4. The wait continues. We begin this Waiting Game Fabulous Four with a thought on the topic that’s on everyone’s mind these days – Jaguars Owner Shad Khan’s hiring of the team’s new general manager. As of Friday morning, here’s the situation: Atlanta Director of Player Personnel David Caldwell reportedly has interviewed twice, with San Francisco Director of Player Personnel Tom Gamble reportedly interviewing once. There are also reports the team will interview Giants Director of College Scouting Marc Ross and Arizona Director of Player personnel Steve Keim. Some have speculated that the longer the process, the more limited the options regarding the team’s coaching situation. First, we’re five days into this, so Khan has moved quickly. Second, speculation aside, Mike Mularkey is the head coach and Khan has said nothing to the contrary. Khan almost certainly is discussing the coaching situation with the candidates, but that doesn’t mean that the general manager wouldn’t want to retain Mularkey. That’s likely playing itself out during the interview process. But whatever the effect on coaching, the general manager search is important enough that Khan must get it right. The GM not only decides which players to draft and pursue in free agency and which players to release, he sets up the structure of communication and information flow between coaching and scouting, an underrated part of success or failure in the NFL. A GM and a coach can have a vision, and ideally that vision will be shared, but unless that vision is translated throughout football operations, then you have moving parts not necessarily working together. Will Mularkey be the coach next season? That may be uncertain, but whatever the answer, taking an extra day or two to get the GM decision right is more than worth it.
3. Peaking late. OK, it’s overstating it to call what happened to the Jaguars’ defense at the end of the season “peaking.” Generally speaking, 2-14 teams that finish 30th in the NFL in defense haven’t done enough to peak. But there’s little argument the Jaguars’ defense had one of its better stretches the final two games of the season. The Jaguars held New England 13 points below its season average in the next-to-last game of the season, getting the Patriots’ offense off the field on two key fourth-quarter possessions. And while the Jaguars lost the regular-season finale 38-20 to Tennessee, the defense allowed just 10 points, and played well following an easy opening touchdown drive by Tennessee. One reason for the improvement was the late-season return of linebacker
2. Disappointing end. What was most striking in the aftermath of the season – and the aftermath of General Manager Gene Smith’s departure Monday – was the disappointment players felt for how Smith’s tenure ended, and how his final season played out. We’re mostly looking forward in this edition of Fabulous Four, and will continue to do so, but it’s worth nothing that the energy and excitement felt by this team in preseason was real. There was very much a feeling that if this wasn’t a playoff team, it certainly would be more competitive than last season. It also speaks to how narrow the margin between success and failure is in the NFL that even after 2-14, players really believed there wasn’t a huge difference between that record and showing significant improvement. “We’re right there,” defensive end
1. And finally, a word on the quarterback. This weekly entry on the quarterback has remained that way for the most basic of reasons – that for the past year the position has remained frustratingly unsettled. That it’s still unsettled has much to do with the overall unsettled state of the franchise four days into 2013, and without question it will be a major focus of the new general manager. Mularkey said Monday the position will be evaluated when the coaching staff begins that process in the coming days, and said he didn’t feel it was fair to put either