JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the 2016 regular-season finale and its aftermath …
1. The season is over …The Jaguars' lo-o-o-o-ong, eventful 2016 season ended with a 24-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, thus ending perhaps the most disappointing season in franchise history. The Jaguars went 3-13 in a season when so much more was expected. The last eight losses were all decided in the fourth quarter. Maddening.
2. … and it was time.The season's aftermath was typical of the aftermath of many disappointing NFL seasons. With the future coaching situation uncertain, players such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey, safety Tashaun Gipson and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. on Sunday and Monday openly discussed dissatisfaction with their roles during 2016. When things go bad, theories abound …
3. The Jaguars were what they were.The Jaguars this season played 13 games in which they led, were tied for the lead or trailed by less than a touchdown in the third quarter. They lost 10 of those games, including seven consecutive games before former Head Coach Gus Bradley's Week 15 dismissal. The Jaguars in the regular-season finale had multiple chances to win in the fourth quarter. In that sense, the regular-season finale indeed was what interim head coach Doug Marrone called it: a microcosm of the 2016 season.
4. The coaches are in limbo.Players weren't alone in cleaning out belongings on getaway day Monday. Jaguars assistants remain under contract and could return, but there futures depend on the identity of the new head coach. That brings us to …
5. The coaching search is well under way …This actually began two weeks ago when the Jaguars dismissed Bradley. The Jaguars since then reportedly have interviewed former Head Coach Tom Coughlin for the position. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell also has said that Marrone is a candidate for the permanent position.
6. … and there's no clear pattern among candidates.Other reported candidates for the head-coaching position include Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith and Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. That's three offensive coordinators and two defensive coordinators, and it's two candidates with head-coaching experience (McDaniels and Smith) with three never having been head coaches.
7. Marrone is a legitimate candidate.There are times when an interim head coach's interview is little more than a courtesy. That's not the case with Marrone. He handled a difficult two weeks with experience and professionalism. He went 15-17 as a head coach in Buffalo from 2013-2014 and will be a head coach in the NFL again somewhere soon. Why not Jacksonville?
8. The Jaguars' draft positon is set.The Jaguars will select No. 4 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Cleveland (1-15) will select No. 1 overall followed by San Francisco (2-14) at No. 2, Chicago (3-13) at No. 3 and Jacksonville (3-13) at No. 4.
9. The Jaguars' home and away opponents are set.The Jaguars by finishing fourth in the AFC South will play Baltimore (8-8), Cincinnati (6-9-1), Los Angeles (4-12), Seattle (10-5-1), San Diego (5-11), Indianapolis (8-8), Houston (9-7) and Tennessee (9-7) at home and will visit Cleveland (1-15), Pittsburgh (11-5), Arizona (7-8-1), San Francisco (2-14), the New York Jets (5-11), Indianapolis (8-8), Houston (9-7) and Tennessee (9-7).
10. Quarterback Blake Bortles played through injuries at the end of the season.Bortles was listed on the injury report with a right shoulder injury during the final six games of the season, an injury that was reported this week as a grade 1 sprain to his AC joint. He also played with tendinitis in his right wrist late in the season.
11. Bortles' finish was a positive.Bortles struggled through much of the year and he enters the offseason needing significant improvement in many areas to ensure his future as a franchise quarterback. He must improve accuracy, decision-making and pocket presence and the time he spends with his personal quarterbacks coaches – Tom House and Adam Dedeaux – this offseason will be critical. But Bortles absolutely played better in the final two weeks of the season than he had for most of the first 14. He threw for 626 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns. He wasn't perfect, and many areas still needed improvement, but he showed enough signs to inspire more confidence than he had early in the season – and that was a start.
12. The offseason will be quieter.Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on Monday both talked about the coming offseason being more about work and less about the high expectations that dominated Jaguars news last offseason. Indeed, it's likely that the heady talk of playoff predictions from national media will be toned way, way down this offseason. And that's probably OK. Predictions don't matter. Results do. There will be plenty of time for giddiness if this young team moves in the right direction and begins to win.