Mike Mularkey continues to believe.
And as the Jaguars’ head coach sees it – and players see it the same way – that belief isn’t about locker-room emotions, rah-rah speeches, false displays of energy or finger pointing. And “players-only meetings?”
No, players said it sure isn’t about that.
As Mularkey sees it, the way to turn a 1-3 start into something different and much, much better is to do what the Jaguars do better, improve in areas that need it and take advantage of opportunities.
Mularkey said that will happen. And when it does happen, he said that’s when things will turn.
“At some point it's going to go our way,” Mularkey said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-3) prepared to play the Chicago Bears (3-1) at EverBank Field Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
“When it does, it's going to happen in bunches.”
That was the theme around the Jaguars Wednesday as they gathered to begin preparing for a team that has emerged as a Super Bowl contender during the first quarter of the season.
Yes, the Bears looked very good Monday in a victory over the Cowboys. And yes, Chicago – particularly with a strong passing game and a pass rush led by veteran end Julius Peppers – presents issues for a team that struggled in each area Sunday.
But what the Jaguars say right now is most important is staying focused, and specifically working on improving from within rather than worrying about outside forces.
“We have some things internally we have to work on,” Jaguars running back
What neither Jones-Drew nor other Jaguars players say is needed is panic, or a change in personality. Players-only meetings? Locker room shouting matches? Fiery pre-game speeches?
None are what this team’s about.
“I never thought that a team has to have someone to give speeches,” Jaguars guard
“It’s not a situation where people can’t get it done. We’re close, but that’s the difference in this league. Being a little off can make a day look really bad compared to being on, and everything looks perfect.”
Mularkey agreed that yelling means little, and that players above anything must be themselves, and play to their own personalities.
“They’re not that type,” Mularkey said. “They come to work and do whatever they can to do their job. They’re focused. They’re very attentive. They’re very well-prepared when they’re out there. There are no Ray Lewises in the locker room. You don’t want anybody to have to pretend they’re that way.
“You want guys to be who they are when they come out of that locker room. There are different ways to be motivated. There really are. I don’t think that’s what the issue here is on Sundays.”
“We have to minimize turnovers,” Jaguars quarterback
Nwaneri said Jaguars veteran players know from experience a slow start doesn’t prevent a fast finish. In Mualrkey’s first season in Buffalo, 2004, the Bills started 1-5 and finished 9-7. Nwaneri said the Jaguars have had similar experiences in seasons such as 2007 and 2009.
“We’ve had years here where we started slow and bounced back,” Nwaneri said. “In 2007, we lost our opener and got five or six in a row. In other years, we had a mixed start and were able to string together wins.”
Nwaneri also cited the 2010 season, when the Jaguars beat the favored Dallas Cowboys on the road just before the bye week, a victory that started a streak of five victories in six games. The Jaguars are off next week, and Nwaneri said a similar victory is needed now.
“I always look at it as glass half-full,” he said. “We’re in a situation where it’s not ideal coming out of the first quarter, but we have a chance to give ourselves something going into the bye week. It happens every year – some team comes out of the bye week and turns their season around or creates distance.
“We have a chance to do something like that.”
Said Gabbert, “We’ve got to go into the bye week with a win. Everyone wants to feel happy going into the bye.”
Mularkey, for his part, said he’s not thinking about the ramifications of a loss, and he’s not even thinking about the bye week.
“I don’t think that way,” Mularkey said. “I’m not thinking about the bye right now. We’re talking about the Bears. I’m thinking about where we are.”