Same ol' predicament: Jaguars have only themselves to blame

Put aside the injury problems.

True, they ultimately could prove to be the difference between the Jacksonville Jaguars making or missing the playoffs.

Yet, given the Jaguars' limited control of their postseason fate, it's hard to give them any sort of pass based on their starting quarterback, David Garrard, being sidelined with a surgically repaired finger and their best player, Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew, dealing with a sore knee that also will need surgery.

The Jaguars put themselves in this precarious situation two weeks ago when they squandered a chance to lock up the AFC South by beating the beat-up and, therefore, beatable Colts at Indianapolis. Now the Colts are a win away from wrapping up another divisional crown.

And the Jaguars might be left to lament what might have been. They had the perfect opportunity to dethrone the perennial king of their division. Instead, they proved they simply weren't up to the task of competing against a team whose veteran core provided enough grit and will to allow it to overcome having a roster filled with inexperienced players.

The Jaguars? They're still in the process of trying to figure out how to get to where the Colts and other consistent contenders are.

"We're learning as a team, but when you have a chance like this, you can't let it slip away," said linebacker Kirk Morrison after the 34-24 loss to the Colts. "They were playing with their backs against the wall, and we're in that position now."

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, relinquishing control of their destiny is an all too familiar trend. In the three most recent seasons (2006, 2009 and 2010) when, with four or fewer games remaining, they were in a position to determine if they reached the playoffs, they have come up empty.

In '06, the Jaguars entered Week 15 in control of their destiny, and proceeded to drop their final three games to miss the playoffs. Last season, they entered Week 14 in the same position, and went on to lose their final four games to miss the postseason.

The Jaguars continued their late slump by falling in overtime to the Washington Redskins a week ago. Their season finale is at Houston, but with Trent Edwards at quarterback and Jones-Drew sitting again with a sore knee, beating the Texans could be difficult. And even with a victory, the Jaguars won't be going anywhere if the Colts knock off another struggling opponent, Tennessee.

Of course, an Indianapolis loss and a Jacksonville win would put an entirely different light on things because the Jaguars would have a division title.

Nevertheless, that loss to Indianapolis will be difficult for the Jaguars to live down. And it might very well have put Jack Del Rio in a tenuous spot regarding his future as their coach.

That's because the Jaguars could go one worse than missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record. They could very well end the season 8-8 and with a three-game losing streak. Those are the sort of finishes that get coaches fired. Given his eight-year mark barely hovers above .500 (66-64), it isn't a stretch to say that Del Rio is vulnerable.

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver is known for having exceptional patience. But he also has a product to sell, and keeping the fan base engaged is no easy task in Jacksonville.

The bottom line is that because of what happened against the Colts, because of the Jaguars letting another opportunity to lock up a playoff spot unassisted slip through their fingers, hard questions have to be asked about where the team goes from here.

Perhaps the uncertainty on the NFL labor front could prompt Weaver to hold off on making a coaching change, regardless of what happens Sunday, because a new coach might not have any players to guide if there is a lockout. Or, perhaps, with the possibility of a third of the teams changing coaches, he might conclude the time is right to snatch up a hot candidate before someone else does, and the ability to find a new coach after next season could become more difficult.

There are some who believe, if the Jaguars at least have a winning record, even without a playoff appearance to show for it, Del Rio will be safe. Most of his players seem to support the idea of his sticking around.

"Our time will come," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "Our time will come."

The question is, when?

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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