After rumors swirled about the future of Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone for the last several weeks, Monday served as a stark reversal. While other head coaches and front office executives were handed pink slips on Black Monday, the day came and went quietly in Jacksonville.
According to various reports, Marrone is instead set to meet with Jaguars' owner Shad Khan today to discuss his future. An announcement on if Marrone will or will not lead Jacksonville on the field in 2020 should be expected not long after the two meet to discuss the direction of the franchise.
Until such an announcement is made though, the situation will ultimately be left in limbo. The fact that Marrone was not immediately fired on Monday like other coaches (Pat Shurmur, for example) seems like a decent sign for his chances to stick around, but it is hard to feel too confident either way since nothing has been announced.
If the team was sold on Marrone staying, one would think it would have been announced sometime shortly after Sunday's 38-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Something still has to be sorted out, and there is still a case that has to be made for or against Marrone, whose team finished 6-10 in 2019.
What is the argument to keep Marrone, or why should Khan decide to move on? We examine below.
Five reasons to retain Doug Marrone
1) He has been dealt a bad hand
There is no question that Jacksonville has disappointed in each of the last two seasons, going 11-21 in the process. For a team that had Super Bowl aspirations in 2018 and playoff hopes in 2019, that likely isn't close to acceptable in Khan's eyes. But some context is needed when it comes to just why Jacksonville struggled so much.
The roster has regressed significantly since Marrone led Jacksonville to a 10-6 record and the AFC Championship in 2017. Pro Bowl players like Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson, Allen Robinson, and Telvin Smith have all left the team, leaving noticeable voids in their absence. Marrone's last two squads have also been decimated by injuries. In 2018, Jacksonville had to play with a makeshift offensive line for most of the season. This year, the injury bug hit the linebacker group as four Jaguars linebackers ended the season on injured reserve.
Far too many times over the last two seasons, Jacksonville simply fielded a team that was not talented enough to compete. Too many journeymen and depth players were depended on as starters, and it showed in the results. One wonders if any coach could succeed in the situation Marrone was put in and if he deserves to be fired as a result of it.
2) May deserve a chance to show what he can do without Tom Coughlin's overbearing presence
One of the largest roadblocks for Marrone over the last two seasons was undoubtedly former Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin. A legendary figure in Jacksonville, Coughlin was known for ruling with an iron first and strict micromanaging during his first stint as head coach in Jacksonville in the 1990s. This didn't change in his second run with the Jaguars
Far too often, Coughlin created divides in the Jaguars' locker room due to his overzealous tendencies to discipline players with heavy fines for minor infractions. Coughlin's managerial style rubbed many players the wrong way, leading to the jettisoning of Ramsey, Marrone's best player.
Coughlin also often left Marrone to face the media when the team was dealing with front office drama, such as the Ramsey situation. None of this could have made Marrone's job easy over the last two years. There is an argument to be made that Marrone could operate much differently without Coughlin looming over his shoulder and trying to manage every single aspect of the team.
3) Could potentially work well as a tandem with Dave Caldwell
Jaguars' general manager Dave Caldwell has yet to be officially retained by Khan for the 2020 season, but it sure seems like things are trending that way. Considering reports are about Marrone having to meet with Khan instead of Marrone and Caldwell each having to answer to him, the smart money as of today would suggest Caldwell will be leading Jacksonville's front office in 2020, just as he did from 2013-2016.
Theoretically, Marrone and Caldwell should be a good match for one another. Caldwell spoke openly about the respect he had for Marrone when Marrone was the team's offensive line coach from 2015-2016, and Marrone has said he prefers to have someone else handle personnel duties. Marrone isn't a coach who would want much roster say, and Caldwell has the experience to let him simply do his job. Like the earlier point about Coughlin, it could be argued that perhaps Marrone and Caldwell deserve a year as a duo without the former EVP overseeing things.
4) He has self-scouted and evolved during his time in Jacksonville
Marrone has spoken at length this season about just how much he has had to change how he coaches since becoming the Jaguars' head coach in 2017. His reputation as the Buffalo Bills' head coach from 2013-2014 was that of a gruff leader who failed to connect with those he was supposed to be leading. That changed in Jacksonville, likely in large part because of the damage control Marrone was forced to do because of Coughlin's actions.
Marrone figured out he needed to be a better communicator, build trust and develop better relationships with his roster if he wants to be successful. Of course, this doesn't guarantee wins or losses. But it does show that Marrone is willing to adapt, something that may be necessary if he hopes to remain in Jacksonville.
5) Jacksonville's locker room supports him
As the last point states, Marrone has grown in the way he interacts with his roster and how he leads them. The willingness to change and become someone the players can truly communicate with and trust have earned Marrone the support of the locker room, even in the wake of Coughlin's disastrous tenure.
Being able to garner support from his players even during two of the most dissapointing seasons in franchise history is worth some acknowledgment. If you polled the Jaguars' locker room on why they think they lost so many games this season, it is unlikely to hear many answers that point back at Marrone. The roster plays hard for him, and it is unlikely that changes in 2020, no matter the results. That counts for something.
Five reasons to fire Marrone
1) Jacksonville has regressed in nearly every area since 2017
After Jacksonville dominated opponents and the stat sheets in 2017, the last two seasons have made that magical run look more and more like an albatross. Jacksonville's on-field product has taken a step back in literally every possible facet over the last two seasons and ultimately part of that blame has to fall on the head coach.
Sure, Jacksonville's roster has regressed, but Marrone has still personally overseen what has amounted to two below-average football teams. After ranking third in point differential in 2017, Jacksonville dropped to 24th in 2018 and then 26th this season. The turnover differential ranking also regressed from fifth in 2017 to 29th in 2017 and ultimately 18th in 2019.
Jacksonville has also suffered through a rash of penalties, accounting for the most penalties of all teams from 2018-2019. Falling so far behind the playoff standards in 2017 in so many key areas is a big reason why Jacksonville has lost 21 games over the last two seasons, and Marrone deserves a fair share of the blame for that since he has been the man preparing the team each and every day.
2) A new voice may be necessary
Sometimes, change is simply what is best for all sides. A new voice delivering a new message can do wonders for a team and its chances to turn around its fortunes. Marrone taking over for Gus Bradley in 2017 and flipping the team's record from 3-13 to 10-6, while also flipping the philosophy of the franchise from a soft approach to a tougher, more physical one, is a prime example of this.
Sometimes, teams just need to hear something different or have their processes shaken up. After Marrone did everything he could to avoid a repeat of the disaster 5-11 season in 2018, he still failed to lead the Jaguars to even a .500 record. While the locker room supports Marrone, it is possible those same players need to hear a different message moving forward.
3) Marrone's NFL track record as a head coach is nothing special
In five seasons as an NFL head coach (plus two games as Jacksonville's interim head coach in 2016), Marrone's win-loss record is nothing special. It certainly doesn't jump out and say he is someone who deserves yet another shot at leading the Jaguars. Instead, it could be argued that his track record is exactly why the Jaguars shouldn't expect things to change drastically if Marrone is coaching the team in 2020.
Here is how Marrone's five seasons as head coach have ended: 6-10, 9-7, 10-6, 5-11, and 6-10. That is two seasons out of five with a record better than .500, and a 37-45 record overall. He has a .451 winning percentage overall and a .440 winning percentage in Jacksonville (22-28 record).
Other coaches have been fired for less despite having better track records. In a results-driven league, Marrone's have been closer to below-average than anything else.
4) He stuck with defensive coordinator Todd Wash for far too long
Nobody was going to call for defensive coordinator Todd Wash's job after Jacksonville had an elite defense in 2017. But the defense that was supposed to yet again carry Jacksonville in 2018 took a noticeable step backward in terms of getting to the quarterback, generating turnovers, and preventing big plays.
The signs were there that Jacksonville would take yet another step backward defensively in 2019, especially considering the talent dwindled at linebacker, defensive line, and safety. This ultimately came to fruition as Jacksonville's defense was toyed with by opposing offenses week in and week out, allowing chunks of explosive plays vs. both the run and the pass.
Marrone could have made a change at defensive coordinator after 2018. Anyone could have guessed the defense would struggle in 2019 if he didn't. Ultimately, though, Marrone stuck by Wash. He did so not just after 2018, but even all throughout 2019 despite a string of failures week in and week out.
5) The head coach market is appealing
It remains to be seen what the Jaguars' ownership thinks about this year's crop of coaching candidates, but it is hard to not be impressed with some of the names out there. Even some of the less experienced candidates offer enough potential and excitement to justify replacing Marrone with them.
This year, coaches like Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski are all on the market. They each offer appealing traits and could be seen as potentially vast upgrades to Marrone's middling track record.
Of course, none of these four have ever been a head coach and hiring a first-time head coach has blown up in Jacksonville's face before, with Gus Bradley a prime example. But the coaches are enticing enough to make it at least justifiable if the Jacksonville opted to dismiss Marone in favor of some fresh blood.