Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be tied together for the foreseeable future, marking an uninspiring change at head coach but one that could serve the team well.
Franchise health goes beyond simply winning games (something the Jacksonville Jaguars have not done much of in recent years). It includes having the right people in the right places at the right times.
Bringing in Doug Marrone during the 2015 season to wait in the wings for Gus Bradley’s inevitable failure at head coach was the right move. Marrone bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to return to head coaching duties after walking out on the Buffalo Bills following 2014. Marrone’s abilities as an offensive coordinator and past head coaching experience helped create a brain trust of offensive coaching that led to Blake Bortles breaking franchise records in 2015.
2016 didn’t work out as well for the Jaguars on offense but Marrone and his protege Nathaniel Hackett (elevated to replace offensive coordinator Greg Olson mid-season) were able to make the offense look moderately improved in the latter half of the season. When Marrone was elevated to head coach with two games left, the Jags played considerably more upbeat, immediately reflecting the reputation Marrone has brought with him since his days helping lay the foundation for a New Orleans Saints offense that would go on to win a Super Bowl.
With Bradley gone, it’s fair to want to blow everything up and clean house. It’s fair to want to remove everybody who contributed on the coaching staff and replace them with fresh faces and new blood. But to do that would be to overlook Marrone’s history and pedigree. This is a coach that is well regarded and sought after in the NFL.
Bringing Marrone back to be head coach doesn’t fit the narrative that everything was wrong in 2016. That narrative has swept over Jags fans throughout 2016 and especially in the latter half of the season. It’s tough to escape it.
That narrative ignores the expectations placed on the Jaguars this past season. The 8-8 goal and the possible playoff aspirations were swept aside in a disastrous 3-13 season that rightfully saw Bradley dismissed. Those aspirations are still with this team. The talent is still on this team.
The Jags may not be as far away as many fans feel they are. Inside the franchise offices, the feeling may still be that this team can win. As defensive tackle Roy Miller put it, it was the lax attitude that was bothersome on the team.
In that regard, elevating Marrone is a logical step. This team can win and needs a change at the top to do it. That change does not have to be drastic, though. Marrone is very different from Bradley, but, having been with the team two seasons, he can still continue the progress that was made in the past seasons. There may not have been enough progress in my mind and many other fans’ minds, but the roster today is far more competitive than it was in recent years.
Whether we like it or not, Doug Marrone is the new coach. He is the guy to carry the torch forward for a team that has high aspirations but stumbled out of the gate and fell flat on its face. It may only appear to be a subtle shift at this point but it could still end up being exactly the shift the team needed to make to get things right.