JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they enter the 2021 offseason …
1.Leadership is No. 1. Change is upon us and consider this: With the Jaguars likely selecting a franchise quarterback No. 1 overall during the same offseason they hire a new head coach and general manager, this is the most important offseason in franchise history. Such perfectly timed NFL resets are rare, mainly because quarterbacks as universally highly regarded as Trevor Lawrence of Clemson are exceedingly rare. So, what is the most important element of the offseason aside from selecting a franchise quarterback for the first time in franchise history? The thought here is it's leadership, and that's what the team must find – in the general manager, but most importantly at head coach. It doesn't matter if the head coach has an offensive background. Or a defensive background. Or if he comes from college or the NFL. But the franchise needs vision, direction and a strong identity. That comes from the head coach, and that's the most important aspect to that hire.
2.This may be his year. Former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli on Tuesday was announced as a modern-era Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for a fifth consecutive year. While there's no official gauge for such things, the feeling from talking to respected Hall voters is his momentum has grown each year – and that he has a very real chance to be elected, if not this year then next. The thought here is he has a good chance this year. While quarterback Peyton Manning and cornerback Charles Woodson are locks to be among the five modern-era enshrinees, wide receiver Charles Johnson and defensive end Jared Allen – the other two of four first-year nominees among this year's finalists – aren't as certain. Boselli reportedly has been among the Top 10 vote-getters the past three years, and the backlog of offensive linemen that has split votes in those years has dwindled to two: Boselli and guard Alan Faneca. The feeling among voters has been one of the two will get in this year and the other will get in next year. There are no guarantees in life or Hall voting, but Boselli's chances remain strong. This year may be his best chance yet.
3.Taylor being overlooked is just wrong. We'll touch more on upcoming key decisions – general manager, head coach, quarterback, etc. – plenty this offseason. But for today, we'll address a second Jaguars-related Hall-of-Fame issue: former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor falling short of finalist status for a second consecutive year. For Taylor not to be among the final 15 is an extreme oversight. He is 17th on the NFL's all-time rushing list; 14 players ahead of him are in the Hall and two are active. He had seven 1,000-yard seasons and his 4.6-yard-per-carry career average is absolutely Hall-worthy. The thought here is Taylor will make the 15 finalists in the near future. At that point, voters will more closely examine his career. Unsolicited advice to voters: if his statistics don't sway you, put on the film. The man was a rare combination of size, strength speed and otherworldly moves. He was a Hall-of-Fame running back. That he isn't acknowledged as such by observers and voters speaks more to their ignorance than Taylor's resume.
1.He's in charge. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan told the media on Monday that he took control of the Jaguars roster in 2020 – and for the near term would be in charge of the roster in 2021. I didn't take that as Khan being involved in every decision as Jerry Jones is in Dallas, though I know some folks heard it that way. I see it as Khan applying everything he has done, seen and heard in nine years of NFL ownership. He has hired three coaches and a general manager – plus an executive vice president of football operations – suffered losing seasons, had one incredible run in 2017, spent big in free agency and seen too many quarterbacks for anyone's good. He has enough experience and information as he begins his 10th season to take this thing in the right direction. Everyone knows how successful he has been in his business endeavors, but no one ever hears the stories of how hard it was to get there or how many times he had to reinvent an idea to get it to market. My guess is he has had to pick himself up more than once in the auto parts business as well before getting it right. His NFL opportunity never has been greater, and it feels as if this is the Jaguars' moment.
2.Lawrence will help. I think most folks would just be happy to have a great quarterback in Jacksonville, but this kid is so much more than that. He's going to bring the national media to town on a weekly basis, which means a fresh look for folks who have turned their noses up to our town over the many losing seasons. He's going to put the Jaguars on Sunday Night Football for the first time since NBC made it the featured game of the week; no more settling for an early-season Thursday Night against Tennessee. The quarterback is going to bring former season-ticket holders back to TIAA Bank Field and folks who never have been likely will find a reason to make a game or two. Think people in Daytona and Orlando might come north to see the guy in person they watched the last three years in Clemson orange? He has to be the generational quarterback that football people think he is. But if he is, the fortunes of a downtrodden franchise and its long-suffering fan base will take a turn that a year ago seemed unlikely.
3.Pick your coach, any coach you want. Khan will have the longest list of potential coaches available in Jaguars history – and for that matter, the longest list of general-manager candidates too. That's what happens when you have the No. 1 pick and it's Lawrence, plus 10 other draft picks and the healthiest salary cap in the NFL right now. That's uber-important in a year which the salary cap is likely to contract for the first time ever. Whomever Khan hires will also have the pick of the litter when it comes to building a staff. Who doesn't want to go somewhere with a quarterback like Lawrence on their side? The Jaguars won't have to settle or wait for other teams to make their selection. They have the best job and can expect the best coach. The Jaguars have never been in a better, stronger position than they are right now. Who would have thought you could say that after a 1-15 season? Lawrence is already helping.