Jaguars keeping Marrone, Caldwell despite AFC South flop
HOUSTON (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell will return next season.
The futures of quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Leonard Fournette are far less certain.
Team owner Shad Khan issued a statement after the season finale saying top executive Tom Coughlin has decided to retain Marrone and Caldwell, even though the team flopped to last place in the AFC South.
The Jaguars fell to 5-11 with Sunday’s 20-3 loss to the Houston Texans, a year after finishing 10-6 and reaching the AFC championship game.
“We get judged on wins and losses,” Marrone said. “Obviously, this year, I didn’t do a good job. Period. I’m never going to step away from that. I’m happy with the faith because I do believe I will get this right.”
Khan gave Coughlin, Marrone and Caldwell one-year contract extensions after Jacksonville faltered in the title game and seemingly viewed this season’s slew of injuries — most of them on the offensive side of the ball — as a main culprit for the team’s failure.
“I have the same trust in Tom, Dave and Doug as I did upon their introduction two years ago, and I do believe our best path forward for the moment is the one less disruptive and dramatic,” Khan said. “Stability should not be confused with satisfaction, however. I am far from content with the status quo and while it’s best to put 2018 behind us, I will not overlook how poorly we accounted for ourselves following a 3-1 start.
“There were far too many long Sundays over the last three quarters of the season, with today’s loss in Houston being the final example that cannot repeat itself in 2019,” he continued. “That’s my message to our football people and players, but also our sponsors and fans, both of whom were remarkable.”
The Jaguars returned to Bortles as the starter after benching the quarterback following a loss to Buffalo on Nov. 25. But he did little to get Jacksonville’s offense going. He was 15 of 28 for 107 yards as the Jaguars managed only six first downs.
Bortles compiled a 24-49 record as a starter in five seasons. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft is due to count $21 million against the salary cap, and the Jags can save $9.5 million by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation.
Bortles was asked if he thought Sunday’s game would be his last for Jacksonville.
“I don’t know,” he said. “If I did ... I hope I’ll get an opportunity to come play again, but if not, I’ll figure it out and go play somewhere else. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got to wait until they let me know.”
When asked how he wants to be remembered for his time in Jacksonville, he said: “Hopefully, not by this game.”
Marrone said his team’s offensive struggles went far beyond Bortles.
“My confidence level is not about Blake Bortles. It’s about what we have to do offensively,” Marrone said. “Right now, that confidence is low, judging by the numbers. I’d be a fool to say I have confidence in anything, from an offensive standpoint.”
The Jaguars also could be done with Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft who missed eight games because of injuries and a suspension.
Fournette, who was inactive because of foot and ankle injuries, was caught by TV cameras sitting on the bench during the game and chatting with running back T.J. Yeldon while the offense had the ball. They were clearly disengaged with teammates and coaches.
Coughlin had strong words for both of them afterward.
“I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette,” Coughlin said in a statement. “They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.”