By: Hays Carlyon
We’re onto 2019.
No one wearing a Jaguars logo will say it, but the actions of coach Doug Marrone indicate the team is ready to write-off this season as injury-riddled and start again next year.
Yes, I think Marrone returns as coach.
Yes, I think executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin retains control over the roster.
Because if jobs truly are at stake, how do you give running back Leonard Fournette one carry in the second half of a close game while David Williams gets four?
Who is David Williams? Great question.
Williams, a rookie, was signed off of Denver’s practice squad on October. 8. The Broncos cut him after drafting him in the seventh round.
Washington edged the Jaguars 16-13 Sunday at TIAA Bank Field. I don’t believe the Jaguars tanked. To me, that means losing on purpose. The Jaguars (4-10) easily could’ve won this game if not for a fluke 33-yard pass that Washington completed after Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson deflected the ball with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Washington (7-7) ended up scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 13 with 5:47 left.
The Jaguars drove to Washington’s 35-yard line only to have a sack and then an interception that Washington returned to its 45-yard line. Washington moved the ball to the Jaguars’ 17 and kicked a walk-off 36-yard field goal.
Still, Marrone’s moves don’t suggest those of a man coaching for his job.
Do you really need to get a good look at Williams now in the home finale? Do you really make a player like running back Carlos Hyde inactive after Coughlin gave up a fifth-round pick to acquire him on Oct. 19 if your job is on the line?
“We wanted to make sure we brought David up to see [him],” Marrone said. “He’d been working hard, just to see what he can do. We didn’t think we were going to lose much so we wanted to see him out there.”
We didn’t think we were going to lose much.
This is the NFL. Coaches hunt for every advantage and surely never go with an option that isn’t the best one to win.
Marrone made a similar comment later in his press conference when asked about younger players seeing significant action. The Jaguars cut former starting strong safety Barry Church on Friday.
“That they give enough that we’re not losing much with them,” Marrone said.
Marrone (14-16 overall, 2-1 in the playoffs) was asked about his job status after the game. He said he’s received no assurances from Coughlin or Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan that will be back for a third season.
Marrone also said he never considered benching quarterback Cody Kessler for former starter Blake Bortles.
That’s the ultimate tell at this point that the Jaguars aren’t putting their best team on the field and are well aware of it.
How could anyone who has watched Kessler lead this offense for the last three games – scoring 21 combined points on offense – believe he gives the team the best chance to win.
If Marrone was coaching for his job, wouldn’t he have benched Kessler at some point on Sunday? Kessler completed 9 of 17 passes for 57 yards with an interception for a passer rating of 35.7.
Marrone said he “didn’t know” if he’d switch quarterback for Sunday’s game at Miami.
My thinking is Khan doesn’t want to burn the millions he’d have to in firing Marrone and Coughlin and bringing in a new brain trust. They did just have his team in the AFC Championship Game last season before all hell broke out on the injury front this fall. General manager Dave Caldwell will likely be fired and Marrone could fire some of his assistants.
In a franchise steeped in analytics, there’s a basic one to consider. The least expensive way to drafting a quarterback in the first round is to lose. You don’t want to have to trade up.
The five trades made in the last two years of the first half of the first round executed for quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen shows how penal trading up is on a franchise.
The Bears gave up two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder to move up one spot, from third to second to land Trubisky.
The New York Jets traded three second-round picks to Indianapolis to move up from six to three to take Darnold.
The Mahomes and Watson deals included the following first-rounder the next year. The Jaguars can’t give that away. It might be the first pick.
The Jaguars have so many holes they can’t afford to give up much of their 2019 and 2020 draft ammunition to move up several spots. A win over Washington would’ve made trading up a more realistic necessity.
The loss Sunday moved the Jaguars from seventh to fifth in the draft order. Two more loses will allow the Jaguars a much better chance to select a quarterback like Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins without having to move up much or at all.
That’s where the Jaguars are right now. The moves made on the field Sunday strongly indicate a franchise that will choose stability and sacrifice wins in order to avoid a massive trade-up cost.
Khan, Coughlin and Marrone should take it further in the final two games, both on the road. Reduce snaps for key players. Protect 2019. The future has begun.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)