View from the O-Zone: The wait begins

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone watches play against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone watches play against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

JACKSONVILLE – Now, we wait.

The Jaguars' 2019 season ended late Sunday afternoon with a 38-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. It was a cathartic, uplifting, feel-good ending to a season that too often was none of those things. So, now what?

Now, it's about the futures of Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell – specifically, whether they have a Jaguars future. And if you had any doubt about Marrone's mindset at the end of a decidedly good day at the end of a decidedly weird season, he erased it with the final comment of his post-game presser.

"For me, it's very easy," Marrone said when asked what he might have done differently this season. "Am I disappointed? Obviously. Am I concerned? Yes. You are always concerned when you have a disappointing season."

Marrone smiled at this point and added: "But for this moment, when I leave here, when I'm done answering the questions … I might have a little bit more than one beer."

Marrone's smile widened after the last line, and why not?

This is a man who has been through a lot this season, who has spoken to the media week after week – often after difficult losses, often regarding issues beyond his control. He did all he could with what he had this season, and after Sunday's game the work had been done.

Marrone, as has been the case throughout three seasons as Jaguars head coach, was as candid as possible Sunday. He stayed true to his message of recent weeks – that he absolutely is responsible for the team's disappointing 6-10 record, and that he is unbothered by speculation his job may be in jeopardy.

That speculation reached a new level when ESPN reported Saturday afternoon that Marrone had been informed he would be dismissed following Sunday's game. Jaguars owner Shad Khan's spokesman, Jim Woodcock, tweeted shortly thereafter the report was "100 percent incorrect," adding that Khan "will meet with his football staff, which includes coaching and personnel, midweek next week."

Jaguars co-owner Tony Khan also refuted the report on Twitter, so it was no surprise that there was no news on this front Sunday evening.

Something will be announced one way or the other, presumably soon.

But for now, we wait – and so does Marrone, who was asked multiple questions about his future in the postgame press conference.

"I don't know," he said when asked what Sunday's victory meant to his future. "The one thing I will say is Shad and Tony are really great owners. The communication that we've had, even though it's not public, we've had a lot of communication. 

"They want to do the best job they can for our fans and for the city, for our sponsors, for everyone in the building. I know for me; I appreciate that and thank them. I feel that it's been disappointing. I know in my heart that I can take this team to better roads, but again, that's not my decision."

Marrone added: "I think Shad and Tony are going to look and see if that's the right plan and make the best decision."

As expected, the future was also a topic among players Sunday – and defensive end Calais Campbell offered strong support of Marrone.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Marrone," Campbell said. "He kept us together through all the thick and thin, ups and downs this season and kept us focused. Obviously, we didn't play as good as we wanted to this whole season but being able to finish all that we have and stay together is really a testament to his coaching ability.

"I think we can win a Super Bowl with him as our head coach."

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue agreed, saying, "At the end of the day, I have nothing but love and respect for Doug."

There was more to Sunday than speculation, of course. There was rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II's best game in two months. There was Ngakoue playing with heart and effort, then hearing the adulation of fans at TIAA Bank Field chanting "Pay Ngakoue" – a reference to Sunday being the last game of his rookie contract.

And there was maybe the coolest moment of the season, when Campbell – the team's heart or the past three seasons – returning a fumble for a game-clinching touchdown. If Sunday was Campbell's final game with the Jaguars – something that his salary-cap figure makes possible – that seemed a perfect ending for one of the best, most-respected players in franchise history.

"What better way than for Calais Campbell to grab it up and go?" Marrone said. "It's almost like if you had to write a story, that would be the story, and a lot of times that doesn't happen."

Campbell indeed was a feel-good story on a feel-good day. But what now? What about the other, long-term stories – the ones that will shape the future of the organization?

Now, we wait.

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