 attempts for a total of 59 yards. Yes, 59 yards! He threw no touchdown passes but did manage to chalk up 4 interceptions. His rating was an abysmal 1.8. Needless to say the Jaguars went down to a humiliating 32-3 defeat.

Rex Ryan informed the Jets players in the locker room that McCown’s rating was the lowest ever achieved by an opposing quarterback in the Jets’ 51-year history. That fact was delivered with a huge grin by the triumphant Ryan.

I wonder if Jaguars coach was laughing. On September 6, just five days before the start of the NFL season, he cut regular quarterback David Garrard and announced Luke McCown would be the starting quarterback for the Jaguars.

I have no argument over the decision to cut Garrard, the Jaguars have saved $9 million, but I disliked the manner in which it was announced – a couple of hours after Garrard attended a luncheon thrown in honour of the Jaguars by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Now the Jaguars face having to throw rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert in at the deep end. I guess that would prove whether Gabbert’s potential is for real.

Sunday’s game did reveal a new position in NFL football and one that is exclusive to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rashean Mathis in conventional terms is regarded as a corner back. But Mathis rarely makes a tackle preferring to use guile and cunning instead to allow the wide receiver he is marking to cross into the end zone unhindered for a touchdown. I am convinced every quarterback in the NFL has been instructed to throw to whoever is being marked by Mathis in the knowledge that nine times out of 10 the result will be either a 15 yard penalty or a touchdown.

Against the New York Jets, I noticed on several occasions that Mathis would arrive  just as a colleague had made a tackle on a Jets player.  Mathis would then tap his colleague on the shoulder. It then came to me in a flash. Mathis is not a corner back but a tackle supervisor, there to see that his colleagues tackle correctly and in a timely manner. I wonder if the position will catch on with other NFL teams?

Clearly, a lot is wrong with the Jaguars organization if it continues to keep Mathis on the playing roster. The only reason I can think of, aside from Mathis having the pictures of Del Rio and the rubber duck, is that there is no other corner back. I suppose that is par for the course since the team doesn’t really have a quarterback.

Could this disorganization and prospect of a meltdown season have something to do with the Jaguars moving to Los Angeles?

Owner Wayne Weaver can salve his conscience by saying the fans have not supported the team sufficiently enough during this season. Given the lack of support and the present  financial climate, he reluctantly was forced to sell. Of course, that conveniently overlooks the fact that the fans have not been given a winning team for several years.

The only glimmer of success came four years ago when the Jaguars reached the play-offs, beat the Pittsburgh Steelers before bowing out to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Since then it is has been mediocrity and failure. What better way is there to kill the enthusiasm of fans? People like to see their team winning and preferably winning well.

When the Detroit Lions can go 2-0, with 27-20 and 48-3 victories, surely it cannot be all that hard to achieve.

Over to you Jack.

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Del Rio walks fine line between genius and insanity by cutting Garrard

By Calvin Palmer

Five days before the start of a new NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to cut quarterback David Garrard, leaving deputy Luke McCown to step up as the starting quarterback.

In footballing terms, the move by the Jaguars is like Arsenal deciding to sell Cesc Fàbregas.

Oops! They have done.

Okay, it would be like Stoke City getting rid of Rory Delap and his famous long throw-ins.

Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. Delap at 35 is getting past his sell-by date as a Premier League footballer and his long throws no longer have the potency they once had. Premier League defences have wised up to the ploy.

I guess the timing of the news of Garrard’s departure is what is surprising. And there is also a degree of nemesis.

Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich was cut a week before the 2007 season and replaced by back-up quarterback David Garrard.

What goes around comes around.

Garrard’s departure has incensed former Jaguars defensive end and ESPN NFL analyst Hugh Douglas.

Douglas was asked in a radio interview if there was one NFL coach he’d like to fight and without pause answered Jack Del Rio.

Douglas said: “If there was ever a coach who needs to be punched in the face for not being truthful to his players, it has to be Jack Del Rio.”

Douglas would need to get to the back of the line. A great many Jaguars fans would also like to punch Del Rio in the face.

Del Rio’s perpetual smug expression on his face just invites it to be hit.

I wonder if fans in Jacksonville are organizing a whip round in order that Douglas can go to the front of the line.

Garrard has reportedly got two offers of a contract with other NFL teams, according to his agent. Who is sworn to secrecy. Well, at least until he figures a way of making a quick buck or two thousand.

NFL pundits are suggesting that the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins may offer Garrard a new home. I guess that goes to show just how desperate some NFL teams are.

Jacksonville Jaguars are, make no mistake. Still looking on the bright side, if the Jaguars fail to make the play-offs, Del Rio will be out of a job.

William Hill has the Jacksonville Jaguars at 100/1 to win the Superbowl and 9/1 to win the AFC South Division.

See ya, Jack!

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Stoke City fans serenade Wenger and gain sweet revenge

By Calvin Palmer

The spontaneity of British wit is unsurpassed and a brilliant example was provided by the fans of Stoke City yesterday at the Britannia stadium during the game against Arsenal.

There has been little love lost between these two teams since Stoke City won promotion to the Premier League three seasons ago. Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger has accused Stoke of playing rugby rather than football. Wenger a football purist poured scorn on Stoke and their prolific use of long balls played out of defence, Rory Delap’s long throw-ins and the team’s kind of aggressiveness that is usually associated with prop forwards.

Yesterday, Stoke City simply outplayed Arsenal with flashes of fast-flowing football and individual skill from the likes of Jermaine Pennant and Jon Walters. And Stoke supporters were certainly going to take Wenger to task for his slur.

With Stoke leading 3-1, the crowd suddenly burst into a rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the song sung by England rugby fans. The commentators on the Fox Channel did not pick up on the humour  associated with that song but it was not lost on the football correspondents of The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

Watching sporting events in the USA, the Dallas Cowboys when I lived in Texas and now the Jacksonville Jaguars, I miss the songs and humorous chants of English crowds. American fans do not go in for chants or singing of any description. In fact, they don’t even bother to sing their national anthem, which is played just before the start of any sporting event, leaving it to some C&W singer or winner of the America’s Got Talent TV show.

What is the point of having a national anthem if the nation cannot be bothered to sing it? And, sadly, I am afraid the American approach appears to be spreading beyond its shores. What America does today, Britain does tomorrow and the rest of the world a few days later.

The only crowd participation I have witnessed in America was at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, home of the Dallas Stars NHL team. When said pop singer or whoever was trotted out to sing The Star-Spangled Banner and reached the line – Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight — the crowd to a man/woman would shout “stars”. That has all the sophistication of an eighth-grader.

Similarly, NFL crowds will chant “Defense” at the behest of electronic signs flashing round the stadium. But songs about players, chants to urge their team on, forget it. All you get during the course of a game is a cacophony of general noise; in other words one unholy din designed to drown out the opposing quarterback’s instructions to the rest of his team.

The nearest  I ever got to experiencing the kind of support British fans display was when the Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts last season with the last kick of the game. As the crowd left Everbank Field, the walkways from the stands echoed with the repeated chant of “We are —  Jaguars!” For a short time, I thought I had been transported back to England.

Oh to be at Wembley stadium on Saturday.

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Time to end the embarrassment of Rashean Mathis

By Calvin Palmer

In these days of ever higher standards in professional sport and increasing competition for places, it is rare that someone totally inept is allowed on the field of play to not only embarrass themselves but also supporters of the team they play for.

But there is always an exception and, sadly for fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the exception is cornerback Rashean Mathis.

The Jaguars have now played nine games. The only positive contribution Mathis has made all season came against the Dallas Cowboys when he managed to intercept a throw from John Kitna. In other games, Mathis has made an art form out of not picking up his man and not tackling. The latter is probably due to the fact that he must be the only player in the NFL who is incapable of tackling.

The Mathis way of trying to stop a player is a womanly push in the back, which may well work against a slightly built girl but against a six foot plus 190 pound wide receiver going at full steam… well the effect of a Mathis “tackle” is pretty obvious.

His other ploy is to arrive on the scene just as someone else makes the tackle he should have made. I have to admit that I somewhat surprised that his teammates haven’t taken him to one side in the locker room and talked/beaten some sense into him.

Against the Texans, Mathis also managed his regular trick of pass interference, with the resulting 15-yard penalty. But he even out-did the Mathis of the previous eight games when he proceeded to move away from the wide receiver he was marking as the ball was thrown, leaving Andre Johnson completely unmarked in the end zone to secure a touchdown.

My background is football, or soccer as the Americans call it, and the action of Mathis was akin to a central defender marking Wayne Rooney on a corner-kick, to suddenly run away from Rooney leaving him completely unmarked in the six-yard area with only the goalkeeper to beat. Any central defender pulling a move like that could expect never to play for the club again.

And here is the puzzling thing. Jack Del Rio knows Mathis is not up to standard but insists on playing him. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

When Mathis’contract with Jaguars expires at the end of this season, he will be fortunate if any other NFL franchise snaps him up. He stands a better chance of pursuing a career as a female impersonator. He certainly walks like a woman but whether he wears a bra is probably just ugly gossip.

The Florida Times-Union saw fit not criticize Mathis’ performance against the Texans, the nearest it came was in the Report Card feature. Under Pass Defense, the Jaguars were rated at D-, with the following comment:

“It’s a good thing the Jaguars didn’t give in on cornerback Rashean Mathis’ offseason wish for a contract extension. He was taken to school by Andre Johnson (9 catches, 146 yards).”

The real criticism of Mathis came from the fans in the Monday Morning Quarterback column:

“My aunt will be in town next week. Tell Mathis to leave his uniform at the door… she’ll take his place and do a better job.”

“Number 27 (Mathis) is an embarrassment dancing around the field. Why don’t the coaches recognize that?”

“I am ashamed with the lack of effort by Rashean Mathis. He must be benched or released.”

“Rashean Mathis is the worst cover man I have ever seen. He doesn’t hit, he seems to wait for someone else to make the play.”

“Can’t wait to read Rashean Mathis’ book – “How To Play A Whole Season In The NFL Without Getting Your Uniform Dirty”.

In 2006, Mathis made the Pro Bowl and he seems he has been living off that ever since. In any sport, a player is only as good as his next game. Mathis is never going to have a good next game. It is time for coach Del Rio to ensure Mathis has played his last game for the Jaguars.

This embarrassment can no longer continue.

[Based on content in The Florida Times-Union.]        

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