Jaguars HC Doug Marrone Knows a Second London Game Will Be an Adjustment for His Staff and Players
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be in uncharted waters this season as they gear up to play back-to-back "home" games at Wembley Stadium in London. They will be the first NFL team to ever play two home games outside of the United States in one season, as well as the first team to play in London twice in the same season.
Spending a whole extra week in London will be a major challenge for everyone involved with the trip. There is no avoiding that or sugarcoating it, and Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone seems cognizant of this fact. The Jaguars announced earlier this month that they would be taking a second home game from Jacksonville and putting it in London in 2020, and in doing so they have created a logistical situation that Marrone will have to carefully map out.
“I think we’ll go out there for 10 days. I think it will obviously be a challenge for the players and the coaches," Marrone said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We’re looking at things first and foremost to make sure our players are good. That’s the first thing we’ve been talking about looking at, investigating and making things right for our players."
Jacksonville has played an annual game in London since 2013, going 3-4 in the process. There is little to suggest experience in London is an advantage for the team on the field due to a 3-4 record overseas, and last season's 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans at Wembley. The Texans had never before been to London for a game before last year, but they thoroughly outplayed a roster that has done it for the past several years.
For the Jaguars, their past history with London games will be even less relevant this year due to the additional game. They will have to figure out a way to prepare their players and coaches to spend nearly two weeks overseas, in a trip which past players such as Ryan Davis and Matt Overton have said is a taxing one.
To prepare for the looming challenge, Marrone said he is going to explore his options and reflect on the trends of other teams who travel for long trips, whether it is back-to-back games on another coast or other international trips.
"It is a challenge. A lot of teams will go to the West Coast and play two games on the West Coast from the East Coast and stay out 10 days. We’ve been talking to a couple of teams that have done that to see what they have done," Marrone said. "People will go offsite before they go to Mexico, and talk to teams and what they have done there. Knowing that, it is going to be a little different for our players to be away from their families. I feel that and I’m going to do everything I can to make it as easy of a transition as I can for them.”
Marrone will also look back on past experiences to prepare his team for the unprecedented London series. As the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2008, Marrone traveled with the Saints to play the second-ever NFL game in London. The Saints went on to beat the San Diego Chargers 37-32, leading Marrone to think that whatever they did to prepare for the trip was effective.
"I have done it a lot of different ways. I have been out there a whole week when we played on Sunday when I was with New Orleans and immediately after the game, flew to London, stayed there the whole week," Marrone said. "Obviously when I came to Jacksonville, we’ve been flying out on Thursday. I have seen it done both ways.
"What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to go back to that experience when I flew out after that Sunday game. I will probably reach out to Coach [Sean] Payton just to kind of remind me what we did with the players. We were rested, we played well and we won the game. I think anytime you win, you kind of look back and you say, ‘What did we do there? Let’s do the same thing.’ If you lose, you want to make sure you change it up.”
Will the Jaguars have any kind of advantage over teams by being in London longer? It remains to be seen. For Marrone, he is going to do whatever he can to prepare the team to have a leg up, but he knows the trip will be a challenge nonetheless.
“I think we’re going to try to do everything we can to make sure that we do gain an advantage. I just don’t know. It’s a performance-based business. I still think you have to go out there on Sunday and perform when you play," he said.