Doug Marrone and His Team Know They Are Fighting for Jobs. Will It Matter?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Only two seasons after leading the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship, the team's best season since 2007, head coach Doug Marrone has a murky future. It is no secret at TIAA Bank Field.
Jacksonville is 4-9 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak, with each loss coming by at least 17 points. This is following a 5-11 season in 2018, perhaps the biggest letdown season in team history after Jacksonville entered with Super Bowl aspirations and started off 3-1. After two straight bad seasons despite entering each year with optimism, it is understandable that Marrone's seat may be red hot.
"I think when you get to these situations it’s not rocket science. Everybody’s fighting to maintain, to try to stay in the league," Marrone said during his Wednesday press conference. "And that’s why I think when you look at it, and I think it’s easy from an outside perspective to say, ‘What do they have to play for, what do they have to do?’ We’re all fighting for our jobs."
From Marrone to his assistant coaches to players on the roster, everyone has to fight, Marrone said. This is a far cry from the immediate aftermath of the near-Super Bowl season in 2017, when Marrone was given a two-year contract extension, along with executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell, to keep him in Jacksonville through 2021.
Offensive lineman Will Richardson, drafted in 2018, has only played for Marrone in his NFL career. When JaguarMaven asked him about his reaction to jobs being on the line, he said players and coaches fight for their jobs every day, but he is aware of what is at stake.
"Yes I came in with him and stuff, but we all know that it is like a cutthroat league," Richardson said. "But right now it kind of goes back to what you said -- we are kind of being judged twice as hard being as we are doing bad this year.
"Not only are we fighting for our own pride, but we are fighting for this team and we are fighting for the name on the back of our jersey. So whenever coach Marrone comes and tell us something, I will usually take it in and try to program my mind to that for the rest of the week and stuff."
What has gone so wrong since 2017 that the Jaguars now have to fight for jobs? There are a number of factors. The team has mishandled the quarterback position badly, needlessly extending Blake Bortles before the 2018 season only to release him a year later and then overpaying for Nick Foles before benching him after only a few starts.
But the Jaguars have regressed on the field in a few major ways under Marrone's watch in the last two seasons. Jacksonville currently leads the NFL in penalties with 115. The once-elite defense has become one of the worst units in the league thanks to an exodos of talent, most notably cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who talked his way out of town and was traded to the Rams.
Marrone pushed all the right buttons in 2017. He knew how to manage a locker room full of personalities and how to squeeze the most out of a flawed but talented roster. Now, he is left with the rest of the team searching for answers how to turn their season around after it has already gone so sideways.
"Sometimes you motivate through fear. But this job is a privilege," defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Wednesday. "When you are part of a team that 'doesn’t win too much, it is a lot of guys that end up having to leave.
"We go on a little win streak at the end of the season, a lot of guys keep a lot more jobs. But if you tuck it in and you don’t finish strong, a lot of guys end up jobless the next year. And nobody wants to see that. I have respect for everyone in this locker room, so definitely the message is loud and clear. Dig deep and give everything you have, because this is a privilege."
Marrone's future in Jacksonville will likely be decided once the season concludes on Dec. 29. He and his team know they are all fighting for a lot of major things at stake, but the question is if it will factor into results and actually help them play better.
Jacksonville will travel to play the slumping Oakland Raiders this Sunday as the Jaguars look for their first win since Week 8. Not too long ago, Marrone knew all the right things to do. Can he find that touch again, or has he already run out of time?