What began as one of the best starts to any coaching regime in Jacksonville Jaguars history has drawn to a close as the Jaguars have announced the firing of head coach Doug Marrone on Monday.
"I am committed and determined to deliver winning football to the City of Jacksonville. Realizing that goal requires a fresh start throughout our football operations, and with that in mind I spoke this morning with Doug Marrone to express my gratitude for his hard work over the past four seasons as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement.
"I’ll always appreciate Doug’s passion, grit and class, and I’m confident he will enjoy success in the next chapter of his career. As the search for our new general manager continues, now the quest begins to find a head coach who shares my ambition for the Jacksonville Jaguars and our fans, whose loyalty and faith are overdue to be rewarded.
Marrone finishes his four-year Jaguars tenure with a 23-43 regular season record and a 2-1 record in the postseason. The former Buffalo Bills head coach was first hired as an offensive line coach and assistant head coach in 2015 before being named interim head coach in 2016 and eventually hired as head coach in 2017. He was the sixth head coach in team history and the fifth full-time head coach.
The Jaguars finished 2020 in last place in the AFC South with a 1-15 record, the worst single-season record in franchise history. The Jaguars got off to a hot start in 2020, upsetting the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and taking the Tennessee Titans to the wire in Week 2. The weeks that would follow would be filled with a franchise record in consecutive losses in a single season and a mess at the quarterback position.
The Jaguars lost 15 straight games following Week 1, with several losses being blowouts the Jaguars never had a chance in. Other losses, such as Week 10 vs. the Green Bay Packers, were close bouts that showed the determination of the Jaguars’ roster, the youngest such roster in the entire NFL. But at the end of the day, all the Jaguars saw were more and more losses in a year in which Marrone knew was a must-win season.
Marrone is now the third head coach Khan has fired since officially becoming owner in 2012. Khan fired Mike Mularkey (2-14 record as head coach) after the 2012 season and fired Gus Bradley (14-48 as head coach) during the 2016 season.
Khan had already fired former general manager Dave Caldwell on November 29 after Caldwell had spent nearly eight seasons in the role. With Marrone and Caldwell's firing, all of the people in major leadership roles from the 2017 team that advanced to the AFC Championship are now gone.
Marrone got the Jaguars as close to the Super Bowl as any head coach in franchise history in 2017 -- and arguably even closer than Tom Coughlin got them. But the last three seasons have spiraled and led to loss after loss.
Marrone pushed all the right buttons in 2017, helping lead the Jaguars to a 10-6 record and their first divisional title in 1997. It was the first time the Jaguars had ever finished first place in the AFC South.
Jacksonville knocked off the Buffalo Bills at home and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road before meeting the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Jaguars held a lead entering the fourth quarter but ultimately lost 24-20 in perhaps the most heartbreaking loss in franchise history.
Marrone’s second season at the helm was defined by injuries and major regression from quarterback Blake Bortles. Jacksonville went on to finish the season 5-11 despite Super Bowl aspirations and a 3-1 start to the season. Marrone was retained following the 5-11 season, but Bortles was released and the team signed free-agent Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract (the largest deal in franchise history) before the 2019 campaign.
Foles went gone on to start just four games for Jacksonville due to a clavicle injury he suffered in Week 1 and a Week 13 benching. Marrone's team faced even more turnover after trading cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams for a haul of draft picks in Week 7.
The Jaguars finished 6-10 in 2019 but Marrone and Caldwell were brought back in 2020 to attempt to right the ship without Coughlin. The team had to make several tough personnel decisions, partially to manage the cap and partially the rebuild a fractured locker room.
As a result of these moves, and a lack of a starting-caliver quarterback, the Jaguars regressed in a big way in 2020. Marrone was lauded by his locker room for his efforts throughout the season, but the results were bad enough for Khan to make a move.
"I appreciate the effort and the professionalism of all of the players. I feel that we have some really good coaches on this staff that have done a nice job of keeping everything together," Marrone said following a 28-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the season finale.
"Whatever happens is going to happen. I know that the record doesn't reflect it. I know I am a good football coach and I’m looking to have an opportunity and we’ll see where it goes.”"