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View from the O-Zone: Surprise, surprise

Posted Jan 9, 2017

Oehser: Eye-opening Monday changes the conversation around the Jaguars – and resets the tone for the organization’s future


JACKSONVILLE – As Mondays go, this one was a doozy.

Scratch that: As Mondays go, this was a knock-down, change-the-conversation, surprise-surprise version – the likes of which hasn’t been seen around EverBank Field in quite a while.

A head coaching hire …

A new boss of football operations …

A contract extension for the general manager …

Indeed, Monday had it all for the Jaguars – all in a few frenzied late-afternoon moments. By nightfall, the organization’s immediate and long-term direction suddenly was changed.

And that was the point, wasn’t it? Since the Jaguars dismissed Head Coach Gus Bradley on December 18, hasn’t the focus been on figuring the direction of the franchise? Of resetting the vision, if you will?

The Jaguars did that Monday in a big, eye-catching way.

The headlines:

*Doug Marrone is the head coach.

*Tom Coughlin is the executive vice president of football operations.

*David Caldwell will remain the general manager – with a contract extension.

*The contracts of all three will run through 2019.

The gist is that Marrone – the team’s assistant head coach offense-offensive line coach in 2015-2016 and the interim head coach for the final two games this past season – is now the permanent head coach, and Caldwell remains the general manager. The duo will report to Coughlin.

That’s it: the Jaguars’ leadership trinity, the trio now tasked with ending the nine-year postseason drought. That’s the reset that was needed after this past season’s disappointing, disillusioning 3-13 finish.

And if you wanted a new voice/face/leader for the organization, you got that, too – and you got it in the form of one of the most iconic, high-profile faces in franchise history.

Coughlin built this organization in the 1990s – and for those too young to remember his time as head coach, it’s not enough to say he built it. He absolutely defined the organization during his tenure. He was in the walls – and somehow, some way, it always in a way has felt like his building, his organization.

What will Monday ultimately mean? What will ultimately change?

What will be the details of Monday’s big-picture announcement?

The answers will wait for a Thursday press conference. The topics to be discussed then are many and fascinating:

*The makeup of Marrone’s staff. Nathaniel Hackett served as offensive coordinator for the final nine games of 2016 and Todd Wash served as defensive coordinator for the entire season. Hackett served as Marrone’s coordinator in Syracuse from 2011-2012 and with the Buffalo Bills from 2013-2014. Wash coordinated a Top 10 defense this past season, and there were media reports Monday that the defensive staff could be retained. Is it possible both coordinators will remain? It seems so.

*Coughlin’s role. Marrone and Caldwell report to Coughlin. That much is clear. Does that mean Coughlin will have final say over the roster? Over draft-day decisions? Over free agency? Those answers are unknown.

*Blake Bortles. Now that the franchise’s direction is set, how does the trio collectively view the third-year quarterback who is about to become a fourth-year quarterback and who definitely must improve for any of Monday’s announcements to have real impact? Will competition for Bortles be a priority? If so, what form will that competition take?

Those are some of the questions, and there will be more. For now, a final thought:

Marrone deserves this job, and he was a good candidate. There are those who will wonder why he wasn’t given the interim position earlier, and there will be those who wanted other candidates. Those feelings are fine, and there weren’t really any bad candidates for a team that interviewed not only Coughlin and Marrone in recent weeks, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

That’s a good list, and many will get head-coaching jobs in the coming weeks.

Marrone’s hiring won’t be as “splashy” as some other names, and it may not send the Jaguars to the top of offseason lists, but this wasn’t about splash.

This was about hiring an experienced NFL head coach with a record of success. It was about hiring a head coach who is comfortable in the role, and who can carry himself as a head coach. It was about hiring a head coach who can set the tone for an organization, who can command a locker room and who can provide the “reset” that typically is needed from a head-coaching change.

Marrone can do that. He won in Buffalo, and if anything was evident during his two-week stint as interim it’s that he is comfortable in the role. His task wasn’t easy in December, but he handled it well and professionally. He acted the part of a head coach during his interim two weeks, and there’s no reason to think he won’t slide easily into the permanent role.

What will Monday ultimately mean? What will ultimately change?

Those questions start getting answered in detail soon, but we began getting a glimpse Monday afternoon – and what a doozy of an afternoon it was.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

 

 

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