MOBILE, Ala. – Senior writer John Oehser spoke with Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone at the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl Wednesday morning shortly after he finalized the hire of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden; here's part of that conversation:
Q: Gruden was the head coach of the Washington Redskins the past six seasons and the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals three seasons before that. The other coordinator candidates also had extensive NFL experience. Was experience a big deal in this?
A: It was for me, because I look at how you grow as a play-caller and how you grow as a staff. Time is not on our side. We've had two poor seasons and we've got to turn this thing around quickly. You don't want some of the growing pains that at times go with a young coordinator. Not to say a young coordinator couldn't be great, but I look for people who have dealt with a lot of different dynamics. It's important to have had experience managing. That's one of the toughest things as a first-time head coach, first-time coordinators: how you're managing that room, how you're managing people. To answer your question … yes. I was looking for some people with experience.
Q: Was there a tipping point in the Gruden hire, a time where you said, 'OK, this is the guy?'
A: No. I don't think so. We interviewed four experienced play-callers who have had success. At the end of the day, you're just trying to find the parameters and the boundaries that you have set, and what you feel – what I feel – is best for our coaches and best for the players. When you meet with people, you just find out they have to offer. The No. 1 mistake you make [when hiring staff] is if someone (a coaching candidate) is going to research my background, talk to people I'm with, then come into the interview and try to get the job by selling what they think you want to hear … if you wind up hiring them, it's not going to work out. When you're talking about head coaches, coordinators – really everyone – it's, 'What do you believe. what's your philosophy?' When you have that, there's a passion about yourself that you can speak to players; your conviction will create a level of confidence.
Q: You obviously had multiple conversations with Jay in recent days. What's his mindset coming into this?
A: Everyone who came in had a high level of interest. People are motivated for different reasons. I don't like putting words in other people's mouth, but it's like anything else: Things sometimes don't work out the way you want in this profession and sometimes you have to jump right back out and go ahead and get to work. Not to say, "Prove your worth," but one thing about it: A lot of us all played the game, we coached in the game and I don't think you can measure if you're on the outside the amount of competitiveness we all have.
Q: What does this hire mean for the quarterback position?
A: It's going to be like anything else: I look to find the best person, not the best person for a certain player. If I try to go out and get the best coach for each individual player, that would be crazy. I'm trying to get the best guy in that room for the team. That's how I look at it. What's best for the team is always what you have to be looking out for. We're just going forward now in phases. We're making these hires based on what's best for our team, and when I say, 'Our team…" just because you hire a guy on offense doesn't mean just offense. It has to do with defense and special teams, so you're going into that. You want to have an offense that is going to be able to play in different ways and be very multiple. You're trying to put the players you have in the best position.
Q: Specific to the quarterback position, have you decided who you want to be the starter? Gardner Minshew II? Nick Foles?
A: If everyone thinks about it, my timeline has been the end of the season … am I going to be back or not back? That's out there. That's the truth. You're doing the best job you can to win football games and you don't know what's going to happen. Then you come back and you're thankful to [Jaguars Owner] Shad [Khan] and Tony [Khan] that they believe I'll get this thing right. Now, you have to back and look at your staff, so you're going through that. Getting the staff together is the priority obviously for me right now, so looking back and discussing quarterbacks isn't something we've done yet. In these interviews, we didn't really discuss a lot of personnel. If you do, you only want it as a one-way conversation because you may not hire him. You're not going to hire all of them, so you're not going to be saying, 'Well, this is what I think about this quarterback, or this running back, or this offensive lineman or these receivers.' Everyone is pretty much going tell you that you have some good pieces to work with, which is generally a safe interview answer. That's the reality of what goes on. I don't look at it from a personnel-driven standpoint, meaning "this player's personality ... we need to get this.' I look at it as, 'What system and offense do we want to have with our vision and how we want to play' – and let those players come in and play in this system.