HOUSTON, Texas – It ended with a loss.
That was Sunday’s Jaguars result, but their long-term and big-picture story took place immediately after a 20-3 season-ending loss to the Houston Texans.
The leadership is remaining intact.
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan made that official in an announcement shortly after Sunday’s 2018 regular-season finale, saying in a statement that Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone will remain in their roles moving forward.
“I do believe I’ll be able to get this right, and I think that’s the most important thing,” Marrone said after the Jaguars were outgained 342-119 in a game which the Texans clinched the AFC South title the Jaguars won a year ago.
Coughlin and Caldwell didn’t speak to the media Sunday, as is the duo’s norm on game day.
Khan in the statement said he told Coughlin this past week he would be retained, saying he also told Coughlin he preferred “as much stability as reasonable or possible at the top of our football operation” entering 2019. He said the future of Marrone and Caldwell were Coughlin’s decisions.
“I am pleased that Tom sees our situation and opportunity similarly, so we will return to work this week fully confident and optimistic with Dave Caldwell as our general manger and Doug Marrone as our head coach,” Khan said in the statement, adding “I have the same trust in Tom, Dave and Doug as I did upon their introduction two years ago, and I do believe our best path forward for the moment is the one less disruptive and dramatic.”
Khan continued: “Stability should not be confused with satisfaction, however. I am far from content with the status quo and while it’s best to put 2018 behind us, I will not overlook how poorly we accounted for ourselves following a 3-1 start.
“There were far too many long Sundays over the last three quarters of the season, with today’s loss in Houston being the final example – and that cannot repeat itself in 2019. …”
The news spread quickly around the Jaguars’ locker room.
“OK … cool,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
That was the consensus among players – and the thought among players was that the rash of injuries sustained by the offense throughout the season defined the season.
“That’s good,” linebacker Myles Jack said of the Coughlin/Marrone/Caldwell news. “Give us another year to build together, come together. Last year we were a couple of plays away from going to the Super Bowl. This year there obviously was a lot that happened. We had a lot of injuries and a lot of bounces that didn’t go our way. We’re on the opposite end of the spectrum this year. That’s that we’re bringing back another year.
“We’ve got something special here. We just have to put it back together and we’ll be straight.”
The putting-it-back-together part will be a multi-pronged process, and it won’t be easy.
More than injuries ail this team, though injuries forcing eight different starting offensive lines contributed to the late-season offensive struggles that bottomed out with Sunday’s 119-yard, six first-down performance.
The Jaguars enter the offseason with major needs at most offensive positions, most pressingly at quarterback. Blake Bortles started for the first time in more than a month Sunday. It remains to be seen whether it’s his last game with the franchise, though the possibility is real.
Salary-cap decisions also will be faced elsewhere, with defensive tackle Malik Jackson likely playing his last game with the Jaguars Sunday. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, safety Tashaun Gipson, right tackle Jermey Parnell have big cap figures and will be big decisions. One cap decision, that regarding defensive Calais Campbell, could be easy. Campbell simply played too well late in the season to allow him to leave.
Finally, there is the issue of culture – an issue that could be seen on the sideline Sunday in the behavior of running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon.
Fournette missed Sunday’s game with an ankle/foot issue; Yeldon dressed but did not play. Both sat on the bench throughout much of the game, clearly disengaged and seemingly disinterested.
“I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette,” Coughlin said in a statement. “They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.”
Those are phenomenally strong words for a situation that clearly must be addressed. Marrone said he was focused on the game and wasn’t informed of Yeldon’s behavior until after the game. But he absolutely acknowledged the culture issue.
“We’ve got a ways to go, and that starts with me,” Marrone said.
No, this process won’t be easy. It will involve change – on and off the field. A team doesn’t slip from 10-6 to 5-11 if that’s not true.
Many of the changes are still to come. On Sunday, we learned of three that won’t be made.
And that preempted all else on the final day of the ’18 regular season.