The 30-9 dismantling at the hands of the Titans on Thursday night, in front of a national television audience, was the perfect embodiment of the Jaguars 2018 season. If it can go wrong, it will for the Big Cats in 2018. In a game where literally no one on the Jaguars defense wanted to take on Titans RB Derrick Henry, who rushed for 238 yards on just 17 carries, the true colors of this team were revealed. Players, including offensive captain Leonard Fournette, joked on the sideline during the game and in the locker room after the game. The players are just as ready as the fans for this disaster of a season to be over with.
Now, with nine losses and three games to play, the Jaguars must formulate a plan for 2019. Of course, the front office has hopefully been doing just that for some time. But it's time to completely shift the focus to the future.
The Jaguars plan should include sweeping changes. Tom Coughlin, the Executive Vice President, has got to hold this football team to a higher standard. He's as responsible for this mess as anyone, but he also has the power to make changes as he sees fit.
Here I'll offer up what I think and hope Tom Coughlin will do to try put this pathetic season in the rear view mirror.
Fire Dave Caldwell.
He's done a decent job acquiring talent in the middle of drafts and in free agency, but NFL GMs have to hit in the first round. Caldwell hasn't done that nearly enough. Luke Joeckel: Bust. Blake Bortles: Bust. Dante Fowler Jr.: traded for a third and fifth round pick. Jalen Ramsey: Home Run. Leonard Fournette: TBD. Taven Bryan: TBD.
Caldwell has done a lot wrong in Jacksonville. From missed draft picks to terrible free agent classes. But his biggest and most obvious mistake was being so stubborn with Blake Bortles. It's been obvious for a minimum of two years that Blake Bortles is not and never will be franchise QB. Yet stubborn Dave decided that Bortles should get extended, putting the Jaguars in an ever tougher place for the future. Caldwell passed on QBsincluding Deshaun Watson and Pat Mahomes in 2017 and Lamar Jackson in 2018.
Need more evidence that Dave Caldwell isn't the guy? The Jaguars record with Caldwell making the personnel decisions is 29-64! They have just 29 wins in nearly six seasons. This era must be put to bed.
Hire an offensive coordinator that doesn't have an archaic philosophy. This one might be hard. Tom Coughlin loves to run the football and then run the football some more. So does head coach Doug Marrone. Recent reports have stated that Marrone's job is safe. So this could be tricky. But the Jaguars need to inject someone into their offensive coaching staff that wants to run the ball AND push the ball down the field. This coaching staff has been hamstrung by Blake Bortles, to be sure, but there's got to be some new blood injected into this offensive staff.
Fire Todd Wash.
It's sad to say, because even in a lost season Wash has had bright spots as a coordinator. Just look at last Sunday's shutout victory over the Colts. But this defense can't adjust. When things go wrong, they really go wrong. AJ Bouye said after the game that it seems like teams know how to attack the Jaguars scheme. If team's get a read on how to attack your defense and you can't make adjustments, it might be time for someone to replace you.
Aquire a veteran QB and draft one in the first round.
There will be vets out there. None of them are likely to be long term solutions, but the Jaguars need to put a decent veteran QB in place to manage the team while they transition to a young gun. Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor are both set to become free agents after the season. Taylor isn't a perfect fit but with a career 53-20 touchdown to interception ratio and plus athleticism, he could be a nice bridge QB. Bridgewater may be harder to acquire. His contract is set to expire but the Saints just traded a third round pick to land Teddy B, so they might try to get a deal done. If the Jaguars are interested in pursuing Bridgewater they likely won't be the only suitors for the 27 year old QB. The bottom line is the Jaguars need to go get a guy that won't throw the season away in 2019.
The front office has got to go get their guy in the draft. The Jaguars have missed on every first round pick at QB in franchise history. Byron Leftwhich, Blaine Gabbert, and Blake Bortles were all horrendous picks. But that shouldn't scare Tom Coughlin and company away from selecting one in the first round next year. There will be a number of QBs projected in the first round. I prefer Will Grier and Dwayne Haskins (yet to declare) but NFL scouts seem to love Justin Herbert from Oregon. The Jaguars have got to try and try again at QB until they get it right. If the Jaguars don't fancy any of these guys it's possible that a Daniel Jones from Duke or Drew Lock from Missouri could be available in a trade down/up scenario or had in the second round. If that works out then the Jaguars are golden, but if not they could take their shot at QB again in 2020, with a class that looks to be loaded with talent.
The Jaguars then have to add offensive weapons.
As many as the possibly can. With Dede Westbrook being the only receiver to emerge in 2018, the Jaguars need to sign and draft several new wide outs. Rookie DJ Chark figures to play a much bigger role in 2019. At tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a nice piece, but with a rookie class loaded with tight end talent the Jaguars would be fools not to add one of the many quality tight ends in April's draft.
The defense will see some turnover as well. With some hefty contracts and a disappointing season change is inevitable. Barry Church will be released. His replacement is already in the building. It also wouldn't be a shock to see Malik Jackson, who has been "benched" twice in recent weeks, depart. He's due $13 million in 2019, but the Jaguars can save $11 million by parting ways with the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
There's three young stars on defense that the Jaguars MUST do everything they can to keep around. Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue. One player at every level of the defense. All three players are destined for greatness in the NFL and the Jaguars need to lock them up as soon as possible. Outside of that the Jaguars have some young bloods like Dawuane Smoot, Taven Bryan, Leon Jacobs, and Ronnie Harrison that figure to play bigger roles. What will happen with the rest of core of quality veteran defensive starters remains to be seen.
Will the offseason play out as I hope it will? Almost assuredly not. But if the Jaguars are able to follow this outline, then hope should spring eternal in Jacksonville.
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