HOUSTON, Texas – Big questions lie ahead.
Head Coach Doug Marrone said as much moments after the Jaguars’ 20-3 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium Sunday afternoon – and moments after learning he, General Manager David Caldwell and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin will return for 2019.
Owner Shad Khan made the announcement at game’s end Sunday, with Marrone saying he learned of the news from Jaguars Media Relations Director Tad Dickman on the field after the game.
“There are going to be obviously a lot of decisions to be made,” Marrone said. “Nothing’s been spoken about. My issue right now is I’ve got to get this game out of my system before I can comment on anything else.
“The disappointment of the game and the disappointment of the season falls on my shoulders.”
Khan in a statement said he informed Coughlin last week that Coughlin would return, and that he told Coughlin he preferred as much stability “as reasonable or possible.” Khan said the decision regarding Caldwell and Marrone was Coughlin’s.
Marrone emphasized Sunday he didn’t take the task ahead lightly and said the same of Khan and Coughlin opting to have him return.
“It’s an honor and a privilege and one I totally understand, but it’s one that I have to earn every day,” Marrone said. “That’s how I go about it. I feel fortunate because you’re judged on wins and losses, and obviously I didn’t deliver that this year. I’m also confident that I will be able to turn it around. It makes me feel good that they have the confidence in me also.”
Marrone was asked if he expected to meet with Khan regarding the offseason.
“Right now, I don’t have any expectations because there’s a lot going on,” Marrone said. “Once we get all this stuff done and we’re able to take a step back and get the emotion done … I think that’s when you’re going to be productive. I know for me, that’s how I operate. If someone’s going to ask me about decisions, I’m not even close to thinking about that because all my effort has been on trying to win damned football games.”
Marrone on Sunday addressed the team’s offense, a unit that struggled over the season’s final weeks – struggles that culminated in a 119-yard, six-first-down performance Sunday. The offense was hit hard by injuries, with four Week 1 offensive line starters finishing the season on injured reserve. Wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee) missed the entire season, and tight end Austin-Seferian Jenkins (core muscle) and running back Corey Grant (foot) missed the last 11 games. Running back Leonard Fournette missed his seventh game of the season Sunday. “I don’t want to fall into the trap with the injury thing,” Marrone said. “I don’t want to do that because it’s bull----. I don’t want to say that. I just think it’s been disappointing for all of us. We’ll have to take a good look and see where we’re at.” Marrone, asked his confidence level in quarterback Blake Bortles, added: “Right now, I can’t say I’m very confident in anything from an offensive standpoint.” Bortles called the offense “an uphill battle with some injuries and things like that.” Bortles added, “It’s one of them years. We had some guys go down offensively injury-wise. You have to do what you can to try to cover for it. It kept happening to the point we were unable to do anything.”
Bortles on Sunday was asked if he believed he had played his final game with the Jaguars. While he signed a three-year contract last offseason, he was replaced by Cody Kessler as the starter in Weeks 13-16 before starting Sunday after Kessler was ineffective. “I don’t know,” Bortles said. “If I did [play his final game with the team Sunday], then it is what it is. I hope I get an opportunity to play again, but if not, I’ll figure it out and go play somewhere else. We’ll see what happens.” Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Bortles said “hopefully not by this game – just as a quarterback and a guy who would do anything for his team, who played as hard as he could and tried to win football games. It’s been an interesting five years with ups and downs and peaks and valleys. Everybody had high expectations going into this year and we didn’t live up to them.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell on Sunday said he expects to return to the Jaguars next season. When asked if he could be released, Campbell in the post-game locker room Sunday said “Honestly, I would be surprised if that were to happen.” Campbell led the Jaguars with 10.5 sacks this season and had 1.5 sacks Sunday. “I still feel like I can still play well,” he said. “I pride myself on being the best I can be every day. I’m looking forward to fighting with these guys, at least make our way to the dance and have a chance.”
Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught 12 passes for 147 yards Sunday, with Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey calling the game his “least favorite” of his much-publicized matchup with Hopkins. “I had some good coverage and he still made good catches,” Ramsey said. “It was a good battle, but I’ll chalk this one up to him. I’m a realist.”
Marrone: “I apologize to the fans. I apologize to the players. I apologize to ownership, management, scouts, people in the building … when you’re the head coach and you don’t win games, you make it hard on everyone. I’ve done that. I’ll do everything I can to fix that.”
Ramsey on how much work the Jaguars face in the offseason: “A lot. This game is tough. It’s any given Sunday. Every year is different. The season’s over now, and that’s how we’re going to have to leave it: over and move on. … Sometimes things get tough in life. Challenges come your way and your faith gets tested.”
Bortles: “It’s not anybody’s fault. I don’t think it’s the players’ fault. I don’t think it’s the coaches’ fault. We had some unlucky stuff happen and we didn’t play great football. It’s one of those years.”
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue: “A lot of unfortunate things happened this season that we couldn’t control. A lot of things were out of our hands, but at the end of the day the foundation and the culture have to be stronger. We’re going to build toward that this offseason. It starts when nobody wants to be there, before OTAs when you’re here for conditioning and lifting. That’s the time you’re pushing each other and building team camaraderie. … It will change this year. Definitely.”
Campbell: “I believe in these guys who are leading us. I believe in the players who are going to follow. We’re going to figure this out and have a great year next year.”