The Jacksonville Jaguars need to win and win now if they want to keep from blowing everything up and going back into complete rebuild mode.
From the outside looking in, the Jacksonville Jaguars seem to be in an odd situation. After going 3-13, the team not only retained its general manager, its interim head coach, its offensive and defensive coordinators, but it also brought in a new executive vice president for football operations, Tom Coughlin, who agreed to keep them in place.
For a team that hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2010, that move certainly didn’t fit the record. It also didn’t fit the national narrative. The Jags, after all, are the resident cellar dwellers of the AFC South.
After a few months of head scratching, the only conclusion that the national media and those following the Jags more closely have come to is that the Jags believe they are much closer than the record indicates. Owner Shad Khan believes it and he will demand it from Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell, and head coach Doug Marrone. All three have contracts extending into 2019.
But, as ESPN’s Michael DiRocco writes, the contracts are really until 2018. There is no way that Khan keeps all three as lame ducks heading into 2019 if they aren’t winning. Writes DiRocco:
"In reality, though, they’re on a two-year deal. If the Jaguars can post winning records and be in contention for the AFC South title in 2017 and 2018 then Khan would likely extend the trio after 2018 because you wouldn’t want to be going into the 2019 season as lame ducks. That would make it hard to attract free agents in 2019.If the Jaguars fail to crack .500 and aren’t a factor in the division race then Khan could cut all three loose and owe them each only one season of pay."
That, ultimately, is the crux for the Jaguars in the next couple seasons. Khan wants a winner and will not settle for simple improvement like he did before. He was a younger, newer franchise owner four seasons ago and he now has the experience to demand better from his team.
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As the 2017 NFL Draft approaches and with free agency mostly in the rear view mirror, it’s clear the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to win now. The team is spending big money on players that can be cut without big penalties after a year or two. In that regard, the deals are team friendly. They also fit the team’s goals. If everything must be blown up in two seasons, it will be easier to move on from the big contracts that often bog down rebuilding teams.
With at least one early projection giving the Jags a tie atop the AFC South in 2017, the Jags may be in good shape already. A dominant defense with a merely competent offense could be enough to move the Jaguars from the cellar into contention. It will take a lot of hard work, but the Jags now know the goal and are willing to put in the hours. “We have quite a bit of separation right now where we are and we’ve got to close that gap and it starts on Monday,” says Marrone.
That gap better be closed by 2018 or he could be out of a job.