JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars’ future begins today.
Actually, it began late Tuesday afternoon.
That’s why the process of finding a general manager went as it did, why it took nine days and not three or four, why it was extensive, not knee-jerk. That’s why Jaguars Owner Shad Khan wasn’t concerned with saving a day or two in a very public process that was still kept remarkably quiet, and that’s why the person Khan named general manager Tuesday – former Atlanta Falcons Director of Player Personnel David Caldwell – didn’t hurry the process, couldn’t hurry the process.
Why? Because futures were at stake the past few days.
The future of Caldwell, yes. But most importantly to Khan, and certainly to most everyone reading this website this morning, the future of the Jaguars was at stake – and that’s the reason you don’t rush a decision such as this, the reason you care not about Twitter, but about the decision.
When the decision’s this big, this important, you don’t rush it.
You take your time. You get it right.
Here’s what we know about the process:
Khan reportedly interviewed Caldwell first, a day after the regular season ended, hours after announcing the team had parted ways with former General Manager Gene Smith.
In the ensuing days, Khan reportedly interviewed 49ers Director of Player Personnel Tom Gamble, Caldwell a second time, New York Giants Director of College Scouting Marc Ross and Arizona Cardinals Vice President of Player Personnel Steve Keim.
By the weekend, the candidates were reportedly down to Keim and Caldwell.
Caldwell reportedly interviewed a third time Monday, with Keim opting on Tuesday to remain in Arizona as general manager.
Caldwell also reportedly interviewed with the New York Jets, who reportedly were high on the 38-year old, but early Tuesday evening, the Jaguars officially announced him as the general manager.
The team is expected to introduce him at a 4 p.m. press conference Thursday.
For now, speculation remains on the future of the Jaguars’ coaching staff.
Head Coach Mike Mularkey said a day after the final regular season game he was the coach until told otherwise. He said he and Khan met that day to discuss Smith’s departure, but Mularkey’s future was not addressed. Later that week, Mularkey reportedly told assistant coaches they had permission to speak with other teams, but that because they remained under contract with the Jaguars, the team could decide individually who would be retained.
What does that mean for Mularkey?
As of Wednesday morning, that remains unanswered, and it stands to reason it’s a question that will be answered far sooner than later, with reports that Mularkey’s future could be decided by Caldwell.
Stay tuned on that issue, and until then, the question:
Who is Caldwell?
The resume-based answer is he spent five seasons with Atlanta, as director of player personnel last season. He had been with Indianapolis 10 years before that. The Falcons made the playoffs four times in his time there and the Colts were a perennial playoff team, so Caldwell brings all of the postseason resume stuff.
But the resume isn’t the biggest thing on a hire like this.
Yes, it’s great Caldwell has been around success, great he has worked closely with not only Atlanta Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, but former Colts President Bill Polian. Dimitroff has been one of the NFL’s most-respected GMs in recent seasons, and no one has had more success building sustained winning NFL teams in the last 25 years than Polian. Caldwell has seen and heard for years fundamentally sound philosophies on how to structure an organization, how to scout players and how to piece together a team. Caldwell is respected by quality football people, and as one scout who worked with Caldwell with the Colts said late Monday, “If you get him, you guys will win.”
He’s that good, the scout was asked.
“He’s that good,” was the reply.
All of that matters very much. But all of that isn’t the biggest thing on a hire like this. All of the people with whom Khan reportedly spoke had impressive resumes. Marc Ross of the New York Giants. Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals. Tom Gamble of the San Francisco 49ers. Had Khan brought any of the aforementioned with him to the press conference Thursday, resume lines could have been cited, and excitement would have been significant.
No, at some point over the last week, Khan had to move past the resume and say, “This is my guy. I trust him with the direction of the organization for the foreseeable future.” And at some point, Caldwell had to say, “This is right for me – not somewhere else.”
Khan reached that point Tuesday; Caldwell did, too.
On Thursday, we’ll learn more about the “whys,” and the “hows.” We’ll learn, too, about Caldwell’s basic football beliefs, about what shaped him and the direction he believes in for the franchise.
He’ll spend the days and weeks after that hiring a staff, further familiarizing himself with the roster, analyzing team needs, deciding on the futures of Jaguars free agents, and determining how best to use the cap space the Jaguars have entering free agency.
Those decisions will shape the franchise, the short-term future, and the long. If enough are right, then what Khan said in announcing the decision Tuesday will be right, and that the “best days for the Jacksonville Jaguars are in front of us.”
The journey toward those days begins today – began Tuesday afternoon, actually – and the importance of that journey dictated the pace of events of the past week and a half. This was a decision Khan needed to get right. Did he?
He believes so, and that’s what we’re all going to find out.