Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Fred’s Farewell

Nice sendoff for Fred Taylor sponsored by the Downtown Rotary on Monday.

Taylor was released by the Jaguars a couple of weeks ago but some of the members of Downtown Rotary didn’t think he was given a proper farewell. So the Monday lunch meeting was dedicated to celebrating Taylor’s career here in town. “I’m not bitter,” Fred said afterwards. “I really love Jacksonville, the fans, the city. I’ll retire a Jaguar.”

Taylor will be playing for the New England Patriots this season and said he’ll be keeping an eye on the Jaguars. “I’ll be rooting for Jacksonville every week, except when they come to New England this year.” The Jaguars will be on the road at Foxboro this season. The exact schedule hasn’t ‘been set yet.

I did think it was interesting that Taylor had some of his friends there, including former teammates Jimmy Smith and Rashean Mathis. Smith was moved to tears when Taylor choked up giving a few farewell remarks. It just made me think of Smith’s retirement announcement and how abrupt it was in comparison.

The Jaguars brass flew to South Florida to talk with Fred and make the decision. Smith’s retirement was announced in a last-minute press conference at the stadium. It fueled speculation that Smith was stepping aside instead of facing a drug suspension for a failed test.

But Fred’s situation was different. He is a beloved player here in town and as strange as it seems that he would get a sendoff, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? When a guy spends his career in town, stays out of trouble, says the right things and is a part of the community, shouldn’t there be some kind of a celebration of his career?

Isn’t this what’s supposed to happen?

I think so and by Fred’s emotional reaction, he appreciated it.

Obviously, this doesn’t happen enough. Certainly the players and free agency play a part, but sometimes there’s so much business involved that teams forget the emotional connection that’s created between fans and players. The organization might reap the benefits but the fans have the connection, the memories, and the memorabilia and feel ownership.

I just thought it was nice.

Maybe the Jaguars were paying attention.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Gator Hoops: Short of Ingredients

Watching the Florida/Penn State game the other night I finally figured out why the Gators can’t seem to get over the hump when it comes to a decent opponent who’s having a decent night: they’re just not that good. As much as you want to put a “program” label on Florida, Billy Donovan has come up short in the last two seasons, missing on some recruits and consequently missing the NCAA’s.

There are good players on the Florida team, but it seems inconceivable that the Gators could win back-to-back National Championships and not make the tournament the next two years. (That’s the first time that’s ever happened by the way.)

I do agree when the “’04’s” announced that they were coming back for one more year, it dampened a lot of recruits enthusiasm for Florida and it threw a wrench in “the plan” as far as building from year to year. But this team is just incomplete. In one half of the game, transition and the 3-pointer, they look completely skilled and very confident. But when it comes to the other half, rebounding and the half court game, they look lost.

People point to the loss of Maurice Speights as a big blow to the program. Perhaps, but I think Billy was glad to see him leave. Not getting Patrick Patterson to be a Gator had an impact on the building process, but the lack of a big man, anywhere on the court, has impeded Florida’s road to success.

Alex Tyus is a nice player but disappears for long stretches at a time. Chandler Parsons is inconsistent and a real post player backs him down every time. Ray Shipman and Kenny Kadji are both skinny guys who might be good but even Donovan says they can’t go up and down the floor more than a few times before he has to bring them back to the bench.

I keep hearing that they’re getting this guy and that guy and that this player or that player will develop for next season. Perhaps. Billy knows that getting the best players is important, and combining them in the right year is equally important. He learned a lesson on Kwame Brown and even Donnell Harvey.

Nick Calathes is a very good player on an average team but he can’t lift everybody. Erving Walker can shoot the three but has no idea how to go to the basket.

Maybe we were spoiled by the ’04’s. Looking back they were such a complete team, inside and out, offense and defense, half court and fast break. I suppose nearly any team pales in comparison to them. But Florida’s got enough going for it to capture big recruits and become a real “program.”

Billy is the right coach and the right recruiter.

If he’s going to be the right “chef” when it comes to cooking up wins. He needs to put the right ingredients in the pot.

Right now he’s a little short.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Matt Jones: His Fault Or Ours?

The Jaguars released Matt Jones on Monday, March 16 after 4 years with the team.

Jones was the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft but never reached the potential the Jaguars had expected out of him catching 166 passes and 14 touchdowns in four seasons. Last year was his best with five TD catches and 65 receptions as David Garrard’s favorite receiver. Jones accounted for half of the Jaguars yardage from wide receiver for the year.

His release was about “character” according to both Owner Wayne Weaver and General Manager Gene Smith.

“I hope Matt gets his life in order,” Weaver said outside the stadium. “But we have standards and when you step over the line, you have to pay the price.”

Only three players, Troy Williamson, Dennis Northcutt and Mike Walker remain on the roster as wide receivers who have caught a pass in the NFL.

(Ed. Note: Original 3-11-09 posting)

“Why would he be so stupid?”

That’s what most people were saying when they heard Matt Jones had been put in jail for violating his probation.

The other prevailing comment was “Figures.”

Either is not good.

Giving up drinking might be hard for some people and impossible for others (I gave up drinking for Lent once but thought it was too easy. Or course I’m working most of the evening so my drinking isn’t all night long). But anyway, giving it up is one thing: not drinking because a judge told you not to is something completely different. And Jones falls into the latter category.

“I made a bad decision,” he pleaded to the judge in Arkansas after he failed a random drug test on February 27th. Jones admitted he drank some beers with friends while playing golf. No big deal right? Wrong. He knew it was a violation of his probation but did it anyway.


Where does that thinking come from?

I can only suppose that it’s how he’s always acted. In the locker room, Jones is aloof, at least with the media. He doesn’t have a “carefree” attitude; he has an “I don’t care” attitude.

Big difference.

Perhaps it’s because he’s never been held accountable for anything he’s done. His athletic talent has always carried him. Since he was in Junior High, Matt Jones was able to do whatever he pleased. Throw his clothes on the floor in the locker room? Sure, somebody would pick it up and clean it. Stay out late? No problem, just score some baskets tomorrow night and everything will be all right.

After while, you kind of get used to being treated special and think if you do it, it must be right. Why? Because I did it! Nothing matters but your athletic talent. Go to college on a scholarship. Get whatever you want in High School. Many times local law enforcement looks the other way at your transgressions.

Then all of the sudden you’re rich beyond your wildest dreams and an adult. And now without the safety net of high school, college and your hometown, people are starting to expect you to live up to that money, and the status you have wherever you’re plying your trade. “But wait, I can do anything I want,” is what you’re mind is screaming but all of the sudden, you’re an adult and the rules change.

Problem is, nobody told you.

So somewhere in this kind of twisted logic, Matt Jones’ problems are actually our problems and his parents. (Although everybody told me that back in Arkansas to serve his probation they were sure things would go well because Jones’ father would “beat his butt” if he got out of line.) The consequences of his actions just haven’t sunk in for the Jaguars wide receiver. He still thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Even the judge in Arkansas said she didn’t think he was a bad person and he’s probably not. But when it comes to personal responsibility, he has none.

And that’s where we come in.

Athletes are just that: Athletes. Guys with tremendous athletic gifts. Different from the rest of us when it comes to the things they can physically do. But it doesn’t make them different when it comes to the accountability of who they are. And only we can hold them accountable.

We shouldn’t accept bad or irresponsible behavior from our athletes, starting at a young age. If they’re out of line in junior high, they should be made to understand that as an elite athlete not only can they not step out of line, but also they’re actually held to a higher standard. Make them be a role model. Just don’t let other kids model themselves after them. Encourage them to explore who they are, to test their limits, to be the best they can be.

Perhaps if we had asked that of Matt Jones and others, he wouldn’t be sitting in jail today.