What Does the Future Hold for Doug Marrone and Rest of Jaguars Regime?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When a team spirals as much as the Jacksonville Jaguars have finding postseason success in 2017, it would make sense for every one to be on notice. From head coach Doug Marrone, to executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, to general manager Dave Caldwell, all scenarios are in play.
Since going 10-6 and advancing to the AFC Championship behind the strong play of rookie running back Leonard Fournette and an elite defense, Jacksonville is only 9-19. And unlike in some other situations around the league, there is enough blame to go around for all of the decision-makers instead of just one or two.
The last two seasons have been marred by short-sighted personnel moves that have predictably blown up in Jacksonville's faces, such as handing Blake Bortles a three-year, $54 million contract extension in 2018 when they could have simply had him play on his rookie deal's fifth-year option. Bortles played horrifically in 2018 and was cut after the season, a move that forced Jacksonville to take on a dead cap hit of $16.5 million.
Jacksonville doubled down on the Bortles mistake by paying veteran passer and former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles, giving him the largest contract in Jaguars' history with a four-year, $88 million deal with over $50 million in guarantees. Since then, Foles has played less than 12 quarters due to a mix of injury and poor play, and he has looked like a clear downgrade compared to sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
Through 12 games this year, Jacksonville sits at 4-8, but all four of those wins came with Minshew as the starter. Jacksonville hasn't won a game since Week 8 and has lost four games in a row by 17 points or more since.
Aside from personnel issues, Jacksonville's record is also a result of what has been a so-so job from Marrone and his coaching staff. Jacksonville leads the NFL in penalties this season with 105, and the offensive line alone, which is supposed to be Marrone's specialty, has 42 penalties, which is the most amongst all 32 offensive line units.
Jacksonville has had poorly coached games, with instances such as only running the ball nine times in a loss vs. the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11 and calling a bad two-point conversion play in the final seconds of a loss vs. the Houston Texans in Week 2. Marrone knows he has dug himself into a hole this season, too.
"My job is to win football games, obviously I’m extremely disappointed in the job that I’ve done," Marrone said during his Wednesday press conference at TIAA Bank Field. "I’m extremely disappointed to let down the fans, like I said before, the sponsors, ownership, the rest of the building."
It was reported by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo earlier this week that Marrone is "likely" going to be fired when this season commences, and the energy around the stadium each day suggests the same thing. It truly feels like a staff that knows it is out the door sooner than later and is simply trying to win four more games and add to their résumés before then. Do not expect Marrone to return.
As for Coughlin and Caldwell, that is a bit trickier. Some outlets have suggested in the past that Coughlin would possibly take over as coach once more, but there is little to zero chance of that happening. But will Coughlin return in his front office role? We have yet to hear anything one way or another, but after owner Shad Khan so vehemently said after the 5-11 season in 2018 that he expected improvement this year, it would be fair to assume he would also be out.
In addition to his personnel blunders, Coughlin has also alienated key players during his time in Jacksonville. He was the catalyst for cornerback Jalen Ramsey requesting a trade and has also played hardball with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in his seeking of a new contract. Keeping Coughlin could mean keeping some toxicity in the building.
Out of the three Jaguars' decision-makers, Caldwell should logically be the one with the safest status as of today. He has taken a backseat role to Coughlin since 2017, and could make the argument that his hands have been tied over the last three seasons. Caldwell returning would be much less surprising than Marrone or Coughlin returning in 2020.
Jacksonville is at a crossroads currently. What moves it makes from here will say a lot about their direction moving forward. Who will be involved in said moves and direction will be ironed out sooner than later, too.
What do you think? Which of the Jaguars' three decision-makers will be here in 2020?