Two games in is no time to panic.
Mike Mularkey said he believes that’s true whatever the public perception following the Jaguars’ 27-7 loss to the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday, and he said that was his message to players Monday afternoon.
No, what happened Sunday wasn’t pretty. And yes, there are improvements to be made.
But Mularkey, in his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach, said what’s most important is that there have been positives in the preseason and the regular season – and that the progress made during that time wasn’t completely erased Sunday.
“It was not a great day, but it was one day,” Mularkey said Monday, a day after the Jaguars were outgained 411-117 in the regular-season home opener at EverBank Field.
“It was one football game. It was not a season. It was not a good day for the Jaguars, but it was one day. Fortunately, we have more games to play. I’ve been in this position as a player and a coach, and really gone on to good things before the year was over with.
“I’ve tried to show them this is not the end of the world.”
The Jaguars (0-2), who visit AFC South rival Indianapolis (1-1) Sunday, set a franchise-low in total yardage Sunday, and did not convert a third down in nine opportunities, but by Monday it wasn’t the specifics of a difficult Sunday that was on the players’ minds.
Rather, it was about regrouping and refocusing on a season they believe is not lost.
“This is not college,” Jaguars veteran cornerback
“We definitely can,” Meester said. “You have to keep it in perspective. We have a lot of season left. There’s no doubt. You can’t get down on yourself. We have to keep our head up and keep fighting and things will get going for us. There’s a lot of football left and a lot of things we can do.
“You cannot get down right now. You have to keep your head up and keep going. You have to keep fighting.”
At the same time, Mathis and other players said this is not a situation where you simply say things are going to be OK.
“There’s no room for smiling,” Mathis said. “Not to get tight, but understand there’s a refocus we have to have. There’s definitely a refocus we have to have and understand and that we can’t keep saying this in Week 2. There has to be a different message that we played good football and we played winning football and won the game.”
Mathis said the beginnings of that may have come at halftime Sunday. Trailing 17-0, Mathis said Jaguars three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurcie Jones-Drew spoke to players in the locker room.
“He said it during halftime, ‘If it’s your catch to be made, make the catch; if it’s your block, make the block; if it’s your tackle to be made, make the tackle,’’’ Mathis said. “That’s in all areas. We have to understand we need to do that. The good teams in this league do that and they do it better than the other teams they’re playing.”
The Jaguars cut into the lead with a quick second-half touchdown, but an early penalty kept alive the following Texans drive, which eventually turned into a 24-7 game-clinching touchdown.
“You can’t dig yourself out of a hole very week,” he said. “It has to be there at the beginning of the game. You have to start fast. We had some glimpses of that during the preseason where we were able to start fast. That’s what we’re going to need.”
Mularkey, too, said while the Jaguars have struggled with early-season injuries the team could have played better in the first two weeks of the season.
Seven players missed Sunday’s game with injuries, including starting offensive linemen
“I think we have to first of all, get our team complete,” Mularkey said. “That’s not an excuse as to why we’ve lost our first two games, but I’d like to see us as a whole and see what we’re capable of doing. I’d like to see that. We’re not at that point right now.
“We have some places where we’ve had to plug some guys in. They’re doing the best job they can. It is what it is. I think we could have played better even with where we are right now.”
Mularkey said while Sunday was difficult, and while the aftermath was equally so, situations like this are “what I love about coaching.”
“It’s exactly why I do this job,” he said. “I take it as a challenge. I’m not going to let one game dictate and define who we are. I told them, ‘No matter how you feel, there’s a lot of good still going on.’ I still feel that way. I think they do, too. I’m hoping one game doesn’t curb their mind like it does some of yours. I’m going to do my best to make sure it doesn’t.
“We are staying the course. We have a process that we are in the middle of. We’re not changing. We all have to play better. We all have to execute better.”