Jaguars’ failures place everyone under scrutiny
JACKSONVILLE — Jaguars owner Shad Khan can’t possibly look at what transpired Thursday night at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium and not take serious action. There now has to be consequences beyond just the normal roster turnover in the offseason.
Head(s) outside the locker room should, and must, eventually roll for this woefully underachieving season. This is getting way out of hand. It can no longer be dismissed by Khan as an aberration caused by injuries.
Nobody — not head coach Doug Marrone, defensive coordinator Todd Wash or anybody from front-office czar Tom Coughlin on down — should be immune from pink-slip consideration at this point.
Every NFL team is bound to have a bad game, but this was an abomination. It’s the kind of performance that can suck the life out of a franchise.
Such an embarrassing 30-9 road meltdown by the Jaguars against their biggest rival and nemesis, the Tennessee Titans, has to give Khan serious pause about whether the right leadership structure is in place moving forward.
Eight losses in the past nine games is bad enough. But the manner in which Tennessee and running back Derrick Henry punished the Jaguars — the Yulee High product bulldozed the Jaguars for a Titans-record 238 yards and four touchdowns — should send an unmistakable message about the depth of change that must take place to get the Jags franchise ascending again.
“You just have to take it and wear it because it’s the bed we made and got to lay in it,” said Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell. “This family that we built this year has three games left. Every year there is going to be change, but we just have to find a way to keep fighting and stay together just for pride, just for respect and you know, just for the love of the game.”
Look, nobody on the Jaguars is more respected than Campbell, but where was that fight, pride and respect in the biggest game the Jaguars had left this season?
If any matchup should have brought out a collective full-throttle intensity from the Jaguars, you figure a prime-time nationally-televised meeting with the opponent the players and fans despise the most would do it.
But that didn’t come anywhere close to happening. The Titans took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Even when Tennessee punt returner Cameron Batson gifted the Jaguars a safety and they were subsequently one yard away from taking the lead, everything just fell apart.
Leonard Fournette, the running back Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell drafted to be the cornerstone of the offense, had three carries to get the go-ahead touchdown from 3, 2 and 1 yard away and couldn’t deliver. The next play after Tennessee’s goal-line stand, Henry stiff-armed Jaguars defenders A.J. Bouye, Leon Jacobs and Myles Jack en route to a debilitating 99-yard touchdown run.
“I definitely wasn’t going down easy,” Henry said. “I’m going to use the stiffarm to my advantage.”
“We just didn’t get him down,” added Marrone. “There were guys around him. You see a hit, he goes on, another guy is running, guys running from the other side of the field, guys running from behind. We just didn’t’ tackle him.”
That wouldn’t be the first or last time. But right then and there, the Jaguars being down 13-2 with 7:07 left in the second quarter, you knew they were cooked. It just had the feel of a long night at that point, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
Quarterback Cody Kessler, making his second start in place of Blake Bortles, made a valiant effort with a limited surrounding cast. But No. 6 is too limited to rally the Jaguars back into contention, especially with that patchwork offensive line going against Tennessee’s stout defensive front and his receivers dropping balls.
Kessler or Bortles, it just didn’t matter. Neither did winning the turnover battle (2-1) or receiver Dede Westbrook having a productive night (7 catches, 88 yards). The Jaguars are just too much of a mess and, most alarming of all, seemed too disinterested in putting up a legitimate fight.
Nothing was more distressing than watching how ridiculously easy the Titans’ offense, ranked 28th in total yards and scoring, physically manhandled the Jaguars’ No. 3-ranked defense.
On Henry’s last three TD runs of 99, 54 and 16 yards, it looked like he was back in high school. When the 247-pound back wasn’t throwing defenders to the ground, he either zoomed past them or simply ran through tacklers as if they were minor impediments.
Even Marrone acknowledged in his postgame news conference that the Jaguars were something less than warriors.
“Well, I think when you’re going to look at the film, I don’t think you’re going to see the effort,” said Marrone.
For Marrone to say, “I’m heavily disappointed,” over this debacle qualifies as the Understatement of the Year.
The 2018 Jaguars (4-9), now officially eliminated from playoff contention, look like a broken team. Everybody knows 6 to 8 starters probably won’t be back next year due to salary-cap cutting measures.
So the question hovering over the Jaguars these next three weeks and beyond is whether the leadership trio — Coughlin, Caldwell and Marrone — that Khan signed to contract extensions last offseason will return in 2019.
As bad as things look right now, anybody in a leadership position with the Jaguars’ football operation deserves to be on the hot seat.
Titans running back Derrick Henry, who finished with 238 yards and 4 TDs, powers away on his 99-yard scoring run in Tennessee’s 30-9 win over the Jaguars on Thursday.