Is this the year Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone proves he is one of the best coaches in the NFL?
A good job? No. It will have been a phenomenal coaching job. Here’s why.
There is a lot of enthusiasm in the Jaguars organization and from their fans. Part of that enthusiasm is because of their quarterback, Gardner Minshew II. “Minshew Mania” and “The ‘Stache” were heard all around the league last year, and with the trade of Nick Foles to Chicago, Minshew has now been given the starting position.
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But even the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history struggled early in their career. To expect that Minshew can waltz out onto the field and have his way in the NFL, in only his second year in the league, is unrealistic. The Jaguars hope that the touchdown to interception ratio Gardner managed last year (21-6) will continue this year. But they shouldn’t expect it to.
There are other reasons the team and its fans are optimistic. A young wide receiver corps that seems to have gotten better with this year’s draft picks. An improvement at tight end with the signing of Tyler Eifert. The signing of veterans at defensive tackle to help with the run defense. Some young defensive players who look like they could be stars, and more that were drafted this year.
Along with those reasons, let’s look at what could keep them near, and possibly at, the bottom of the league in wins this year.
In the last 15 NFL seasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line has been in the top half of the league only once. In 2017 they ranked 15th. That’s just average, and it’s the best they’ve ranked over fifteen seasons. They were decimated by injuries in 2018, so they were, understandably, bad that year. But in 2019 they were mostly healthy and could only manage a ranking of 26th. This isn’t a good sign for the team.
The next problem for the team is their division opponents. The Jaguars have a losing record against all their division rivals. And all three of their division rivals were playoff contenders last year and they are all believed to be improved for this season. That doesn’t bode well for the team, and you could almost predict six losses next season from that alone. An 0-6 record in the division is possible.
Next, the Jaguars play five non-divisional opponents who had defenses that last season ranked in the top 10. That’s not good for an offensive line that hasn’t performed well. It’s not good for a second-year quarterback who is still learning the game. It’s not good for a young wide receiver group, either. It’s just not good. You could mark the Jacksonville Jaguars down for at least eleven losses before they play their first game. A season record of 2-14 or 3-13 is not out of the realm of possibilities.
There are only two teams on the Jaguars’ schedule that they were better than on both offense and defense last, and who you might expect the Jaguars to beat – Cincinnati and Miami. And those teams, like the Jaguars, believe they have improved this offseason.
So, if COVID-19 doesn’t have a dramatic effect on the Jaguars or any of their opponents, and the Jaguars finish next season 8-8 or better, it will be the best coaching job that Doug Marrone has ever done while here in Duval County.