By PAUL NEWBERRY, Associated Press
Don't say the Jacksonville Jaguars are starting from scratch, because that's an insult to a team of the same name that actually did start from scratch.
Chances are, those 1995 Jaguars would beat this bunch, which is quite possibly the worst team in NFL history.
Jacksonville has lost it first seven games by an average of nearly 21 points — double-figure margins in all of them, and a differential of epic proportions if it holds up over a full season.
According to STATS LLC, the only team to fare worse was something known as a Chi-Pit Cards-Steelers, a 1944 amalgamation of two franchises that didn't enough players to field teams of their own because of World War II. They went 0-10, losing by an average margin of 22 points.
The Jaguars can't blame a war for their problems.
They've done this all by themselves.
Bad trades. Horrendous draft picks. Ill-advised signings.
Throw it together, and you're left with a franchise that doesn't even stack up to the expansion team I covered back in '95.
Those Jaguars, as expected, weren't very good. But they went 4-12, a record this group would be thrilled to achieve, and established the framework for a surprising run to the AFC championship game the very next year. That team's quarterback was a young Mark Brunell, who would go on to a long career in the league. These Jags have Blaine Gabbert, who looks like something out of "The Walking Dead."
There's no chance of Jacksonville making the playoffs this year or next. Team officials have made it clear this is merely the start of a total makeover that will take a minimum of three seasons to complete.
Rest assured, Gabbert will not be part of that plan. The 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft has already proven to be a colossal bust, his one touchdown pass this season countered by seven interceptions. Too bad he can't count the TDs the other teams scores; three of his picks have been returned to the Jacksonville end zone.
Journeyman Chad Henne isn't much better, but he'll start Sunday in London when the Jaguars take what is likely to be their eighth straight whipping at the hands of defending NFC champion San Francisco.
As if all that eavesdropping wasn't bad enough, now we're about to impose the Jaguars on one of our European allies.
"Obviously, if you're a Jaguars fan, you want to do better," team owner Shad Khan told The Florida Times-Union in Britain this week. "But we know the process we started, which is pretty much starting from the ground up, cleaning house and doing something we probably should have started earlier."
Rubbing salt in the wounds, the Web site PredictionMachine.com recently ran a series of simulated games between the current and expansion Jaguars, which found the '95 squad won more than 60 percent of the time by an average score of 19-14.
At least that's more competitive than the present-day Jaguars have been this season. They've led for a grand total of 22 minutes, 14 seconds — not even one half of one game, and never by more than seven points.
Where did it all go wrong?
The root of the Jaguars' problems can be traced to their last trip to the playoffs in 2007, when they got an inflated view of how good they really were. After winning a wild-card game at Pittsburgh and giving unbeaten New England a run for its money in the divisional round, Jacksonville handed quarterback David Garrard the largest contract in franchise history and traded four picks to draft defensive end Derrick Harvey at No. 8 overall.
Harvey lasted only three seasons in Jacksonville, finishing with eight career sacks, and no one else picked by Jaguars was still around even two years later. Then came another ill-fated move in 2011, when they traded up to grab Gabbert and missed the obvious warning signs: several quarterback-desperate teams had already passed on him.
Now, Jacksonville will have to use another high pick on a QB.
At least they won't have to trade up this time.
"We've got to get more talent," Khan said. "But I definitely feel we're moving in the right direction. Status quo, maintaining what we had, was not an option."
Maybe it will all work out. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions for the people of Jacksonville to make lemonade out of this lemon of a team.