Years ago, Lebanon went to Mt. Juliet’s Elzie Patton Stadium and was thoroughly throttled by a score of 56-12 [or something like that].
The Blue Devils were rebuilding and the Golden Bears were headed for the playoffs. But I was surprised when I called Lebanon coach Bob Dillard a couple of nights after the game.
He issued a public apology for his team’s performance and lack of effort. He then told me he was going to take the unusual step of removing the “Devils” logo from the sides of each and every helmet until the team earned the right to have them on again.
The move worked. The Blue Devils, with plain white helmets, lost at Nokes-Lasater Field to Shelbyville the following Friday, but by a closer margin [28-20 perhaps] and with much more obvious vigor. The logos returned the following week.
I was reminded of Dillard’s apology early Sunday afternoon when the Titans’ offense sleepwalked through the early stages of an inexplicable loss to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field.
Coming off a win at St. Louis, the Titans appeared poised to make a move up the standings. But then it appeared they thought all they needed to do was show up against the Jags.
Tennessee played better after backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced the injured Jake Locker at quarterback. But though the Titans fought back, the game was essentially lost in the 0-13 start.
The players were angry in the locker room afterward. It made me wonder where that fire was three hours earlier.
I felt the players and coaches owed the fans who paid good money to watch them play an apology. And if I had had the power of the late Bud Adams, Mike Munchak would have been on a very short leash. When you’re the last two victories for a Jaguars team which some pundits were considering to be among the worst of all time [they certainly didn’t look like that bad Sunday, but not good enough to win either] and a loss to a winless Colts team two years ago, it’s not something a coach wants to put on his resume.
The defense played relatively well. It gave up field goals and the early touchdown came off a short field following a fumble. Jacksonville only went the distance to open the second half. Yet that drive stayed alive when safety Bernard Pollard drew a couple of personal foul penalties, including one on third down when the defense was about to get off the field.
Pollard, one of the league’s hardest hitters whose style of play was celebrated in days gone by but is now in the Shield’s crosshairs, contributes his fair share to the NFL’s fine pool and is a vocal critic of the league’s emphasis on the new rules designed to improve player safety. Defenders often say it’s almost impossible to play defense now.
Maybe so, maybe no. But I’m reminded of what former Friendship basketball coach Don Walker used tell his Commanders back in the ‘80s [and was a common urging from coaches then], “adjust to the officiating”.
As is often the case, a different Titans team showed up Thursday night against a Colts team whose game four days earlier was even more baffling than was the Titans’, a blowout loss to the Rams.
Tennessee jumped to a 14-0 lead and in the past, the Titans would win those kind of games.
But Indy adjusted and whipped the Titans on the field, if just barely on the scoreboard, rallying to a 30-27 triumph.
Like the Blue Devils’ bounce back 17 seasons ago, it was a loss but a better one. The effort was better.
But in the NFL, effort without victory doesn’t count for much, even if the fans did get more of their money’s worth.