JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - It wasn’t that long ago that Indianapolis and Jacksonville played for the division title.
Less than two years, in fact.
Both teams have changed coaches, quarterbacks and other personnel since.
It’s pretty clear which one is further along in the rebuilding project.
The Colts (5-3) have won three straight heading into Thursday night’s game at Jacksonville, pulling out close games behind rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and playing inspired football since coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.
The Jaguars (1-7), meanwhile, have dropped five in a row since winning the first meeting between the AFC South rivals.
“We’re expecting the biggest, baddest punch they’ve got because of their situation,” Colts interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. “We can’t sit back and pat ourselves on the back or they’ll bloody our nose.”
A lot would need to change for that to happen.
The Jaguars have the league’s worst offense _ they won’t have running back Maurice Jones-Drew again _ and haven’t played much better on defense. They were far from competitive in four home games, losing to Houston, Cincinnati, Chicago and Detroit by a combined score of 126-34.
Owner Shad Khan, speaking publicly for the first time this season, called it “sad and embarrassing.”
Khan will evaluate things after the season and hasn’t ruled out wholesale changes. That could mean firing general manager Gene Smith and maybe even coach Mike Mularkey after just one season.
Players have a sense that changes could be on the horizon.
“It’s just time to get this thing rolling,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “We’re way out of the playoff picture, but our coaches work way too hard and it’s a bad representation of the new owner and what he’s done for us. It’s time for the players to do their part.”
And if that doesn’t happen?
“It’s the NFL. It’s a cutthroat business,” guard Uche Nwaneri said. “You can be here one day and gone the next. It just becomes a little bit more magnified when you have a situation like this. We work with that kind of pressure on us every day, so nothing new there.”