The Jacksonville Jaguars have made a lot of changes this offseason. However, most media and fans share one expectation of the Jaguars’ chances this season: a losing season. CWT will look at whether they are on target or off base with their prognostications.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had quite a ride over the past decade and a half.
The team has undergone changes in head coaches, the creation of a general manager position, the creation of a super general manager (pardon me… an “executive vice president of football operations”) changes in ownership, changes in uniform (personally, I do like the helmets), changes in the stadium itself. For a time, there was even the possibility of a change in home city.
Through it all, pretty much one thing has been constant, season in and season out: the Jaguars are destined for the AFC South basement.
Even the Jaguars fans do not have confidence in the latest edition of the team. Consider this fan who recently wrote in to “O-Zone”, the Jaguars’ team website daily mailbag feature:
"Larry from Jacksonville:Fowler is now a bust. Albert doesn’t want to play here. The line is trash and everyone wants to draft a terrible quarterback or bust running back. We will never see over four wins for another 20 years."
Now, this is one of the more extreme “the world is on fire” types of mailbag questions, but one can read most O-Zones and find these. Keep in mind, Jaguars.com Senior Writer John “OH-zhur” Oehser, cherry picks the questions that go into the daily column. There’s no telling how many Negative Nancies actually submit questions that John decides NOT to publish in the O-Zone.
Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with having a dour outlook on the Jags’ 2017 season. After all, how much has changed since last year?
Doug Marrone was on staff last year and now is the Head Coach. If the team sucked when he was the O-Line coach, how much better could they be with him running the whole show?
“Changing the boss fundamentally changes the company”
The 2013 draft was a full bust, in light of Luke Joeckel‘s exit this offseason. The 2015 Free Agent haul has been disbanded. Yet, General Manager Dave Caldwell has kept his job. Next week, he will be calling prospects to tell them they are the newest members of the Jacksonville Jaguars at the 2017 NFL Draft.
Both Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, Nathaniel Hackett and Todd Wash, were retained from the same positions held in 2016.
And then there’s Blake Bortles.
How much has changed, really?
If you don’t know the answer to that, you may not have been paying much attention to the latest news from the team. But, neglecting that, ask yourself to draw on your own life experiences in order to be convinced that things at Everbank Field are legitimately different.
I once worked for a local (to Jacksonville) restaurant chain, and had a strong, effective manager. He had good people skills, good sense of product and budget management, and was an all-around good manager for the company. When he moved on to another job, one of his assistants was promoted to the general manager position. Immediately, there was a different air in the store. Within only a few weeks, there were problems with keeping enough stock for busy shifts, discontent among the wait staff, and surge in back-of-house staff turnover. Within eight months, that manager was fired.
Fast forward a few years to a national restaurant chain also located in Jacksonville. We had a friendly, easy-going general manager who was rather likeable and laid-back. Though there were whispers that the corporate office was not satisfied with the way things were run, we staff didn’t really see any major problems. However, the corporate headquarters was unhappy enough that they eventually dismissed this manager, and promoted the assistant manager in his place. Changes came quickly, with tightening of expectations and everyone checking to make sure they had taken care of their newly-realigned responsibilities. This led to an immediate increase in the staff’s productivity, followed shortly thereafter by a boost in overall business, sales, and tips. Even though he’d worked under the previous manager, their management styles were dynamically different.
My point is this: you can’t overestimate how much changing the boss fundamentally changes the company.
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Dave Caldwell’s drafts have been average, and now he has Tom Coughlin to bounce ideas off of as they prepare for the 2017 Draft. His free agency success have been average as well. Though the Jaguars received strong grades for yet another year in a row, there was a notable difference in how Jacksonville approached 2017 Free Agency. How will that affect the team’s overall prospects? We’ll see. (Stay tuned for CWT’s second annual Mock Draft Mockery later this week)
Doug Marrone is a striking departure in personality, tone, and focus than Gus Bradley. People continue to draw equivalencies between 2017 and 2016 despite the fact that the head coach is very different. Yes, he was the O-Line coach, but he did not have any ‘say’ in the personnel that were brought in to work the line; he was at most an advisor. His familiarity with the team may be the biggest asset that a new head coach could have. But I argue that it is foolhardy to draw the conclusion that “since he was with a losing team last year, he will be a losing coach this year”.
John Oehser has stated in many of his columns for years that he doesn’t believe the Jaguars can make the turnaround that many Jaguars fans hope for. He thinks at best we will be an 8-8 team.
I say that Marrone has one of the most unique opportunities for a new head coach to be successful right away. He has success in previous head coaching stints, he has a very talented team on paper, and he know the staff and roster. He is not coming in and starting new relationships from the ground up.
Similarly, most everyone has already written off Blake Bortles. This in itself is peculiar, since this offseason is more similar to 2015 for him than it is to last offseason. He has spent more than two months in California working on his mechanics. The evidence already exists that this alone will lead to an improvement with him. Furthermore, he already knows that he will be walking in to a situation where the team will “rebuild his foundation”. To me, that is coachspeak for “teach you how to be a starting quarterback in the NFL”. He knows he has to come in and perform, and that his job is not secure. In a previous column, I already made the argument that he will perform better under Marrone. Imagine how much five months working with in Marrone’s system will impact him compared to just a week at the end of the season? His decision-making alone was already improved in Game 15 compared to previous weeks.
And because of these factors, I argue that the Jaguars are going to surprise many and finish with a better-than-even season. Heck, I would not be surprised to see a 10-6 record. I will concede that anything better is not realistic, but that has as much to do with external factors as anything the Jaguars can or will do for themselves. The AFC South has been a middling division for years; chances are that two or three teams will finally break the shackles this season. I expect Jacksonville to be one of them.
If asked, I don’t think this rambling has convinced you to believe in the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars. But I do think the expectations of the team should not be what many are making them. This year’s team is going to be different from last year’s. The head coach is different. The philosophy is different. The players are mostly the same, but they won’t be doing the same things fundamentally due to the first two differences.
So, Oehser hesitates to believe over at Jaguars.com.
Blogger/reporter Michael DiRocco over at ESPN doesn’t believe.
Our friendly competitors over at Big Cat Country believe we will be a 5-11 team.
The NFL Schedule makers don’t believe.
Even a large number of Jaguars fans are throwing in the towel on 2017.
But I believe. And apparently so does my fellow Black & Tealer, Max Baker.