JACKSONVILLE – Dave Caldwell put it simply and directly.
While many fans and observers speak of the Jaguars' 2020 offseason using various terms with essentially the same definition – rebuild, retool … re-something – the Jaguars' general manager said the team's decision-makers very definitely refer to it as something else.
"We call it a better team than what we were," he said.
Caldwell, now in his eighth season with the organization, spoke late last week for the first edition of the senior writer John Oehser's "O-Zone Podcast," which debuts Monday and can be found here (LINK). Oehser and Caldwell spoke about multiple topics, including the recent 2020 NFL Draft, his thoughts on quarterback Gardner Minshew and more.
A highlight topic was the approach Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone took to the 2020 offseason – trading veterans defensive end Calais Campbell, quarterback Nick Foles and cornerback A.J. Bouye. And while observers saw those moves as evidence the Jaguars are focused more on 2021 than 2020 – or playing the '20 season with the idea of "tanking" for a player such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence – Caldwell said nothing is further from the truth.
"We feel like we got younger, and we got more energetic," Caldwell said. "It might be unknown. We have some unknown commodities on our team, but at the end of the day we feel like we have a chance to have competition at every single position and it's going to be fun. …"
Caldwell in fact laughed at the notion that the Jaguars – or any team – would play a season focused on draft position rather than winning.
"Considering our situation, it's very absurd," Caldwell said. "Our owner (Shad Khan) wants to win and he wants to win now. He doesn't want to lose a game for something that might be down the road that there are no guarantees for either.
"Not only that … from a personal standpoint, for myself and Coach Marrone, too: I think everybody realizes that this is an important season for the Jaguars and everybody and we need to show good improvement and we're heading in the right direction.
"We don't want to be taking a step backward by any means."
Perhaps the most important element to the Jaguars' chances to step forward is Minshew, who went 6-6 as a rookie starter last season and who played well enough to allow the Jaguars to trade Foles. Caldwell was asked what Minshew needed to do next season to improve – and to solidify himself as a franchise quarterback.
"I've chatted to him and talked to people around him, and it seems like he's a man on a mission," Caldwell said. "He can take another step up. What he did as a rookie was impressive. If he gets 20 percent better, you're looking at it like, 'Wow, we could really have something with him.
"The biggest thing – and he knows this – is probably ball security in the pocket and probably his red-zone opportunities. Those are two things with rookie quarterbacks that are the last thing to kind of figure out with the speed of the game. With his football IQ and his determination and the way he's approaching this offseason, I think those are things he's going to take care of pretty regularly."
To listen to Caldwell on the first O-Zone podcast, click here.