JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The fact that Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone found out Sunday that he and his staff will remain in place for the rest of the season did not ease his mind at all.
What’s more important to him than still being employed after owner Shad Khan fired GM Dave Caldwell is figuring out a way, despite a QB carousel and a long list of injuries, to snap a 10-game losing streak. The Jaguars play at Minnesota on Sunday.
“My focus right now is not on all the things that may be going on on the outside, but trying to get the team to win football games and be there for the coaches and the players and do my best job there,” Marrone said Monday.
The Jaguars (1-10) haven’t won since the season opener and have lost 16 of their last 19 games dating back to Nov. 3, 2019. Since the Jaguars’ surprising run to the AFC Championship Game in Marrone’s first season (2017), the Jaguars are 12-31 and have had six different quarterbacks start games.
Khan brought back Marrone, Caldwell and executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin after a 5-11 mark in 2018. He fired Coughlin in December 2019 but opted to bring Marrone and Caldwell back in 2020 with the directive to clear up the team’s salary-cap issues and locker room culture.
They accomplished both: The Jaguars will have at least $60 million in salary- cap space in 2021 per OverTheCap.com, and the way the team has continued to fight despite the losing streak is a testament to the fact that Marrone hasn’t lost the players.
The victories, however, haven’t followed. Khan fired Caldwell last weekend but Marrone and the coaching staff will remain in place through the end of the season. Whoever is hired as GM will make the call on keeping Marrone or going in another direction, though the latter is what’s expected to happen.
“We all know that, obviously, [we are] struggling to win football games,” Marrone said. “I think we understand that. Obviously it’s a very competitive business. We have an owner that wants a good product for our fans. Wants to win. There’s no mistake about it and we haven’t done it. And I think that when those things happen these type of decisions are going to be made.
“Dave and I had a good relationship. It’s not like we haven’t been through this before, meaning people that have been in the league. It’s obviously unfortunate but it is part of the profession. I spoke to Dave and I wish him and his family the best of luck. We had a good relationship. It’s very difficult.”
The last three months have been, too. The Jaguars upset Indianapolis in the season opener and then lost a close game to Tennessee in Nashville, where they’ve struggled to keep games close over the past six seasons, to create some optimism that the team would be competitive and better than many thought.
That died quickly. The Jaguars lost four of their next five games by double digits and starting quarterback Gardner Minshew revealed a thumb injury he kept hidden for two weeks. Marrone went with rookie sixth-round pick Jake Luton over veteran Mike Glennon and Luton threw for 304 yards in a two-point loss to Houston. Two weeks later, the Jaguars managed just 206 yards overall and Luton threw four interceptions in a 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh and Marrone benched Luton for Glennon.
The Jaguars played last week without their best receiver (DJ Chark), most experienced receiver (Chris Conley), best pass rusher (Josh Allen), starting left guard (Andrew Norwell), four of their top five cornerbacks, and top two strong safeties because of injuries. And yet they still had a chance to tie the game late with a two-point conversion.
Which is why Marrone is feeling more frustration than relief that he has a job at least through Jan. 3.
“When you go out and you’re filling up your car with gas, you’re going to the convenience store, you’re going out to dinner, there’s a sense of you want to hang your head,” Marrone said. “It’s embarrassing. I feel that way at times and the only thing I have to rely on to make sure I can walk around and be a good example is to know that I fought my ass off. That I’ve done everything I possibly can to make sure that I am doing my job to the best of my ability to try to win football games because that’s the only thing at the end of the day.
“I’ve learned this a long time ago: Whatever happens with the results and the records, it is what it is, but at the end of the day you’re going to have to look at yourself in the mirror and you’re going to have to say: ‘Hey, listen, did I give everything I had?’ If you did, that’s it. The results are what they are. But if you don’t, I don’t know how you can ever live with yourself.”