Doug Marrone: Guiding the Jaguars through unchartered waters

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - AUGUST 15: Head coach Doug Marrone of the Jacksonville Jaguars enters the field before the start of a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at TIAA Bank Field on August 15, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - AUGUST 15: Head coach Doug Marrone of the Jacksonville Jaguars enters the field before the start of a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at TIAA Bank Field on August 15, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Has the offseason helped Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone gain better footing for the 2020 season here in Jacksonville?

When you think of Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone, winning might not be the first thing that crosses your mind.

Controversy. Turmoil. A short leash. Losing. Those words have all been associated with the Jaguars frontman the past two seasons, winning just 11 football games, having to face the media each week, loss after loss.

It has been commonplace for Marrone to stand at a podium and tell the local media everything starts with him and how he needs to do a better job coaching this team.

Now, it appears the mantra the 55-year-old New York native is flipping the script a bit as he is trying to navigate his team and players through tough times in football and in society. Could the two find harmony?

This not only allows Doug Marrone to lead the Jaguars out of the AFC South basement, but it galvanizes the locker room in such a way that Duval County sets the tone for social change and football improvement?

Doug Marrone walked out of TIAA Bank Field following the 2019 season with a fractured locker room and questions of whether he should return to the sidelines.

He was granted another year by team owner Shad Khan to help fix what was broken, to repair the damage that was still evident after the former executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, was fired.

It wasn’t just Coughlin who was part of the issues inside the building, as players were unhappy, the front office had been lagging and Marrone was the one who had to answer for everything that had come crashing down.

It times, Marrone looked defeated as the face of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It was almost symbolic.

The Jaguars became the first NFL team to lead a peaceful protest march to condemn racism this past week and in doing so, made the biggest statement it could as a united organization in the middle of not only racial tension but for the need to communicate and educate the masses. While its purpose was successful and powerful, it may have also given Marrone and his team something they have lacked the past two seasons in the NFL – a united front that could carry over into 2020.

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"“But Marrone’s job is no longer solely about winning and losing,” John Reid of the Florida Times-Union wrote.“In addition to getting his team ready for the upcoming season, he’s also advocating social change and plans to continue having discussions with his players on the topic.”"

Word across the NFL landscape has been to forget about this team, look past it, plan for 2021 with a new head coach, and a quarterback under center. The Jaguars have been the proverbial punching back of the offseason. With the fans hoping Marrone, quarterback Gardner Minshew and wide receiver DJ Chark and defensive end Josh Allen can move on from a 6-10 record last season, the roster on paper doesn’t offer hope.

Younger isn’t always better in this league. It was a blueprint general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley tried from 2013 to the end of the 2016 season with little success. Now, with one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, Caldwell, and Marrone appears to be on the same path. The difference is in the man who is coaching the team, who has had more say in personnel moves this offseason.

Having Jay Gruden on board as offensive coordinator helps. Knowing defensive coordinator Todd Wash is changing his philosophy will also be a benefit.

This is a team that must mobilize itself on the practice field and the regular season to overcome the banter of a losing organization. The events of the past few weeks may help elevate Jacksonville to a middle-of-pack franchise.

For most of us, that would be victorious.

One of the things Doug Marrone must continue to do, as he has stated many times before, is to remain in constant communication with his players. So much turnover has happened in the first six months of 2020, the roster looks different and has a different feel to it. Those are good things. While losing a player like Calais Campbell in the locker room and on the field hurts, someone like Chris Conley could fill that void.

It’s a process for these Jaguars. It won’t take one day or just one week. It will take a season of forward-mobility. If Marrone can continue to keep his troops focused on the job on the football field and the importance of understanding the issues away from the stadium, the Jacksonville Jaguars may win because of unification. That might be the most important victory of all.

Wins and losses will determine Marrone’s fate, but so far he has done a solid job of taking steps to make this a better football roster and organization. Those are far better than what the team experienced last season.

Hopefully, that continues as the team plays a tough 2020 schedule. Hopefully the progress the team has made so far this offseason will help the team move around bumpy roads and mountains this season. It could be the difference in a “winning” losing season and a lackluster effort from another losing football team.

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