The Jacksonville Jaguars have been losing for a decade and it is time to hit the reset button for the 2017 season.
I hate constantly losing.
Wait, let me rephrase: I hate losing, period.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. The offseasons in recent Jacksonville Jaguars history have been a welcome reprieve from the poor on-field product, full of potential but never getting close to the expected results. If I can find any consolation, it’s that I feel that the front office is trying their hardest to improve the team. We aren’t in a Miami Marlins situation thankfully, but the Jaguars have missed on so many free agents and draft picks that they could result to the blindfold and dartboard and probably do better.
Since the new millennium, there has been little reason for celebration aside from a few good years in the David Garrard era. The fans have been walking on a boulevard of broken seasons for far too long. So what can be done about it? It’s time to party like it’s 1995.
With a brand new head coach in Doug Marrone, and a familiar legend back in the organization, it may be time to tear the team apart and start from scratch. Taking the approach of Sam Hinkie, former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, may yield copious amounts of short term anger, but it is an effective way squeeze diamonds out of lumps of coal.
Step One: Identify and retain key assets.
Every team has a core that helps shape their identity. These are the players that should be retained long-term. Unlike the 76ers, the Jaguars are not totally bereft of talent. Let’s look at a total of ten players as our assets. Of course, this is all subjective but these are the ten that appear to be the future of the Jags franchise.
- Allen Robinson – Wide Receiver
- Allen Hurns – Wide Receiver
- A.J. Cann – Guard
- Jalen Ramsey – Cornerback
- Myles Jack – Linebacker
- Malik Jackson – Defensive Tackle
- Dante Fowler Jr. – Defensive End
- Telvin Smith – Linebacker
- Brandon Linder – Center
- A.J. Bouye – Cornerback
The big missing piece on this list is quarterback Blake Bortles. Ideally, the Jaguars will not waste another first round pick on a quarterback this early. Going into the final year of his rookie contract, it would be great to see signs of progress, but at this point the Jaguars may rather cut the team’s losses and move on if he doesn’t improve exponentially.
It’s incredibly frustrating when Bortles plays a good game and then has one of his all too frequent late turnovers. More often than not, the offense in 2016 was anemic. The defense, often forced to play far too many snaps, suffers from this lack of consistency. While there have been moments of positivity in the last few years, the Jags have ultimately ended up in a situation more similar to the Los Angeles Rams with their growing pains behind quarterback Jared Goff. The burden just became too much for the defense to bear.
Step Two: Develop a run game
Not all of the blame should be put squarely on Bortles. From the beginning, he was (and still is) forced to try and do too much. The Jaguars have not been able to run the ball effectively in his first three years. Expect this to be the main focus in this year’s NFL draft, given the arrival of former coach and current executive vice president of football operations, Tom Coughlin.
It seems like every analyst on TV is convinced that the NFL is a passing game and that pure running backs are a dying breed. They may have been drinking New England’s spiked Kool-Aide for too long. They run an offense that is different from any other. Screen passes and stretching the field laterally open up their run game. Jacksonville cannot and should not try and emulate them. The same things that brought success in 1996 and 1999 should be emphasized.
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While it would be lovely to revisit the glory days, it’s important to remember that the game has changed in some respects. A powerful run game can still work, but an offense needs to be able to attack from every angle. The Jaguars have the receivers and a decent offensive line, but Blake Bortles is a liability. On top of that, the Jags do not currently have a standout running back.
Going with LSU halfback Leonard Fournette at fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft means sticking with Bortles for now. If there’s a time to draft a quarterback for the future, now may be the time. Regardless of which direction the team chooses, the war room will be tense all the way until the selection is announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Cultures of losing are broken with radical changes. It’s time for one.