The Jacksonville Jaguars have dug themselves into an incredibly deep hole that it seems they have no intention of getting out of. They seem content to stay at the bottom of the massive abyss they’ve created, with a gaping chasm between them and legitimacy.
It’s almost remarkable that a team can be this inconsequential for this long. They shuffle through franchise directions like one scrolls through their Instagram feed, rapidly changing course whenever they get bored. This level of dysfunction can only be rivaled by the Cleveland Browns, but at least the Browns swing for (and inevitably miss) the fences. Jacksonville strikes out looking every time. They’re hardly even playing the game.
The Jaguars are about as far from contention as a team can be. So how did they get here? Let’s start at the top. Owner Shad Khan bought the Jaguars in 2012. Since then, he’s had 3 head coaches: Mike Mularkey, Gus Bradley, and current coach Doug Marrone. 3 coaches in 8 seasons doesn’t seem too terrible, until you take a look at the Jaguars’ records in those 8 seasons.
Chalk up the rogue 10-6 finish in the 2017 season as an anomaly, and the highest win total Jacksonville has accrued in the past 8 seasons, is a measly 6. 4 of the 8 years resulted in ghastly records of 4-12 or worse. Bradley, was allowed to keep his job for 3 1/2 disappointing seasons; in which the team never earned more than 5 wins. in a single campaign. He was then replaced by Marrone. Khan still continues to employ Marrone today, despite the fact that he’s watched the roster that saw Jacksonville reach the AFC Championship Game, in 2017 wither away into nothingness.
So you may ask, how did these coaches keep their jobs despite the horrific showings on the scoreboard? The answer lies in Khan’s complacency for sub-mediocrity. Take the 2017 team as exhibit A. It was a roster that featured a wicked defense, headlined by Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye and Yannick Ngakoue among others. Said defense, carried that squad to, two playoff wins before they fell to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. It was a young group, well-constructed and primed for years of contention. Until, it wasn’t.
The team’s biggest mistake was giving QB Blake Bortles an absurd 3-year, $66.5 million extension. They paid Bortles as if he was the one that carried the team to the success they had, turning a blind eye to the fact that his play actually held them back. The 2018 season played out predictably for the Jaguars. Bortles proved himself unworthy of the contract he was given, RB Leonard Fournette took a step back from his promising rookie season, and the defense was unable to recapture the same magic it had the year prior. It all culminated in a 5-11 record and a 4th place finish in the AFC South.
The team needed a shot in the arm to regain what they had in 2017. Instead, management decided it was a prudent idea to give a career backup in Nick Foles $88 million over 4 years to take over under center. It was a move that reeked of desperation, and screamed mediocrity. Except, even mediocrity proved a bar too high as the season crashed and burned, and the team limped to a 6-10 finish that doesn’t do justice to how poorly they played.
Following the season, Foles’ salary was dumped off to the Chicago Bears in a move that admitted defeat. Over the course of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the roster was purged, and as of now 9 out of 11 of the defensive starters from the 2017 iteration are either gone or will be soon. This includes the likes of Ramsey, Campbell, Bouye and Ngakoue. Easily, the worst part of it all is that the man responsible for the disheartening product on the field; HC Marrone, still has his job.
He deserved to be fired after the 2018 season, and it’s downright ridiculous that he wasn’t canned after 2019 fiasco. Jacksonville has shown an incredible commitment to being terrible. The 2020 squad will more than likely be in the conversation with the worst teams in football, right where they belong.
The team has talented youngsters in Josh Allen (not the QB), D.J. Chark Jr and Gardner Minshew II, but it probably doesn’t even matter. Regardless, if those players continue to ascend, and the Jaguars hit on their new rookies, CJ Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson and Laviska Shenault Jr, it still doesn’t matter. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Jacksonville threw gobs of money at a middling QB in Blake Bortles, and decided that the only way to rectify their mistake was to toss even more cash the way of another average passer, Nick Foles. The Jaguars do whatever they feel like doing, on a whim, typically without involving logic. There was no logical reason to tear down a 2017 roster that was just a QB away from serious Super Bowl contention, yet that didn’t stop the front office from entering a needless rebuild. Keeping Marrone, displays a willingness to settle for 3-6 wins per year.
No matter how many talented players walk through that door, it simply will not make a difference. They exhibit “patience”, but it’s really just treading water. There’s absolutely no method to the madness for Owner Shad Khan, and the entire organization, because that’s just what it is; madness.