It would be no surprise that all of my friends are sports fans. Oh, they have plenty of varied interests, from tango to traveling, investing to industry. But sports binds all of us together, it’s our common denominator.
All of my friends are also old enough to have been around to see the Jaguars become an NFL franchise and take pride in having a team in our town. And like a majority of Jaguars fans, they moved here from somewhere else. So, their allegiance is split, but they all are Shad Khan’s definition of a fan: They buy tickets. Or more.
I asked them all this week about a new start for the Jaguars. A new coach, a new general manager, a whole new beginning.
“It’s a great opportunity,” ‘Big Beef’ a Giants/Dolphins/Jaguars fan said. Beef is an avid football fan and admits he looks at things through a fans eye. He supports the Jaguars by more than just buying tickets. He uses his time at the stadium to entertain and be entertained.
“With all of that cap space, the draft picks, the young guys on the team, I just hope they hire the right people to get the job done,” he added.
That was the consensus about hiring: get the right people in here.
Most of them said it makes them cringe to hear Urban Meyer’s name mentioned as a possibility to take over downtown. Citing the lack of success college coaches have had moving to pro football, they’re not sure Meyer’s resume should make him a candidate.
I agree with that and think it might be the most tone-deaf thing Khan and team president Mark Lamping could do in this search.
National pundits call Meyer a “prime candidate” citing his connection to Florida through his time in Gainesville. Obviously, they’re lapping up something Urban is putting out there or just didn’t pay attention to his departure from the Gators.
Meyer left as the most unliked guy he could possibly be for a coach who won two National Champions at Florida. And people still don’t like him to this day. Maybe he had health problems, but after leaving and saying he wanted to spend more time with family, I guess they were all living at the Fox Sports Studios because that’s where he spent most of his time. And he did almost the same thing at Ohio State.
None of this bothers my friend ‘Ghost of Chuck,’ a Bills/Jaguars fan.
“He’s a CEO type and that’s what the Jaguars need,” Ghost said this week. “He scares me as a college coach making the move to the pros. NFL players are different animals. I suspect the quality of his character over some of the things he’s done, but he has the leadership skills they need.”
My friend ‘The BQ’ also is a Jet/Jaguars fan. He sees Meyer as a bad fit altogether.
“College to the pros, it’s tough,” he agreed. Adding, “And he’s got a big ego, that’s hard to match a coach with a big ego with the ego of these players these days.”
“Look at Andy Reid,” he said as an example. “He never was bigger than his team. Coaches get carried away with themselves and they tend to shield themselves from the organization. That’s egotistical. Guys like Reid and Mike Tomlin, those guys are in the trenches with the players and the front office, the whole organization. The coach and the GM need to be part of the organization while leading it.”
Ghost said he doesn’t think the head coach has to be an x’s and o’s guy. Just somebody everybody trusts to lead.
“They need a coach who has the vision and passes it on to everybody else. The strength guy, the front office staff, the video guy The GM has to be a scout/personnel guy with an eye for the talent.
When I noted that the Jaguars have relied on ‘Super Scouts’ like Gene Smith and ‘highly thought of personnel guys’ like Dave Caldwell with no success, Ghost laughed.
“Just like in business,” he said. “Sometimes you have to keep the Peter Principle in mind. You promote somebody to the highest level of their incompetence. It really comes down to you have to pick the right players and you have to have a quarterback.”
You might remember my friend ‘Wooly’ from our trips to Las Vegas and the ‘action’ he likes associated with the NFL. As an Eagles/Jaguars fan, he’s stayed away from betting on the Jags saying he’s never sure what they’re going to do.
“I try to avoid betting with my heart,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve just stayed away from them. I never have confidence in them whether I bet with or against them. Their last two weeks in the regular season are a blueprint as why I’ve stayed away from ‘em.”
If you didn’t follow that, the Jaguars were competitive against the Bears in the first half in week sixteen, giving their supporters hope, and got blown out in the last thirty minutes. The next week they easily covered the spread against the Colts. A game where they were supposed to get blown out.
Which brings Wooly to his conclusion about a new Jaguars leadership team.
“The head coach has to have the experience of developing a young quarterback. You can’t rely on an assistant to get that done.”
And he added they just need to do the obvious thing: pick Trevor Lawrence.
“They have the opportunity to select a player to be the face of the franchise for the next ten years or more. This is the obvious pick. They need a quarterback in a quarterback’s league. And t’s going to continue to be that way.”
I was amazed at how insistent my friends were about taking Trevor Lawrence. Not that he’s not the right guy to take, but they all mentioned their fear that the Jaguars might NOT take him. They’ve been beaten down by underperformance and bad decision making for so long they fear the team won’t do the obvious, best thing.
“Take the quarterback and build around him,” BQ said, somewhat exasperated. “It’s the tried-and-true formula for the league over the past 20 or so years. Don’t overthink it.”
“He’s a generational talent, scouts think so, the other players think so,” Ghost added. “I’m using the Buffalo blueprint. Sean McDermott was a defensive guy but had a plan laid out for everything when they interviewed him for the job. The weight room, the staff, the practice schedule, all of it. He was building a team in the best sense of the word and now they have one of the most productive offenses in the league because they got the quarterback (Josh Allen).”
BQ echoed what everybody said when it comes to building the team from scratch: Don’t get fancy.
“Need a guy that sticks to basics,” BQ said of both the GM and the coach. Follow the rule book until this team gets on its feet. Basic blocking and tackling until they get established. They have some good young players. Get a core of players that are going to be around for a while.”
When I mentioned that Shad Khan was the second fastest owner to a hundred losses ever in the NFL, nobody laid the blame at his feet.
“I don’t hold ownership accountable for how they’ve lost,” Wooly said “He hasn’t been erratic. He’s been supportive. He hasn’t shortchanged the opportunity for the team to win like some owners have. The brand is fine, the product has been terrible.”
Amen to that.
The Jaguars have won at a twenty seven percent clip in the last decade, or perhaps better said, they’ve lost at a seventy-three percent average.
“Losing gets old,” Beef lamented leading to his solution. “Take Lawrence, get a line to protect him, build a team around him. Belichick didn’t worry about the quarterback the whole time Brady was there. Do the same here. It’s a team effort.”