The Jaguars have a problem, and it starts at the top.
The Jacksonville Jaguars lost their London-hosted matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, a loss that was closer than the last three have been, but still was a little messy and seemed just out of reach.
The Jags’ defense seemed to play better football, despite getting burned more than a couple of times and the now-infamous Liquor Club Incident in which who-knows-how-many players were smashing multiple bottles of substances and thought they were getting comped and then realized that football is just a novelty in Europe, not a way of life like it is here.
Much-maligned (deservedly so) quarterback Blake Bortles did not do much to help, fumbling the first offensive snap, but he looked a little better than in previous weeks, not making horrible mistakes and getting the ball out a little quicker.
But those aren’t the issues here.
Allen Robinson, Aaron Colvin, Chris Ivory, Marcedes Lewis, and Kirk Cousins. These are all names that the Jaguars missed on or passed on in free agency. Oh, I forgot about Brandin Cooks.
Teddy Bridgewater, DeSean Jackson, Le’Veon Bell. These are all names that the Jaguars could have traded for. The trade deadline is coming soon and unless something crazy happens, there won’t be much movement.
Here’s the big one: DeShaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson. Those are three quarterbacks the Jaguars could have drafted in the last two years. Even as backup, or whatever. Instead they drafted Leonard Fournette, who hasn’t played meaningful football since the Jags played the Patriots, and Taven Bryan, who was intended to be a replacement for Calais Campbell but looks nothing like one right now.
Andrew Norwell, Donte Moncrief, DJ Hayden, Austin Sefarian Jenkins, and Niles Paul. The Jags’ main free agent acquisitions from the 2018 offseason didn’t seem to show much promise. Everyone talked themselves into believing the Jaguars knew what they were doing.
The Jaguars gave an extension to Marqise Lee, who wasn’t even the third-best receiver on the roster, and who rarely plays a full season. They paid gobs of money to an offensive lineman that hasn’t had much impact. They let go of a corner that knew the system and brought in an older one that is injured. They let go of a tight end that was arguably more productive than the tight end they signed. They built themselves to run and then only carried three RBs on the active roster, two of whom are now injured, one is gone for the season.
Since taking over in 2013, General Manager Dave Caldwell has drafted in the first round Luke Joeckel (number two overall), Blake Bortles (number three), Dante Fowler (number three), Jalen Ramsey (number five), Leonard Fournette (number four), and Taven Bryan (number twenty-nine). Of course, Ramsey is far and away the best player on that list. But when you seemingly whiff on three of your first four picks, and the jury is still out on the last two (due to injury and inexperience), it’s indicative of a problem.
When you spend your free agency money fortifying the offense with head-scratchers like Donte Moncrief and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, it’s indicative of a problem.
When you insist that your quarterback is not a liability when, in fact, he appears to be to everyone else, and then you don’t make the moves to get a replacement, it’s indicative of a problem.
Kirk Cousins is at least okay. No, he’s not GREAT, and he’s not put together enough season in Minnesota to make a judgment as to whether the Vikings whiffed on that one or not. But, he is an upgrade over Bortles. When a report comes out that you were prepared to offer him 25 million but not go to thirty – what’s the difference, really? Five million dollars is chump change in the NFL. You couldn’t find some spare hundos in the couch up at The Bank to massively upgrade the QB position?
There are two examples of spending up to the cap and getting results right now. One is getting amazing results, the other is disappointing.
We’ve outlined the issues with the Jaguars, and they are up against the cap, and will have to jettison some guys next offseason. They think their window is open, and unless they go 7-1 to close out the season, it’s all but shut. However, the fact of the matter is free agency is how they chose to spend, and put it all on defense and hope for the best. Last year, we got it. This year, not so much.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Rams are playing near-championship-level football. They signed many, many free agents but the difference here is they are 8-0 now. Jaguars fans would cry at the sight of an 8-0 start to the season. The Rams have continuity, a coach that knows what he’s doing, and a GM that spends and drafts smart.
Yeah, sure, you have a comparison of apples and oranges, a little. Sean McVay, the Rams’ head coach, is an offensive guru with a memory that puts computers to shame and he and his staff have the appeal of putting their mark on their team in a new, hot area. Plus, he has defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who hasn’t been a great head coach but has excelled at every DC stop he has been at. The Jaguars have Doug Marrone, trying to overcome his last NFL head coaching job and the impression he made on everyone by leaving, with a young offensive coordinator without much experience in the area, and a defensive coordinator that people are still trying to figure out.
That said, though, both teams did enough to make the playoffs last year. What’s the difference this year? In my opinion, the Rams were willing to change and adapt. The Jaguars stayed with what they thought worked last year, except it’s not this year. While that can partially be blamed on the coach, it can be laid mostly at the feet of the individual who brings the players onto the team – the General Manager.
Let us also not forget that Dave Caldwell blessed us with several years of Gus Bradley.
A change needs to be made, and it needs to be made before the offseason is fully underway. Whatever happens the rest of the season, happens, but I don’t think Doug Marrone is totally at fault – I think that the personnel side plays a major factor in all this, and that smarter decisions could have been made.
Who can fill the void? In my opinion, there is one name that sticks out: Jerry Reese. Reese oversaw the rosters that won two Super Bowls, both over the dynastic New England Patriots. Reese worked extensively with Tom Coughlin and undoubtedly has some sort of connection with Doug Marrone. As the lone holdout of the previous Jaguars era of football operations, Dave Caldwell has worn out his welcome. It’s time for Tom to put his guy in at GM, just like he did at HC, before the Jaguars spin too much out of control.