By Tim Monk (@Tim_Monk85)- 23rd June 2019
Many people see Nick Foles as the answer to the question: “What will it take for Jacksonville to get the Super Bowl?”
I see it a different way. The signing of Nick Foles could be the first domino in the sequence that sends the Jaguars back a few years.
Despite being a Philadelphia hater, it isn’t Nick Foles’ fault nor do I have anything against him or the 4 year $88m deal he signed a few months back. You have to take what you can get in this game and fair play to Foles and his agent for securing that lucrative deal.
However, after the recent news about Jaguars pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue planning to skip mandatory minicamp and Jalen Ramsey seemingly starting to simmer after being told that his contract wont be looked at this offseason, there is a chance here that the Jaguars could implode from the inside out and all the foundations that had been built over the past few years could start to crumble.
Before we go forward, we need to go back; cast your minds back to last season…
This was supposed to be the season where Jacksonville were to have a home playoff game and make a run to the biggest game of them all after being mere minutes away from it the season before. It was supposed to be the season where after getting a taste for January football (something in which they had not tasted since 2008), that they would look to fully establish themselves and put it to notice that they will reserve a seat continuously at the top table of the AFC over the next few years.
Telvin Smith announced prior to the start of the season that he was not available for selection in the 2018 schedule and was to take time away for personal reasons.
Despite this news, the season started as they left off the season prior; going 3-1 and exorcising the demons of the Patriots in week 2. The Jaguars were picking up steam.
However, a thumping by the other hot team in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, took the train off the tracks and the Jags just did not recover. Losses to Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia followed and whilst they were all playoff teams last year, it was the manner of those defeats which were worrying and seemingly unexplainable. The season then spiralled which wasn’t helped by some more player shenanigans.
One main culprit was Leonard Fournette, who was in and out of the team with injury issues but also disciplinary issues involving team photos and general attitude leading to him losing his guarantees for this year’s portion of his contract. TJ Yeldon, the fellow perpetrator towards the end of the season has been assigned the NFL equivalent of the Night’s Watch in Buffalo.
On the defensive side, there were stories all over the mill relating to their late night in London and the bills that were racked up (and not paid for straight away by all accounts!) and the disruptive nature of the players out and about on the eve of the international series game which is never good news. They lost the game in London and then headed back across the pond.
After their bye, it was plain to see that the Jaguars players just weren’t up for it, on either side of the ball. The defence will get called out more so due to their usually exceptionally high standards and production levels. Watching Henry’s 99 yard touchdown run against the Jags pretty much epitomises what the Jaguars were al about towards the end of the season.
The rest is history for the season and the rumblings keep on churning.
Bringing it forward to this offseason, we mentioned on the podcast a few months ago that the Jaguars were at the point of no return and would have to choose between either Foles and then trying to perform a juggling act on the defence, OR draft a rookie QB in a prime position at pick 7 and still be able to pay the players to keep the stars in their galaxy. They chose option A and I fear for Jaguars fans that this was easily the worst option, despite understanding why they chose it.
The problem is that the front office feel they are not far away from a Super Bowl appearance; The defence is there (or is it?), they have a run game to match the ground and pound combination and they have 1 or 2 pieces on offence but they thought Blake Bortles was the one to put them over the top. That unfortunately wasted a few years and has knocked the Jaguars title bid all out of sync.
If the Jags miss the postseason once again in 2019, Doug Marrone will likely be out the door as it’s likely that the players will be running the asylum. Players will start to leave on that defence and you can start to see the Jaguars credentials will start to crumble.
What doesn’t help is that Tom Coughlin, a former HC himself in Duval from yesteryear, has been trying to rule with an Iron Fist which has been rebuffed by the NFL in terms of forcing players in to participating in minicamps and optional training sessions and it hasn’t been well received internally.
Let’s try and be positive for a second though, it’s only fair;
On the offensive side of the ball, Nick Foles is probably the best QB the franchise has ever had and should bring a great veteran’s presence and winning mentality to the team. He knows what it’s like to win it all and some of the guys on both sides of the ball can buy in to him as a leader.
At Wide Receiver, Dede Westbrook is by far the best pass catcher on the team couldbreak out in his 3rd year despite this team seemingly going to show a run heavy offence. That said, the Jaguars are going to need Keelan Cole, DJ Chark to step up, Marqise Lee to not have lost a step a year removed from his ACL tear and Chris Conley to do…well something. Could it even be possible that Donte Moncrief departing is a miss for this team?!
Leonard Fournette, when healthy and staying out of trouble is one of the better backs in the league and knows how to run through people and when he has the momentum is a tough guy to keep down. Again, maybe Foles can coarse some hard work and effort out of him and show him along the right lines of how to be a professional athlete and how to conduct himself as a former 1st round draft pick should do.
We don’t really need to go in to great detail about how good the Jacksonville defence can be, we’ve all seen it; 2nd ranked defence in 2017 in terms of Points allowed and yards allowed and turnovers created. As previously stated, they need to get back here to allow Nick and co to do what they need to do, the question is: do the players have the selfless desire to win as a team and can they play for each other rather than being 53 individuals and can they play for the guy in charge of them?
Talking of which, we come to current HC, Doug Marrone.
Hired week 15 in the 2016 season as interim manager after being the O Line coach and assistant to Gus Bradley (currently tearing it up in LA with the Charger on Defence btw), Marrone currently has a 16-18 record as the Jags HC. The former Bills HC and New Orleans Saints OC doesn’t strike anyone as a guy that is synonymous with winning and was touted as a coach who may have felt the wrath of Black Monday this year. He stays for now and surely this is a pivotal year for him, just like the many on the 53 man roster.
Doug Marrone must be able to answer the questions hanging over the character issues about the team and lead from the front with the help of Foles in order for the Jags to see January football, otherwise it could be a long goodnight for the Jacksonville Jaguars team as it currently stands.
The Jaguars bandwagon has just turned at the crossroads. Doug Marrone is the driver and Tom Coughlin is the Sat Nav (you also have to wonder if Shahid Khan sabotaged the Sat Nav so that they turned the way towards London….but that’s for another time).
Did they turn the right way and veer towards Super Bowl City or have they ventured back down towards doldrums avenue, where they have lived for the past 20 years?
For me, the Jaguars window in my opinion has shut and not even big d*** Nick can save them. The defence will have to play out of this world again to get them anywhere close but I fear that they are more interested in their own wallets rather than the success of the team. Telvin Smith was away from the team last year so we don’t know what shape and condition he will be in if he returns, Yannick Ngakoue is starting to throw toys out of the pram, seemingly taking a lead from Jalen Ramsey, who isn’t happy about his contract not being looked at (despite a few years still left to run) and who knows what Josh Allen will be like or whether he may pick up some bad habits straight off the bat. This defence at the moment is prestigious by name and past form from over a year ago. Could it be that the stellar season in 2017 was an outlier and in fact this team are just as good (well, bad) as they were a few years prior to that? Prior to 2017, their most recent season with a winning record was 2007 (with every season having a negative point differential) and hadn’t won the division this millennium. Obviously still nursing that hang over when they partied like it was 1999 (Tom Coughlin was the coach at the time).
Interesting season ahead for those in north eastern Florida. A wide range of outcomes and the headlines won’t take too much to write either way because we’ve seen the angel and the devil sides of the Jaguars over the tenure of Doug Marrone.
I’ll leave you with 3 words for the people on that Jacksonville bandwagon;
Tuck and Roll.