Many Jaguars fans are experiencing a sudden surge of optimism following the team’s win this past Saturday against the division-rival Tennessee Titans.
The win comes after a franchise-record nine game losing streak. It also came after the team finally parted ways with their head coach, Gus Bradley, and promoted Doug Marrone to the position of interim head coach.
The Jaguars team that won on Saturday looked significantly different than the team that entered the game at a woeful mark of 2-12. And with the coaching change being the only separation between the two, some hopeful fans have begun speculating that perhaps Marrone is the man for the job.
Such speculation is, of course, insanely premature and based on a sample size of just one game. However, given that speculation regarding the Jags’ head coaching vacancy has already taken off, now is a good time to examine the viability of Marrone as a candidate for the job.
The Case For Marrone
There’s no doubt that the Jaguars looked like a completely different team in their first game under Marrone. The squad played with an energy that hadn’t been seen since Week 1 against Green Bay, and finally looked something like what fans expected when the season began.
The energy level wasn’t guaranteed, as many on the team were heartbroken by Bradley’s firing. Nonetheless, Marrone was able to harness the team’s emotions and frustration into the most impressive game of the year.
The play-calling was more confident, like when Marrone sent kicker Jason Myers out for a 56-yard field goal rather than giving up on the drive. (Myers nailed the kick.) The team was called for just four penalties – another major problem area for the Jags this year. The offense literally looked like a completely different team, picking up 415 total yards.
Most significantly, QB Blake Bortles looked like he knew what he was doing – a rare occurrence this season – as he threw for over 300 yards in a win for the first time in his career and committed zero turnovers.
In addition to the success seen on Saturday, Marrone has the advantage of experience.
After the Gus Bradley experiment’s complete failure, the franchise would have to be crazy – and willing to ignore the overwhelming majority of its fan base – to hire another coach without head coaching experience.
While Marrone’s head coaching experience is by no means extensive, he did spend four years at the helm at Syracuse as well as two years as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
He led the Bills to their first winning season in nearly a decade during his second year in charge, but was forced out by the team’s new ownership following the season.
Prior to those gigs, he spent time as the offensive coordinator for the Saints and the offensive line coach for the Jets.
While the ideal candidate for the Jaguars’ job would have more NFL head coaching experience, Marrone at least has a step on some less-experienced names being floated around.
The Case Against Marrone
The most obvious case against Marrone is one that we already mentioned: it was just one game.
It’s far from unheard of for teams to experience a short-lived period of high energy and high performance following a major coaching change. Additionally, multiple players alluded to feeling less pressure, as they had previously felt responsible for trying to prevent Bradley’s exit. A lot of what we saw on Saturday could just as easily be attributed to differing expectations, or a team collectively awaking from a bizarre year-long slumber.
It’s also important to note that as assistant head coach and offensive line coach, Marrone played a hand in the awful season that preceded Saturday’s win. His offensive line has been a big reason why the Jaguars have the third-most offensive penalties this year.
And while Marrone does have head coaching experience, it may not be enough for the young, directionless Jaguars. The common assertion when speaking about the team’s coaching vacancy is that they need a coach who already has a proven track record.
With a career NFL coaching record of 16-17, Marrone doesn’t quite match those expectations.
Marrone’s lack of an established track record becomes even more problematic when you consider the other names being floated for the Jags’ opening. GM Dave Caldwell has confirmed that Marrone will be on the team’s list of candidates, but joining him on that list will be guys like former Jags coach Tom Coughlin and former Falcons coach Mike Smith. Coughlin has two Super Bowl rings, and Smith led the Falcons to four playoff appearances.
Even the less-experienced candidates such as Kyle Shanahan or Josh McDaniels may be more appealing options based on their status as “high-risk, high-reward” candidates.
With Marrone being stuck in the middle of the pack experience-wise, it becomes much harder for him to stand out.
The Verdict: Maybe?
Obviously, where Marrone lands on the Jaguars’ list of head coaching candidates will be impacted by what happens in the team’s finale against the Colts. If the team reverts to its old ways just as quickly, Marrone won’t stand a chance.
Marrone could be an appealing candidate for the team if the big names like Coughlin and Smith don’t pan out. He would be more of a “sure thing” than candidates who lack head coaching experience, or a candidate like McDaniels whose only head coaching experience looked a lot like that of Gus Bradley.
It’s hard to say if Marrone would be the savior the Jaguars so desperately need. There’s only one thing we know for sure: it’s definitely too early to rule him out.