Jaguars' longtime losers embrace being one win from Super Bowl

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dante Fowler Jr. had a smile of admiration and disbelief as he glanced at the adjacent locker of Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny.

"Man, I’m just trying to do it all for him, take him to the top," the third-year Jaguars defensive end said.

The disbelief was because in 10 seasons prior to this one, Posluszny -- pronounced “PUZ-luz-nee" and referred to by most teammates as "Poz" -- never had been a part of an NFL team with a winning record.

"Man, that would be hard," said Fowler, a third-year player who on Sunday at New England will play in the AFC Championship Game.

Try painful.


Any adjective that describes what it feels like to put everything into something you love and fail to get the results.

For Posluszny the results haven’t been close to successful since he was selected by Buffalo in the second round of the 2007 draft. The records of his Bills and Jaguars teams, counting games Posluszny missed due to injury, were a dismal 46-114 prior to 2017.

That’s an average of 4.6 wins and 11.4 losses per year.

Posluszny’s 94 losses in games that he has played are the most of any defender in the league over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas, also drafted in 2007, leads all NFL players in losses over that span with 112.

"Good Lord, man. God bless, Poz," safety Tashaun Gipson said.

Not that Gipson’s record is anything to brag about. In five seasons with Cleveland and Jacksonville prior to going 12-6 (including two playoff wins) this year, his record was 22-58.

Defensive end Marcell Dareus also has had a career of futility, going 42-54 in six seasons with Buffalo before being traded to the Jaguars seven games into this season.

The three defenders combined have a career record of 110-228 before this season, and none made the playoffs.

"A lot in the wrong column," Posluszny said.

The playoffs were only something these three watched on television, and Dareus didn’t even do that.

"You get to the point where you get tired of watching football," Dareus said. “It was like, ‘I’m not in it. I want to be in it. We’ve got a good team. We should be there. We’re one or two plays from changing our whole season.’

"You don’t want to watch football after you lose certain games, and you’re sitting at the house when you don’t feel like you should be."

Gipson said last year when he signed a five-year, $35 million deal to go from Cleveland to Jacksonville that he came to win games. But after going 3-13 in his first season he all but gave up on making it to the playoffs, much less the conference championship.

"I’d be lying to you if I said 'I said to myself I signed a long-term deal here thinking I’ll be playing in the AFC championship,'" Gipson said.

Posluszny always dreamed of being in this position, and he always watched playoff games to see what other teams had that his didn’t.

"Absolutely," he said. "I’d be glued to the playoffs."

Now that he’s here, they’re everything he imagined. He appreciates more his last year with Buffalo in 2010, when the Bills went through a coaching change and scheme change.

He appreciates more his first year in Jacksonville in 2011, when head coach Jack Del Rio was fired after a 3-8 start.

"It was difficult and frustrating," Posluszny said of those days. “But the thing about the NFL, you would go into each year feeling you have an opportunity for success regardless of what happened previously. So each year you prepared and tried to win as much as you could.

"But not having that success, not being able to win, is difficult."

As frustrated as Dareus was at times, he never doubted he would be here. The reality that he’s here, though, still is hard to believe.

"Man, overwhelming," he said of this season. “Overwhelming. It heightens so much of your senses to what’s actually going on around you."

These three are living in the moment now. They aren’t looking past the Patriots, who have been to seven straight AFC Championship Games. They can’t even relate to what New England has accomplished.

But they have embraced the idea that they’re only one win from reaching the Super Bowl.

"I was just saying to Brandon Linder, it’s Jan. 18, and we still get to play football," Posluszny said of a conversation earlier with the fourth-year tackle. "How awesome is that?"