When Tom Coughlin rejoined the Jacksonville Jaguars as executive vice president of football operations, I instantly wondered how my old coach would impact the team from his office instead of the sidelines. The two-time Super Bowl winner spent 20 seasons in the NFL as a head coach delivering his message from a lectern at the front of the room each day. But his new role would require him to oversee the operation from afar, while GM David Caldwell and cheap jerseys and coach Doug Marrone carry out his vision for the team.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little skeptical about Coughlin serving as the top executive without acting as the chess master on the field. I played for the Jaguars in 1996 and ’97 when he wore all of the big hats in the building and controlled everything, from the office to the field. Coughlin consistently outlined his expectations for the organization and did everything in his power to make sure that the team played up to the standard. From imposing “Coughlin Time” (meetings begin five minutes prior to scheduled time) to the infamous “Concentration Line” at the edge of the practice field (once you crossed it, it was all business), he set the stage for our success by encouraging the team to pay close attention to the details.
After two years as head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2013 to 2014, Marrone infamously opted out of contract after the team came under new ownership. He went 15-17 in two seasons as Bills coach, but led the Bills to a 9-7 season in 2014, which was the first winning season for the franchise since 2004.
Thought to be a hot head-coaching candidate at the time, Marrone was passed over for several open positions, most notably the New York Jets, who hired Todd Bowles. Marrone has spent the past two years mostly in anonymity in Jacksonville — aside from a memorable defense of the New York rap scene.
Khan mentioned that general manager Dave Caldwell “agreed and will now be charged with exploring all options to hire the best head coach possible” to lead the Jaguars. Khan also mentioned the team’s “extremely talented” roster, another sign of support for Caldwell. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Caldwell will name an interim head coach on Monday, and added Bradley was on the team flight back to Jacksonville.
This could be seen as an act of mercy for Bradley. In a statement after last season, Khan said that Bradley knew the Jaguars had to be “well above” where they finished a season ago when the team finished 5-11. The Jaguars spent big money in free agency and instead took a step back. It was only a matter of time before Bradley was fired, and Sunday’s collapse provided a good moment for a clean break.
The Jack hype train has been quiet this offseason thanks mostly to his struggles to get on the field last year. The Jaguars included him in just 239 total snaps just months after he made up one of the more heralded 1-2 punches in the 2016 draft (Jacksonville hit on cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the first round).
On film, Jack showed what you’d expect from a rookie linebacker: Relentlessly eager to make plays, frequently around the ball but occasionally in over his head. Will a shift to a more traditional defense under new coordinator Todd Wash accentuate Jack’s play-making abilities or wash them away? Having him function as a part-time 4-3 under SAM linebacker or “OTTO” seemed to be too much at times, especially when offenses attacked the intermediate passing game.
See, I don’t even know yet if I’m picking Jacksonville to make the playoffs. But that’s the point. Even just a few weeks ago, who in their right mind envisioned South Carolina competing for a national title — in basketball? You can’t be Cinderella if everyone assumes you’ll be the belle of the ball. And let’s be honest: Jacksonville has some serious questions heading into the 2017 campaign. Allow me to address those right off the bat.
First of all, many folks expected a breakthrough performance by the Jaguars last season. And they disappointed in a major way, going 3-13 and finishing deep in the AFC South cellar. But let’s take a closer look at that 3-13 for a second. Jacksonville wasn’t getting blown off the field. The Jaguars lost eight games by seven points or fewer. And Jacksonville’s most impressive win — a 38-17 pasting of the Titans in Week 16 — came in Doug Marrone’s first game as the interim coach, replacing the fired Gus Bradley. In related news: Marrone earned the permanent gig and will be leading the Jags in 2017. This is no small thing. As I said a few weeks ago, Gus Bradley is a nice guy … but a terrible head coach. Marrone is a large upgrade. And now that he has Tom Coughlin running the front office? Yeah, I think Jacksonville’s pointed in the right direction.
Marqise Lee went down with an apparent leg injury during practice, per Mike Kaye of First Coast News. Lee was carted off with teammate Allen Hurns close by, according to Kaye.
Lee ended up suffering a high-ankle sprain at practice, a source informed told NFL Network Ian Rapoport. Rapoport added that the USC product will try to come back for the season opener, but caution from the team could push his return date back.