FRANK FRANGIE: Jaguars are young, but not tanking

FRANK FRANGIE: Jaguars are young, but not tanking

By: Frank Frangie

OK, they’re young. Really young. About as young as you ever will see. The Jaguars have chosen a really young team.

Still, I don’t believe, even for a minute, that they are “tanking”, the word that is being tossed around so gleefully by so many these days. It’s become very vogue to suggest. But it just doesn’t make sense.

I’ll admit, the Jaguars roster — announced yesterday afternoon — is about as youthful as I can ever remember. By now you know the numbers — 16 rookies, including all 12 draft picks, plus four undrafted guys. A whopping 24 of the players are either rookies or have played one year. That’s 24 freshmen and sophomores. Out of 53 total players.

Yep, that’s really young.

But I truly believe GM Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone chose the 53 players they believe will form the best team this year. Whether that is because they are the most talented, they are the best fit, whatever, they are the ones the brass believes earned their way. And will help them win the most games THIS year.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t building with one eye toward the future. Of course they are. Everyone does that. And with a team THIS young, of course that is clearly in play. But not at the expense of the present.

So here is the question I have for all the folks who suggest they are tanking that never seems to get answered — why would Caldwell and Marrone purposely tank the season when it is so widely believed that with a bad season both will be replaced? That is the money question that never seems to get answered.

Make no mistake, Caldwell and Marrone chose this roster together. I seriously doubt there were guys Marrone really wanted that Caldwell said no, he’s gotta go, I want the young guy I just brought in. I just don’t buy it.

The very clear narrative — and nobody knows how it will play out — but the clear narrative has been that both need a decent season to return. That has been the thought since the day it was announced both were returning this year.

Caldwell said as much during his press conference early in the year after that announcement, essentially saying they knew they had to show significant improvement or else. Marrone told the media just last week that if they tank, and aren’t good, he expects he won’t be here.

Later in the week, even quarterback Gardner Minshew said the same thing, that Caldwell, Marrone and even he won’t be back if the season goes belly up.

So all three of those principles have said or implied at some point during this calendar year that it is win or else for them individually. Coaches and players rarely, if ever, discuss the prospect of getting fired or cut. “I’ll just do my job and let you guys worry about that.” How many times have you heard or read that quote over the years?

But these guys have ALL talked about it. About the fact that they have to win or they are out.

Maybe that is true. Maybe it isn’t. But if all three have suggested it at some point, that means all three have at least had it run through their minds. And in the case of Caldwell and Marrone, if that has even crossed their minds, why in the world would they do anything other than try to win now? Are they trying to tee up the next regime for success? Of course not. Nobody does that. It just doesn’t make sense.

Yes, there were some surprising moves. Tons of them. Up until the last few weeks, I expected Yannick Ngakoue would eventually report and play for the tender. I thought Leonard Fournette would be their running back. I thought Ronnie Harrison would be their strong safety. I thought Mike Glennon would be the backup quarterback.

Wrong on all counts. But I believe, in all my heart, they picked the team they thought would win the most games. A team that can be developed for the future, too. But a team they thought would win the most games THIS year.

I don’t know if they believe Devine Ozigbo is a better football player than Leonard Fournette. But I do think they believe the 2020 Jaguars will win more games with Ozigbo and a supporting cast than with Fournette. Whether that is because of talent, culture, how he fits the offense, or whatever, I think they believe they are better with Ozigbo and the others.

Same with Josh Jones over Harrison, assuming he is the starter. I don’t know how they compare the two. But I think they think the 2020 Jaguars — not just the Jaguars of the future — will be better with Jones on their team than Harrison. Again, whether that is culture, talent, fit, whatever.

Who knows if they are right? Who knows what happens if they aren’t?

I do know they really like this team. They love the culture and attitude — this will be a locker room with very little drama and I think that is a big deal to those involved — but I also believe they are excited about the talent, too.

Marrone said last week, “I’m really excited about this team.” Caldwell said in yesterday’s presser, “I love this team.”

In Caldwell’s very specific words yesterday: “We can’t afford a rebuilding year. … Our mindset it to put the best team out there.”

They may be better than expected. They may be as bad as all the pundits suggest. Like Caldwell said, just let them “play the season” and see what happens. And if they struggle, it will be because they just got it wrong, not because they were trying to get it wrong so they could have higher draft picks. …

Other thoughts from the final roster:

I love that they kept Jake Luton. Thought he’d be the third guy, not the second. But love that they chose him. Really liked what I saw from him. Big guy, big arm, athletic, accurate. They have something in Luton.
This will be a really fast team. If the starting three receivers are D. J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and Dede Westbrook, that has to be the fastest trio in team history. And it’s not close. Young cornerback group is really fast, too. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson off the edge are lightning quick. Tons of team speed.
I still worry about the interior of the defensive line. DaVon Hamilton has to develop fast or I’m concerned they are going to have a tough time against the run. Again.
Surprised they only kept three tight ends. Wonder if they add a guy there after all the cuts.
I don’t think Chris Thompson is an every down back, and not sure how long they will be without Rock Armstead, so there is huge pressure on Ozigbo. And keep an eye on undrafted James Robinson. He turned heads from the day he got here. But that’s another spot where I wouldn’t be surprised to see them scour the waiver wire.
Joe Schobert, Brandon Linder, Chris Conley, Myles Jack, Abry Jones will be really important leaders. Young guys need direction from their peers, and man are there some young guys here.
Luq Barcoo is going to be a very good NFL cornerback. Bet he starts at some point in his career. …

And, oh yeah, one more thing. It’s game week. Regardless of what you think of the 53, that has to have you excited. …

It’s been fun watching college football. No teams of note, and it feels weird, but still love that they are playing. I’m watching.

Interestingly, the plan for some of yesterday’s games was: play-by-play and color commentators both from their respective homes, calling off the monitor, but sideline reporters reporting from the actual sidelines while wearing face masks. …

ESPN Gameday was virtual — Rece Davis was in studio, the other four — Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and David Pollack were at their respective homes. Maria Taylor, who does “sideline” hits for the show, also was at home. But it was still very good. Different, but very good.

The highlight was Herbstreit’s emotional plea for social equality. It was vulnerable, visceral, real. …

There are rumors out there that Jamie Newman opted out of Georgia because J. T. Daniels was on the verge of beating him out and he didn’t want to sit on the bench. But I was told yesterday by someone I trust that Newman was probably going to win the job — he was running mostly with the ones — but that Daniels was getting reps and was going to get reps in the first game, too.

Also was told that Kirby Smart was given a heads up when COVID-19 first arrived, maybe by Jamie himself, that Newman was a guy who could ultimately opt out. That he had some uncertainty about it all. And that had something to do with the recruitment of Daniels. …

So anyone have a guess on the latest Big Ten/Pac-12 when will they play saga? I used to be able to keep up, can’t any more. I think November is the hot month now. I also think that will change by next week. Let me know when you hear. …

Still on college football, the fact that Tennessee had 44 people in the football program test positive for COVID-19, forcing the canceling of a scrimmage, is precisely why the SEC is waiting til Sept. 26 to play. The idea is to get beyond the return to school, students checking into dorms, mingling with football players and others, and THEN try to play football. It’s a good plan. …

I heard the Kentucky Derby was yesterday. Who knew? …

Gerrit Cole lost for the third straight time yesterday. Before that, he had not lost in 28 starts. He has given up 13 home runs, the most in baseball. The Yankees, as per usual, have had tons of injuries. But they seem more mortal than I expected. …

I could watch Dustin Johnson swing a golf club all day long. Long, loose, effortless. I want to swing like that. …

Did you realize that the Noles actually play a game in six days? Really pulling for quarterback James Blackmon. I’m not sure how good of a player he is and wouldn’t be surprised if he gets beat out at some time during the season, either by Jordan Travis or one of the freshmen. But by all accounts, he is a stand-up guy and LOVES being the FSU quarterback. …

Mike Trout is LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady all rolled into one, and I’m still not sure, other than baseball diehards, that anyone notices. He hit his 300th career home run last night and is still in his 20s. He also has 200 career stolen bases, a combination which is unthinkable in this day and age. He’s a career .305 hitter and a terrific center fielder. He’s a modern day Mays and Mantle. Simply amazing. …

The early rounds of the NBA Playoffs in the bubble were chalk. But I’m not sure the conference semi-finals are headed that way. Could be upset city. …

Video of the big crowd at the Baker County football game Friday night went viral after it was shown on a local television station and tweeted out by Rex Chapman, the former basketball star turned Twitter megastar. I absolutely love Chapman on Twitter, but didn’t like that he called out the folks in Macclenny, who have such a good football following.

There are tons of other videos of people not social distancing properly. And I’m sure the Baker County will probably spread out a little better after the video went viral. And they should. But of all the things going on, we don’t need to be calling out parents watching their kids play football. And after all this down time. Didn’t like it. …

Brunch yesterday at a local haunt — eggs, sausage, bisquits and gravy — and fried chicken. When is the last time you had fried chicken and eggs? Spectacular. …

The Marlins are the most recent team to completely blow it up, trade everyone — they shipped out star outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna around the same time — then suddenly become good a few years later. This is the best team they have had in years. Even if they don’t make noise in the playoffs of this shortened season, they are built for the long haul. …

Not a big Pink Floyd fan, but “Wish You Were Here” is such a great song. Album of the same name so good, too. …

Former Bolles and FSU star D. J. Stewart hit two bombs for the Orioles last night. Not off to a great start this year, but cool to see him have a big night. …

So the NHL Playoffs are in two bubbles in Canada, yet no Canadian teams are left standing. And the ultimate champion may be the team in … Vegas? So 2020. …

When the wife asks you to pull weeds, old flowers, etc., the “it’s way too hot out” card isn’t nearly as effective after you just played 18. Just so you know. …

Cheers.