The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t have to look far for their next coach, and looked deep into its organizational past for another massive hire on Monday.
Doug Marrone, who finished the 2016 season as the Jaguars interim head coach, has accepted the team’s full-time head coaching job, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Monday.
The team later made the announcement official.
The team also hired Tom Coughlin, their first head coach, as the team’s executive vice president. They also extended general manager Dave Caldwell’s contract. All three contracts will run through 2019.
“I have confidence that one day soon we’ll look back on today’s news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement. “I am honored to welcome Tom Coughlin back to Jacksonville, where winning was customary under his leadership. I know he expects the same in his return to head our football operations, and that’s good news for us and Jaguars fans everywhere. The extension of Dave Caldwell’s contract speaks to his excellent work thus far and the continued importance of complementing our talented and promising roster.”
The three moves, seen together, represent an intriguing blend of continuity and looking to the past. It’s great news for quarterback Blake Bortles, yet it also puts pressure on Marrone and Caldwell to turn Jacksonville’s fortunes around quickly, something perhaps reflected in Marrone’s short contract for a coaching hire.
Marrone should be a comfortable hire for Caldwell and ownership because they know Marrone well after two seasons on the Jaguars staff as the team’s assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach. Marrone finished 1-1 to end the 2016 season as the team’s interim head coach following the ouster of coach Gus Bradley. Rapoport reported on NFL Network that the direction Marrone took the team in two weeks as interim head coach was a big factor in elevating him.
Bortles should be thrilled. Rapoport noted that Marrone’s belief in Bortles as a franchise quarterback was a factor in his hiring. Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who worked under Marrone at Syracuse and Buffalo, will presumably stay in the same role in Jacksonville.
That’s why this hire might take more selling to the fans than it does to the players. The Jaguars essentially chose to maintain continuity on offense after the Jaguars finished 25th in points scored. Meanwhile, the team’s improving young defense is likely to have a new scheme to learn when Marrone fills out his staff.
This will be Marrone’s second crack at a head coaching gig after a tumultuous two years in Buffalo, going 15-17 in two seasons before he shockingly opted out of his contract with the Bills following the 2014 season.
The Jaguars are the first of six teams to fill a coaching vacancy this offseason. The team interviewed a host of candidates including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Coughlin also interviewed for the head coaching job according to Rapoport, but then came around to the idea of being an executive.
Marrone, 52, deserves credit for cooking up a respectable enough offense in Buffalo with EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton as his quarterbacks. Then again, much of the credit for Marrone’s 9-7 season in 2014 should probably go to Buffalo’s-then defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
This is not a talent-poor roster. The defensive depth chart is impressive, led by rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The team’s young receiver trio of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee can make big plays if Bortles gives them a chance.
Then again, this organization hasn’t won more than five games in a season since Shad Khan agreed to buy the team in 2011. Caldwell has been given four years to build up the roster and now a chance to hire a second head coach. In some ways, this hire feels like the team is doubling down on the Caldwell/Bortles era. It’s up to Marrone to turn Bortles’ career around or the franchise could be looking at a more traditional housecleaning down the line.
Next time around, Coughlin could be the one calling the shots.