With each loss the Jacksonville Jaguars collect in 2020, the chances of head coach Doug Marrone returning after the season diminish greatly.
Emphasis on after the season.
With Bill O'Brien and Dan Quinn already fired through the first half of this season, the focus of the next coaches on the hot seats has turned to Marrone, who is leading the 1-6 Jaguars, and New York Jets coach Adam Gase, who is in control of the winless Jets.
But despite the Jaguars being in the middle of a six-game losing streak the likes of which few NFL teams have ever seen (they are just the third team in NFL history to allow 30 or more points in six straight games), all signs point to Marrone returning to the sidelines each Sunday until at least near the end of the season.
Why? Because Jaguars owner Shad Khan has already outlined his philosophy on making significant organizational changes -- both publicly this year and with past moves.
Some NFL owners are quick to pull the rug from under a coach, general manager or any other executive, but Khan has traditionally been a patient owner. At this point, it is his defining trait as the leader of the franchise.
Even with the Jaguars in the cellar of the AFC South and tied for the second-worst record in the league, there should be zero expectation of Marrone being fired before Week 9, 10, or even the few weeks after that.
Instead, it is much more Khan's style to let a season continue to play out before he makes any definitive move. He had made this clear with his past two firings, as well as with his comments earlier this season when the Jaguars were sitting at 1-3.
"Well I think, obviously, I'm very disappointed, I think, being 1-3 at this point. And yesterday, when you know, I was leaving Cincinnati, I was reflecting on that, and then it dawned on me that two years ago we were 3-1 at this point," Khan said on Oct. 5 at Dream Finders Homes Flex Field at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville.
This was after the Jaguars lost 33-25 to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4. That was the closest the Jaguars have come to winning a game since, with the Jaguars losing games by 16, 18 and 10 points in the three losses since.
"And you put it in a perspective -- it's about life. It's not how you start. It's how you finish. So, we know what happened a couple of years ago. So three-quarters of the season is still left to go, and we have to find a way to win."
Khan was, of course, referring to how the Jaguars started 3-1 in 2018 before limping to a 5-11 finish to end the season. A season that showed the Jaguars start hot before fizzling out so quickly clearly left an impression on Khan, which is understandable.
But it was before Khan ever made those comments that he showed just how patient of an owner he is, and why there has yet to be a firing of any coach or executive under his watch until after Week 15.
Khan has previously fired one head coach during the season, giving some precedent for how he may handle the rest of the 2020 season with Marrone.
In 2016, Khan let almost the entire season play out before he relived head coach Gus Bradley of his duties. There was never any chance of the Jaguars turning their season around throughout the 2016 season after the losing began.
Despite the Jaguars starting 2016 with an average 2-3 record, the team entered into a nine-game losing streak that Bradley wouldn't survive. Even with the Jaguars at 2-9, 2-10 and 2-11, however, the Jaguars and Khan waited to pull the trigger on firing Bradley.
Considering Bradley was 14-48 as head coach and had gone 5-11 in the year before 2016, there was no reason for Khan to stick with him during the season aside from the fact that he is a patient owner who lets his coaches mostly see through to the end of their work.
In a lot of ways, the 2016 situation has parallels to where Marrone, Khan and the Jaguars find themselves today. Bradley got fired only after a 21-20 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 15, with Marrone replacing him for the final two games of the season.
"It is unfortunately evident that we must make a change. I thought it would be best to do it immediately after today's result so Gus can step away, relax and regroup with his family during the Christmas and holiday season," Khan said in a statement following the firing of Bradley.
Much like this year, that team hit a brutal losing streak and simply could not find a way out of it. And much like with Marrone this year, Bradley was already on the hot seat entering the season, yet he was able to keep his position until the year was nearly over.
Marrone, like Bradley in 2016, entered this season with essentially a lame-duck status and the first seven games of the season have done little to change that. Despite this, there is little reason to think Khan's strategies when it comes to his coaches have changed over the last four seasons.
This isn't to say Marrone is safe after this season -- that would be a surprise considering the trajectory the Jaguars are currently on. Instead, it is to say that Marrone's situation today looks almost exactly identical to the one Bradley was in during the 2016 season. Khan handled that situation, and the one with former front office czar Tom Coughlin in 2019, with the utmost patience. Why would he change now?
"I think that any time you're losing like this and you're not performing well on Sundays, I think it's naïve. It can happen. I just work and do the best job I can for the coaches and players," Marrone said after Jacksonville's 39-29 loss in Week 7 when asked about his job status.
"I know those questions come, and you guys know me, I understand that. That's just what this game is — work as hard as you possibly can, and at the end of the day, you have to hold your head up high knowing that you did everything you possibly could to try to win games, while at the same time, know that you did your best for the coaches and the players."
While it would be comprehensible to see Khan do something to shake up the franchise before the season ends, it simply does not seem to be his style. He has laid out the blueprint before with how he handles mid-season firings, and there should be little expectation for him to diverge from that blueprint now.m