<br> HOUSTON, Texas – Shad Khan sees significant progress.
While that hasn’t shown up in the on-field record, the Jaguars’ owner said it did show up in a big way during the recent search for a head coach and front-office leadership.
Khan, entering his sixth full year as Jaguars owner, early last month hired Doug Marrone as head coach and Tom Coughlin as executive vice president of football operations. The hirings capped a search process in which Khan said he learned that the Jaguars are ahead of where they were four years ago.
And Khan believes that’s a major step in the right direction.
“I think the big difference was we had a huge amount of interest this time around,” Khan told jaguars.com Saturday morning at The Regis in downtown Houston, site of Super Bowl LI Sunday. “Anybody we would want to talk to really wanted to talk to us.
“The most important thing was really getting it down to the short list [of candidates], and literally anybody and everybody we wanted to talk to was interested. It also confirmed that we do have the talent. Otherwise there wouldn’t be the interest. …
“What we’ve learned is where we started with and where we’ve come from … obviously a lot of positives, and then still not the wins we need to be sustainable.”
Khan said the interest level of potential candidates was a sharp contrast from four years ago when the team hired David Caldwell as general manager and Gus Bradley as head coach.
“Four years ago that was the common thread – that “you guys are so far [from contending]” that they [candidates] could get something more to their liking,” Khan said. “This time around we had the talent and we had the interest. We spent a lot of time with who would be the leadership of the team a day at a time.”
Khan said the increased interest was encouraging for a franchise that has won 15 games in his tenure as owner.
“I think if you don’t have the encouragement, the power of optimism, then you shouldn’t be in my position,” Khan said. “You have to absolutely believe it and you have to have the drive and passion to make it successful.”
Saturday marked the first time Khan had spoken publicly since the press conference three weeks ago to introduce Coughlin and Marrone. With time to reflect on the hirings, Khan said he remains pleased with the idea of Coughlin running the Jaguars’ football operations.
Coughlin, the Jaguars’ head coach from 1995-2002, coached the New York Giants from 2004-2015 and won two Super Bowls during his time in New York. He will have final say over football decisions with the Jaguars.
“Excellent,’’ Khan called the direction under Coughlin. “Tom has pretty much been Mr. Jacksonville and Mr. Jaguars with his history. I really didn’t know him well for a lot of different reasons. This [the hiring search] gave me the opportunity to spend time with him without any agenda on his part or our part – really just learning from him. The more I got to know him, the more I thought, ‘You know, this could really work.’
“He has the experience and the drive and the maturity. He has won at the highest level and he absolutely has the DNA for the Jaguars to win.”
Khan also emphasized that he likes the dynamic of the Jaguars’ leadership with Coughlin over football operations and Marrone and Caldwell both reporting to Coughlin.
“I think it’s going to work and I think it’s structured right,” Khan said. “Tom – for him to be effective, he didn’t want to be a hood ornament and we didn’t want that. He has to have sole responsibility. To be brutally honest, he didn’t ask for that. As I looked at it, I thought, ‘Really, we need that.’
“I think Dave’s done a great job on talent, but he’s a young guy. I think he can learn lot from Tom. There might be a natural human emotion of, ‘Gee …’ but I think if you look at what’s best for the Jaguars, I think this is the structure. Dave gets to do the talent and I think he’s worked hard. It’s, ‘How do we get more wins.’”
Khan also talked of the time spent with Marrone during the interview process.
“The more time I’ve spent with him, the more I like him – and I think he’s absolutely the right guy for us,” Khan said. “Not every coach or head of football operations are necessarily two peas in a pod the way Doug and Tom are with their history.
“You have to get the right people with the right responsibility that can work together.”
And Khan said while he senses a positive reaction from fans to the direction, “to me, we’re not doing these things for, ‘Hey, what are the fans going to say?”
“We’re doing it for, ‘What, in our judgement is the best way of winning?’’’ Khan said. “Eventually, that’s what it’s all about.”
Khan on Saturday also discussed the continued developments to EverBank Field in Jacksonville – and the surrounding area.
The Jaguars during his tenure as owner have renovated the locker rooms and training facility at EverBank, as well as the US Assure Clubs. They also have installed the world’s largest video boards and spa pools on the Fanduelville deck.
An amphitheater and flex field with an indoor practice facility are scheduled to be completed adjacent to EverBank’s South end zone by Memorial Day.
“The amphitheater is critical because we want more fans coming to the city,” Khan said. “We need to have more attractions turning football into a weekend. I’ve felt from Day One that the Jaguars can be a growth engine for the city of Jacksonville and help it realize its potential. The amphitheater and the flex field are absolutely vital to do that.
“We’re looking at working with the city south of there to have some critical mass and help revitalize downtown Jacksonville. We want to have growth over there where it is a destination. You need a critical mass to draw people and to generate revenue, energy and excitement.”