All Good Things Must Come to An End, But Sharks Should be Savored
The Jacksonville Sharks are having their worst season in franchise history, and the lowest point of that season came on Saturday night when they were smacked by the Cleveland Gladiators 62-20 at Quicken Loans Arena.
It was the fewest points the Sharks had scored in a game in franchise history, and it was their worst regular season beating in franchise history. The only darker night for the men in red and black came in the American Conference Championship Game two seasons ago when the Philadelphia Soul beat them up 89-34. That though, was at least a conference title game. This loss in Cleveland gave the team its 11th defeat and had to prove demoralizing. It was also the first time in franchise history that the Sharks went through an entire half of football without scoring a point.
Sure, it's easy to loathe a season which is likely to end at 7-11 after next week's game against the Los Angeles KISS, and losses to teams like the Portland Thunder and New Orleans VooDoo at home are the types of defeats that generally cause fans to demand changes. Only winning one game against a playoff team all season long (two if the Tampa Bay Storm get into the playoffs) won't sit well either, nor will getting swept in three games by the hated Orlando Predators.
That said, all good things come to an end in life, and dynasties in sports are all cyclical and never last forever. It's at these times, when fans are most likely to be in uproar, that it should be remembered just what a special run the Sharks put together in their first four years of existence.
The Southern Division, in all of its forms, was always dominated by Tampa Bay and Orlando. In fact, from 1992 forward when the league split into divisions, either the Storm or the Preds won all but five division/conference titles. The Nashville Kats won the Southern Division in 2001, the New Orleans VooDoo won it in 2004, and the Georgia Force won it in 2005, 2007, and 2008. To think that anyone else could come into the South and dominate the way that Jacksonville has is borderline ridiculous and unfathomable.
Not only did the Sharks win the Southern Division; they dominated it. Both in 2011 and 2013, they ran through the South undefeated, and they hold a 4-0 record against Southern Division teams in the playoffs as well since 2011. Coming into this season, both Tampa Bay and Orlando were 0-fer their lives at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in the regular season, and the Storm have still never won a game in Jacksonville in six tries.
It also deserves to be mentioned that this is the first time since 1991 that a team coached in any way, shape, or form by Les Moss won't be a part of the playoffs. Moss was an assistant coach on his father, Perry Moss' Predators from '91 through his departure, and he stuck around during the Jay Gruden and Fran Papasedero eras as well. In 2004, Moss left to coach the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, who never missed the af2 playoffs in that stretch either. Moss in fact, had led his teams, whether it be the Pioneers or the Sharks to seven straight division titles.
This season as well, has been an odd one for the Sharks. They ended up trading five players to the Orlando Predators for the rights to Aaron Garcia, a man who ended up throwing 42 passes before leaving the team and ultimately getting traded to the KISS by way of the Iowa Barnstormers. Though James McClinton has proven to be a valuable commodity up front for Jacksonville this year, even the most ardent Sharks support will tell you that a haul that included Bernard Morris, Matt Marcorelle, Tracy Belton, and Kyle Rowley was far too much for his services.
On top of that, the rotation of wide receivers that Jacksonville has had to endure has been tumultuous at best. The three starting receivers from the first game of the season, London Crawford, Jeron Harvey, and Mardy Gilyard, have all ended up missing more time than they have been playing. Harvey has only played in 10 games this year, Crawford suffered a nasty injury in Week 11 and was finished for the season, and Gilyard left for the CFL a month into the campaign. Jomo Wilson has been about the only constant of late for the Sharks, and he started off the season with the San Antonio Talons. Maurice Williams, Jeff Hughley, and Tristan Purifoy have all spent time at receiver this year for Jacksonville, and even backup quarterback Alex Carder took some reps at receiver before the CFL plucked him away as well.
Though Moss would probably tell you that none of that is a viable excuse for not winning games this year, it's tough not to sympathize. But alas, that's how sports go sometimes. Teams go from heroes to zeroes and back again at the drop of a hat, and we still must remember that, even with the extended regular season, 18 games is an insanely small sample set to show just how good a team really is or is not.
The offseason between the 2014 and 2015 seasons will inevitably be bitter for the Sharks, but if history is any indication, the rest of the teams in the Southern Division had better enjoy their time on top. The Sharks will be looking for more bait in 2015, and there's no reason to believe that they won't find it.