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Marrone: "Blinders on, going ahead"

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone against the Carolina Panthers in an NFL game, Sunday, October 6, 2019 in Charlotte, NC. (Rick Wilson via AP Images)

JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone's approach has been consistent.

He won't change now.

"Blinders on, going ahead," he said.

That has been the Jaguars' head coach's message throughout the 2019 season. He emphasized it again Thursday morning – less than a day after Owner Shad Khan relieved Tom Coughlin of his duties as Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

The focus is on what matters. What matters is winning.

"I don't want any excuses from the coaches or the players about distractions, or what may be going on," Marrone said Thursday as the Jaguars (5-9) prepared to play the Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., Sunday at 1 p.m.

Khan announced Coughlin's dismissal in a statement Wednesday evening, two days after the NFL Players Association criticized the organization in a memo to its players. Khan said while he decided earlier in the season to dismiss Coughlin following the season, he re-considered the timing in recent days.

The NFLPA memo said 25 percent of all grievances in the past two years involved the Jaguars. The memo also announced an NFLPA victory in an arbitration case involving $700,000 in fines levied by the Jaguars toward former defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.

"The players and myself have communicated," Marrone said. "We made changes and it has benefitted our team. When you talk about leadership and communication and everyone being in it together, these are the things you have do to work with people – whether it's coaches or players.

"Those things have been addressed and we're on the right path. There's no doubt about it."

Marrone said he planned to tell players that while they would be asked about Coughlin, the sole focus should be on Sunday's game.

"We have to win," Marrone said. "We're all fighting for our jobs – for our life, really. That's what we do as coaches. We all know that. That's what the situation is. It's no different for the players. They have the same thing.

"It's a tough situation, but you have to keep your focus, you have to lead and you have to go out there and do your job."

Marrone said he heard the news initially from Coughlin early Wednesday evening, then spoke to Khan in Khan's office at TIAA Bank Field shortly thereafter.

Marrone said he was working on goal-line and short-yardage when Coughlin entered his office.

"He said, 'Shad just let me go,''' Marrone said. "I kind of took a step back and asked Coach (Coughlin): 'Is there anything I can do for you?' Coach was as professional as you guys know he is. That was it."

Marrone was asked how long the conversation lasted.

"As long as how I just said it," he said.

Marrone said he spoke with Khan shortly thereafter. Khan in his statement Wednesday said Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell each will report directly to him on an interim basis, with the duo previously each having reported directly to Coughlin.

"He said he let coach go, and that for the time that I will be reporting to him – and that he expects me to be focused on the next two games," Marrone said of Khan. "I said, 'Absolutely,' and that was that conversation."

Marrone said he and Khan did not discuss the future beyond the next two weeks.

"Nor should I expect that," Marrone said.

Marrone played for – and was later the head coach at – Syracuse, where Coughlin also played. The two developed a relationship when Coughlin was head coach of the New York Giants and Marrone was coaching at Syracuse from 2009-2012.

Marrone was the Jaguars' offensive line coach from 2015-2016, taking the head position in 2017 – Coughlin's first season back with the organization as EVP of Football Operations. Coughlin served as the Jaguars' head coach from 1994-2002 and coached the Giants to two Super Bowl titles during 12 seasons as that organization's head coach.

"It's an experience I'll always look back and be grateful for," Marrone said of working for Coughlin since '17. "There's not a lot of time for reflection because I have to lead these coaches and lead this team."

Marrone also was asked he and Coughlin's relationship had been strained.

"I wouldn't use those terms, because I have so much respect for him and I listen," Marrone said. "I've always believed that with good leadership, you have to be a good listener. I'm also humble enough to understand that I don't know everything. People that have experienced a lot of things in my profession, I'll look to and talk to and figure out if that's the best for our football team and if that makes sense to me. If anything, I think the relationship has gotten stronger in two or three years."

The Jaguars, after a run to the AFC Championship Game following the 2017 season, went 5-11 last season and lost five consecutive games this season before a victory at Oakland last week. Marrone was asked Thursday if the current situation felt like a crossroads for the organization.

"That's a good question," he said. "I'm working on trying to win these games. I know I'm disappointed. I know that I'm judged by wins and losses. … I put that on myself. I take a lot of pride on being a good football team and obviously I haven't won enough.

"I really just stay in this moment and try to do the best job I can and keep fighting."

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