Nov. 29, 2020, will be a day that goes down in Jacksonville Jaguars history as one of the most unique and even strange days in the franchise's 25-plus years.
Mike Glennon threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert (yes, in 2020) while making a start for the Jaguars, and the 1-9 Jaguars were a few two-point conversion failures away from either going to overtime or beating the 7-3 Cleveland Browns. The 27-25 loss dropped the Jaguars to 1-10, the worst single-season losing streak in team history.
And then, it happened. Not even two hours after the final whistle, the Jaguars and owner Shad Khan announced general manager Dave Caldwell had been fired after nearly eight seasons atop the team's front office.
It was a whirlwind afternoon for the organization. This specific move has been predicted by outsiders in 2016, 2018, 2019, and even before 2020. But it wasn't until Sunday that Khan fired Caldwell, effectively ending his near-decade long tenure in Jacksonville. Caldwell had survived a lot in his time with the Jaguars. An amazing and perhaps unprecedented amount of things, even. But he couldn't survive the 2020 season.
But the primary question that has since been raised by most isn't why Khan fired Caldwell, but why he fired him now. Why do it after a two-point loss to a good team in Week 12?
When examining the move and the dynamics of the front office and its place in Jacksonville's organization, the timing makes more and more sense. We attempt to breakdown why we think the timing of Caldwell's firing, and why firing a general manager this time of the year in general, makes sense.
In most cases, the general manager is hired before the coach. This gives the Jaguars a head start on both searches in a way
If the Jaguars were always going to find a new direction for 2021, then it makes perfect sense to give Caldwell his walking papers at this point -- even if it means Doug Marrone and his staff stay in place through the end of the season. The reason why is because most NFL power structures have a general manager coming into the fold before the head coach. It is what happened in 2013 when Caldwell was hired before Gus Bradley, for example. By firing Caldwell now, the Jaguars get ahead of the curve in their quest for answers at general manager and head coach.
If the Jaguars had waited until Black Monday to fire Caldwell, the timeline of the decision on head coach would likely be much different than what will unfold over the following weeks and months. By firing Caldwell now, the Jaguars can start their search for their new general manager today. This means one could, theoretically, be hired sooner than if they fired Caldwell after Week 17. This gives that new general manager much more time in advance to decide on Doug Marrone's fate or find their next head coach, with the latter being more likely. Even with Marrone keeping his job, firing Caldwell now gives the Jaguars a head start on the general manager and head coach search.
This move is a sign to others in the league that the Jaguars are serious about change
If the top head coach and front office candidates in the football world were skeptical about the Jaguars making any real changes that would indicate jobs would be opening, their questions have now been answered. It is fair for any on the outside to question whether the Jaguars are serious about change and are willing to make full-measure improvements -- they have struggled to do any of this under Khan other than when he cleaned house after the 2012 season.
But the firing of Caldwell suggests a shift, at least in this specific instance. Now, no candidates will have to spend the next five to six weeks wondering if the Jaguars are even a job that is going to be open. They now know it is one of four general manager vacancies and can begin to focus in on it. If the Jaguars had waited to fire Caldwell, perhaps they could have lost the interest of some key candidates.
A general manager's biggest tasks are done by this time in the season
A general manager is clearly still working during November. They are doing the day-to-day work of the front office, helping to lead the pro and college side as they scout throughout the league and the nation. They are instrumental in bringing players in and the typical shuffle of a roster. In a year like 2020 in which we see rosters change more than ever on a weekly basis, general managers stay busy.
But the biggest and most important tasks? Those aren't taking place in November. Free agency is approaching, sure, but we have seen regimes take over at much later stages and still put together good free agency plans and classes. In terms of day-to-day duties, a team can get by without a general manager in November. Scouts and Trent Baalke will continue to work through the course of December, but this is a point in the season that is after the trade deadline and before contracts get handed out. In essence, it is the perfect time to make a move.
Shad Khan's past building of the organization suggests why a general manager is so key to him
I have only covered the Jaguars for two years now but I have done extensive studying of Shad Khan's past decisions and his philosophies of building the Jaguars. In that studying, one thing has become incredibly apparent to me: how much Khan values a front office figure. Khan hired Caldwell before hiring Gus Bradley as head coach in 2013. Then Khan made Tom Coughlin the czar of all things Jaguars football by putting him in an executive role in 2017.
Khan likes to have a figure in the front office to make the major football decisions. Finding the next head coach, or even deciding on Marrone's future, count as major football decisions. Khan has always valued having a strong voice in the front office, so it makes sense now why he wants to get a start on finding his next voice.
Other teams are doing the same. It pays to not get left behind
The Jaguars are technically the fourth team this season to fire their general manager, joining the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions. In a year that is already shaping up to have more front office vacancies than usual, it is important to not get left behind and have to start a search significantly later than every other team in the league that is looking for a similar candidate.
The Jaguars fired Caldwell just one day after the Lions fired Bob Quinn, so firing Caldwell now ensures the Jaguars are at least not sitting on their hands when it comes to taking action. Whether that means they get a good general manager in the building is to be determined, but it can't hurt.