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Jaguars must win to finally end ‘Curse of the Titans’ | Commentary


Running off at the typewriter …

Don’t blow this, Jacksonville Jaguars.

This is your chance to finally end the decades-long “Curse of the Titans” once and for all.

Come sit on ol’ grandpappy’s knee and let me tell you a story about something that happened a long time ago and how it relates to the up-and-coming Jaguars playing the fading Tennessee Titans in Jacksonville on Saturday night with the AFC South title and a spot in the playoffs going to the winner.

In my mind, as someone who was there more than two decades ago for another crucial game against Titans, the Jags have a chance to regain the pride and passion the Titans sucked from the franchise and the city of Jacksonville all those years ago. Yes, believe or not, the Titans actually did more to ruin the franchise than Urban Meyer.

You see, the Jaguars had an NFL-best 14-2 record during the 1999 regular season, with the only two losses coming to the Titans. And, as fate would have it, those same Titans came to town again to play the Jags in the AFC Championship Game for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

At the time, I was a columnist at the Florida Times-Union and I’ve never been in a city that felt so alive and euphoric leading up to a sporting event. There was a poll done by Jacksonville University a couple of weeks before the game that found that nearly 80 percent of the city felt good about where they lived and most of those surveyed listed the Jaguars as the top reason.

No way would those Jags lose a third time to Tennessee, right? The Jags — with dynamic quarterback Mark Brunell, amazing receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, a pulvering offensive line led by Hall-of-Famer Tony Boselli and an electric running back in Fred Taylor — were simply too dominant. They opened the playoffs with a historically lopsided 62-7 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins in what would be the last NFL game for legendary quarterback Dan Marino and legendary coach Jimmy Johnson.

After such a message-sending victory, it was unfathomable that the Titans would roll into Jacksonville the following week and beat the Jags — again! Which, of course, is exactly what happened. And they didn’t just beat the Jags, they embarrassed them.

The Jaguars led 14-10 at halftime and then simply self-destructed. The Jaguars committed six turnovers and the Steve McNair-quarterbacked Titans scored 23 unanswered points in the second half to advance to the Super Bowl with a 33-14 victory. The Jaguars finished 15-3 — the only time in NFL history that a 3-loss team had all of its defeats administered by the same opponent.

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Right after the game ended, I can still remember one of the most violent, drenching thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced unleashing its rage on the city. As I wrote at the time, “It was almost as if the gridiron gods were officially dousing the flames of a once-fervent franchise.”

“It’s going to take us a long, long time to recover from this game,” receiver Smith said at the time.

So long, in fact, the Jaguars still haven’t really recovered.

Oh, sure, they’ve made the playoffs a couple of times and had that fluky season in 2017 when they almost beat the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl. But, for the most part, the franchise has never, ever been the same.

Do not blow this, Jaguars.

This is your chance to finally regain the pride and self-respect Tennessee took from you on Jan 23, 2000.

Remember the Titans! …

Short stuff: Mikey likes: Jags over Titans by 10, Bucs over Falcons by 3, Jets over Dolphins by 4, Kevin McCarthy over recalcitrant House Republicans on 945th vote by Super Bowl Sunday. … On a related matter, the only person who’s been rejected more times than Kevin McCarthy was me on prom night. … Repeat after me: We, UCF Knights fans, resolve in 2023 to spend more time enjoying the wins and less time complaining about the losses. … Speaking of UCF, I love the hiring of former Knights quarterback Darin Hinshaw as the Knights’ new offensive coordinator. It’s good to see somebody who bleeds black and gold on Gus Malzahn’s coaching staff. …

After more than two years recovering from a serious knee injury, Jonathan Isaac is back practicing with the Magic and should make his return to game action very soon. Hallelujah and Happy New Year, Magic fans. … I’m not saying NBA officiating doesn’t allow teams to play real defense anymore, but is it really necessary for the refs to build a human wall so Luka Doncic can have a clear path to the basket? … Repeat after me:
We, the Florida Gators, resolve in 2023 to spend more money hiring football players than we spend on hiring football staff members. …

The holiday season was filled with mass chaos, companywide ineptitude and thousands of angry customers venting their frustrations. No, I’m not talking about Southwest Airlines; I’m talking about Michigan fans on Twitter reacting to the loss to TCU. … I got a new air fryer for Christmas. … A moment of silence, please, Barbara Walters has just been admitted into journalism heaven and has convinced God Himself to grant her an exclusive interview. My favorite Walters quote about interviewing celebrities: “Wait for those unguarded moments. Relax the mood and, like the child dropping off to sleep, the subject often reveals his truest self.” …

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Repeat after me: We, the Florida State Seminoles, resolve in 2023 to refrain from gift-wrapping wins to inferior opponents like Wake Forest and NC State. … I don’t want to hear another peep about how important NIL is in building a college football powerhouse. Four words: Tulane 46, USC 45. … By the way, nothing drives me crazier than all the grumpy pants out there who complain about how many college football bowl games are on TV. Here’s an idea: Don’t watch them and shut up. You want to know why there are so many bowl games? As Stewart Mandel, college football editor for the Athletic, tweeted out a few days ago: “The most watched thing on television on Friday, Dec. 23 — encompassing all programs, not just sports — was the Wake Forest vs. Missouri Gasparilla Bowl (3.54 million viewers).” … I miss fullbacks. …

Tom Brady threw for 432 yards, including three long TD passes to the previously invisible Mike Evans, last week against Carolina. Could the old GOAT be waking up just in time for his annual Super Bowl pilgrimage? … Dave Hyde, the esteemed columnist of the South Florida Sun Sentinel and noted Miami Dolphins historian, writes that if the ‘Phins fail to make the playoffs this weekend, it will be the biggest collapse in franchise history. In other words, Mike McDaniel will have done something in his first year that mediocre former coaches Dave Wannstedt, Cam Cameron, Joe Philbin, Adam Gase and others never accomplished — a complete and utter end-of-the-season disintegration. … I know he doesn’t play a sexy position like Dillon Gabriel or Ryan O’Keefe, but for my money, longtime UCF center Matt Lee, an Orlando native, is UCF’s biggest transfer portal loss to date. … Repeat after me: We, the Orlando Magic, resolve in 2023 to have more players in uniform than we have players in street clothes. …

Last word: “Wherever you go, there are three icons that everyone knows: Jesus Christ, Pele and Coca-Cola.” — Pele, the global soccer legend who passed away a few days ago at the age of 82

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and HD 101.1-2

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