Jacksonville Sports Day

Kouvaris: Bortles, Marrone Should Stay

FILE PHOTO By NANCY BEECHER/Florida Sports Wire

There will be changes to the Jaguars for 2019; the question is, how many? There’s a lot of strange stuff that happens early in the offseason, so despite what you might have read or heard, I don’t think any decisions have been made about the Jaguars near future. Every NFL roster turns over about 20 players each year.

Two things in Jacksonville should stay the same:

Doug Marrone should be the Jaguars Head Coach
Blake Bortles should be the Jaguars starting quarterback

I know both of those are wildly unpopular among certain segments of the Jaguars kingdom but based on the landscape of free agency and the draft next year. if they want to contend, both of those need to stay in place.

The Marrone decision should be simple, that is if Shad Khan keeps Tom Coughlin in charge of the football side of things. (I think he will)

There are currently conflicting reports about Marrone’s future, which means nobody really knows. One suggests that Coughlin is going to come down from his VP spot and coach the team himself next year. If you know Tom, and you know Doug, that makes no sense. They have the same values when it comes to football, discipline and how to win in the NFL.

So if Tom’s in charge, Doug stays.

(One side note is if Coughlin, at 73 years old, resumes his coaching career, it’ll delay his eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for another five years. He’d be at least 80 before becoming eligible. His two Super Bowl wins with the Giants make him a solid candidate.)

Marrone said this week he hasn’t talked to anybody or even thought about the future.

“I’m just trying to win, I swear to God,” he said. “I’m not looking ahead. I’m not looking in the past. What can we do today? Who are the best players that we have that give us the best chance to win? That is simple and it’s honest.”

Since the Jaguars front office is notoriously tight-lipped about everything, it’s tough to say who made the calls on some of the missteps this season. Often this year Marrone has said, “It starts with me,” when it comes to making this team better. But certainly Coughlin had plenty of input.

Coughlin has said he’d “put the gloves on” with anybody who disagreed with his offseason moves. He seemed to shore up some spots, but drafting Taven Bryan hasn’t produced the desired results and not acquiring a true number one receiver is a glaring weakness.

Were they in the game for Amari Cooper? He seemed like an ideal addition to this Jaguars team even at a steep price.

Why did they wait so long to deal Dante Fowler? Knowing he was an issue early on should have made that move easy coming out of training camp.

Based on the historic lack of offensive production over the last 3 ½ games, it’s pretty easy to say Blake Bortles is the best quarterback on the Jaguars roster. Giving him a shot with Scott Milanovich calling the plays seemed like a better option to find an answer.

That’s why the decision to fire the offensive coordinator and bench the starting quarterback on the same day is a still a head-scratcher. Making those move simultaneously doesn’t answer the ‘Who’s the problem?’ question.

Agreeing with Coughlin that the Jaguars fell prey to “the nature of the game” is easy when looking at the injuries. You have to be a phenomenal athlete and football player even to be the last guy on any NFL roster, but guys are starters for a reason.

They’re better.

Playing with your fourth string left and right tackles, neither of who were on your roster when the season started would be enough. But eliminate your starting guard, center, tight end, and projected number one receiver and it becomes obvious you’re in trouble.

“I think it’s tough to argue that we wouldn’t be better without those guys out on the field,” Bortles said on Wednesday. “That’s why they were starting and were paid and all of that. That’s a realistic part of it.”

Blaming Blake became a sport in itself this year. No matter what happened, it was his fault. But with no protection, no running game and with receivers that weren’t open and couldn’t catch, he didn’t have much help. I keep looking at the Packers 6-8-1 record and thinking even Aaron Rodgers, generally considered one of the top three or four QB’s in the league couldn’t overcome a bad team around him. It cost Mike McCarthy his job.

“I think it wasn’t so much a huge difference from this year to last year, I think it was pretty small and minute,” Bortles said. “Things just didn’t go our way. I have no idea what is going to happen next year.”

Last season, Bortles showed an ability to win games with a solid cast around him. Is he great? No. But the quarterback doesn’t have to be great the way Coughlin/Marrone want to play the game.

Blake gets into trouble when he tries to do too much. His decision-making goes a little sideways and even his throwing motion lapses back a couple of years. He’s tried to win games all on his own, and even Rodgers has shown, that’s not possible.

Acquire a QB in free agency? Through a trade? Great! But who?

Joe Flacco’s not the answer and neither is Teddy Bridgewater. Nick Foles might be a nice fit but is Philadelphia really going to part with him?

And yes, the Jaguars should draft a quarterback in 2019. Will Grier in the 2nd round might make sense. He’s not as tall as Coughlin likes his quarterbacks, but neither was Mark Brunell. And Grier will be 24 years old next season, something Tom likes.

But no quarterback drafted next year steps in and starts and makes the Jaguars competitive.

“Earlier in the year, this year wasn’t so different than last year,” Blake said after Marrone named him the starter against the Texans. “We caught some breaks and some bounces. We were able to do some stuff last year, we had some stuff go our way and this year, it didn’t happen. We didn’t catch those breaks, we didn’t get those bounces and we didn’t help ourselves out.”

Getting the start against Houston isn’t going to change anybody’s mind about Bortles. And nobody’s said anything to him about his future. But he says he’s approaching it as if he’ll be around.

“I signed a contract here for three years, so I have every reason and purpose in my mind to play here for that amount of time or until they let me go and I will figure that out,” he said.

“I think the toughest part about it is you have no idea,” he added. “It is not like anyone tells me anything or talks to my agent and tells him what they are going to do with me. It is unknown.”

This Jaguars team doesn’t need a rebuild. That would delay the process beyond the usefulness of their defense. Some of those names will change, but I believe what Blake said:

“I think everything you need to be a successful team and win a Super Bowl in this league is in that locker room. So it feels like we are a lot closer to being good than we are having to rebuild.”

Named one of the “50 Most Influential People in Jacksonville,” Sam Kouvaris is the President and CEO of Pegasus Media Productions operating Samsportsline.com. From 1981-2018 Sam was the Sports Director/Managing Editor at WJXT-TV, Channel 4 in Jacksonville, Fla.

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