Coloring with Teal: As Jacksonville Jaguars GM, I’d make you laugh, then weep
Throughout the season, we fans all tend to gather around the water cooler (or Twitter feed) on Monday morning and discuss what the Jacksonville Jaguars did right and wrong during the game on Sunday. This is what is known as being a “Monday Morning Quarterback” (although, to be honest, if we are critiquing the team’s performance, wouldn’t that make us “Monday Morning Coaches” or “Monday Morning Sports Writers”? But, I digress…).
Now that the season has ended and the Jaguars turn their attentions to offseason matters, the next natural step is to play January General Manager. But don’t worry; you’ve already been barraged by loads of articles and blogs that graded the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2015 season (including my own), so I won’t be doing that here.
Instead, I’ll give you some insight into what this team would be like if I had been the Jacksonville Jaguars GM at various points in the last few seasons.
First, let me tell you that I was totally on board the “In Gene We Trust” parade as former General Manager Gene Smith painted our teal glasses pink from 2008-2012. As a semi-occasional contributor to the Jaguars’ website “Ask Vic” and then “O-Zone“, I asked my fair share of questions and I may have even typed the words “In Gene We Trust” at one point.
And these are the points made by people who spend nearly every day for months analyzing the player prospects and teams’ needs.
Then, we drafted Blaine Gabbert in 2011. And then, when David Garrard was cut and Luke McCown tried to be the team’s quarterback, Gabbert was put in and showed us what bad quarterbacking really looks like (Side note: congratulations on his development in San Francisco. We wish him the best).
Gene tried to give him some weapons and drafted Justin Blackmon; perhaps this looked good at the time in the Jaguars’ Draft War Room, but we know better now. He followed with the infamous third-round drafting of punter Bryan Anger (a move which still makes people angry at Anger, oddly).
My point is that outside of the Gabbert pick, my attitude was generally “Okay, that’s cool!” in regards to GM Gene Smith’s offseason workings.
After he was fired, and Dave Caldwell was hired, I decided to be a bit more skeptical of this new boy-faced general manager and his restocking of the Jaguars’ roster.
I’m not going to go through all the picks over the last three offseasons, nor the many roster moves made through the free agency process. Instead, I wanted to share with you my original choice for the Jags’ 3rd overall pick in the 2014 draft: Johnny Manziel.
Man, I really wanted the Jaguars to choose him. After watching Manziel bounce off the back of his lineman and keep the play alive before completing a really good pass in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, I kept my little radar up for info about him.
I listened to his interviews on various radio stations, and read Peter King’s article about Manziel’s interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the 2014 Scouting Combine. I really like this guy, and he sounded like he was doing things the right way.
Then I started to hear whispers that the Jaguars secretly liked some guy whose alliterative name harkened back to Stan Lee’s Marvel superheroes. Out of a college called “UCF”. Come on, guys, I thought, don’t pick another dud from another small college. We need to get a good player, one who can play electric football and really get our team going!
Heck, even the guys over at NFL.com said something along these lines. NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock placed Johnny Football as the 10th-best player going in to the 2014 draft, and the top QB prospect. On May 1st, 2014, NFL Media Analyst Bucky Brooks wrote
"3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&MGus Bradley would welcome the energy and spectacular playmaking ability that Manziel would bring to Jacksonville."
Bucky sent Blake Bortles to Oakland in that particular mock, saying that Bortles needed a year to develop before getting a starting gig (Side Note #2: it did not escape me that Bucky Brooks is also Stan Lee-ish, and Brooks played for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1996-97 season as a kick returner).
And these are the points made by people who spend nearly every day for months analyzing the player prospects and teams’ needs. Months!
This is where the laugh comes in. You see, when this was all developing, and Jaguars fans were salivating over the prospects of getting Bridgewater or Manziel (or the occasional bizarre “Tebow is still available”), I submitted a question to the O-Zone regarding whom (that’s correct, friends) the Jaguars should pick for their quarterback. I even inspired Jaguars.com’s Senior Writer John Oehser’ title for that day’s O-Zone, “Now Hiring”! Here’s the question, with John’s response:
"JT from Columbus, MS:I’d like to weigh in on Blake Bortles’ potential as an NFL quarterback: I just don’t think “Blake Bortles” has that *big-time name* sound to it. It just doesn’t strike me as one that would be heard a lot on ESPN. Thus, without even looking at tape, I have successfully figured out that we shouldn’t draft him. (Note: I had the same feeling about BG when he was drafted)John: Shad Khan … Hire This Man!!"
Of course, you can see that this was rather tongue-in-cheek, but the point is that I did very little research into the draft-day prospects. In fact, I improved on my studies that season by not paying attention to the 2015 NFL draft at all until the actual day (full disclosure: I am a graduate physics student and a lot of my time is consumed studying the physical laws of the universe).
If I had been your Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager, I would have probably chosen Manziel. Now, after two seasons, Bortles has become a stud and Manziel seems to be on his way out of the league. “Blaine Gabbert Part II: Busting Faster Than Before”.
This year, I will catch names as they spill out of the various media outlets such as NFL.com, SI.com and whatever they talk about on my sports radio station. I will have some idea of who will be available and I’ll read many Mock Draft articles. I think I’ll try to catch part of the Scouting Combine, too.
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But I probably won’t make many suggestions, simply because I won’t do enough research into the individual players to really *know*.
Dave Caldwell has had three drafts, and both the 2014 and 2015 drafts have been strong classes in each of their first couple of years (well, the 2015 class was ranked 7th as measured by “immediate return of the picks” over at NFL.com). With the upcoming draft likely to focus on defensive players, and the return of 2015 1st-round pick Dante Fowler, Caldwell seems to have a pretty good handle on the General Manager gig.
I think I’ll let him make those decisions going forward. Then, we can meet at the water cooler after the 2016 NFL Draft, and decide what he got right and where he went wrong.