The Jaguars, surprising at 2-2, return to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon looking to measure up to the Steelers and see if they can get above .500. They are also returning to the place, where the last true success the franchise has had, occurred in the playoffs after the 2007 season.
That night in the “Steel City” QB David Garrard led Jacksonville to a stirring 30-27 win in the AFC Wildcard game.
Unfortunately, since January 5th, 2008, the next nine seasons have been an ongoing nightmare.
Jack Del Rio, who led the Jags to an 11-5 record that season, could not follow it up, as they collapsed to 5-11 the following 2008 season. Even though Del Rio still had Garrard and some of the pieces from that playoff wining team, they were 8-8 and 7-9 over the next two years.
Then, after drafting QB Blaine Gabbert in the first round of 2011, Jacksonville nose dived and Del Rio was fired near the end of what turned out to be another 5-11 campaign.
Still reeling, Jacksonville turned to Mike Mularkey in 2012, who heaped another disastrous season on North Florida at 2-14. He was promptly fired by new owner Shad Khan, who wanted to change the Jaguars fortunes around.
You probably now know by now, what followed was drafting players like Justin Blackmon, and Tyson Alualu early in the first round and head coach Gus Bradley was over matched from beginning to end in his four seasons. Bradley earned the dubious distinction of worst coaching record ever in his first 50 games. He was fired last December with two games remaining finishing 14-48 in his career.
His interim replacement, Doug Marrone led the Jags to a victory at the end of the season, and they have responded with two good performances in four games to start this year.
But here’s the final tally since the Jaguars were celebrating in the visiting Pittsburgh locker room that January, 2008 night:
No winning seasons. And, seven of nine seasons with at least 10 losses.
Three head coaches fired and hope almost stamped completely out of North Florida.
Yet, Sunday, if the Jags can put something together and maybe even, sneak another win against the Steelers, a lot of that optimism will be returning.
Recent history isn’t on their side, but the 2017 Jags don’t want to hear about the past.
They just want 60 minutes to prove themselves in Pittsburgh, just like they did almost 10 years ago.