Cough­lin’s fir­ing may save Mar­rone’s job

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS FRIDAY - By Mark Long


JACKSONVIL­LE — About 12 hours af­ter Jaguars owner Shad Khan fired top ex­ec­u­tive Tom Cough­lin, all the clocks in­side the build­ing were re­set. There was no more “Cough­lin Time” in Jacksonvil­le.

It could be the fran­chise’s most sig­nif­i­cant change.

There’s grow­ing be­lief that Khan plans to keep coach Doug Mar­rone and gen­eral man­ager Dave Caldwell in 2020. Mar­rone and Caldwell have two years re­main­ing on their con­tracts, and Khan ap­par­ently wants to see what they do can with­out one of the NFL’s most strin­gent taskmas­ters try­ing to con­trol ev­ery­thing from draft picks to sock choices.

“We’d love to see coach Mar­rone stick around and see this through,” Pro Bowl de­fen­sive end Calais Camp­bell said. “Change can be good. Too much change can work against you.”

The clocks were the most ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence fol­low­ing Cough­lin’s de­par­ture Wed­nes­day.

“It threw me off when I first got here,” de­fen­sive tackle Abry Jones said. “I thought I was late. That’s prob­a­bly the strong­est ad­just­ment we’re go­ing to have to get to, just re­set­ting five min­utes back.”

Khan said he de­cided weeks ago to fire

Cough­lin, who botched sev­eral draft picks, failed re­peat­edly to fix the team’s quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion and up­set star cor­ner­back Jalen Ram­sey so much that he faked a back in­jury to avoid play­ing for Jacksonvil­le.

Khan ad­justed his time­line af­ter the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion slammed Cough­lin on Mon­day. The union said more than 25% of player griev­ances filed in the last two years have been against the Jaguars — against Cough­lin, re­ally — and warned play­ers to “con­sider this when you have a chance to select your next club.”

It was dam­age Khan had to ad­dress.

“Mr. Khan was try­ing to send a mes­sage to the league and ev­ery­one else,” Jones said. “No one wants to have that on their team, where they have dis­grun­tled play­ers and they’re try­ing to get money back and all that.”

With Cough­lin gone, ev­ery­one in the or­ga­ni­za­tion can re­lax a lit­tle.

Mar­rone might not have to win his fi­nal two games, be­gin­ning Sun­day at At­lanta (5-9), but he prob­a­bly can’t af­ford another em­bar­rass­ment. The Jaguars (5-9) have lost 19 of their last 26 games, 11 of those by dou­ble dig­its and six by 20 or more points.

They dropped five straight by at least 17 points — the first NFL team to do that since Tampa Bay in 1986 — be­fore scor­ing twice in the fi­nal 5 min­utes, 15 sec­onds last week to up­set the Oak­land Raiders 20-16.

Play­ers praised Mar­rone for keep­ing them from crum­bling ear­lier amid one of the strangest sea­sons in fran­chise his­tory. Among the drama:

■ Line­backer Telvin Smith, the team’s top tack­ler the past two sea­sons, abruptly walked away from foot­ball in May.

■ De­fen­sive end Yan­nick Ngak­oue skipped most of the off­sea­son and part of train­ing camp in a con­tract dis­pute that re­mains un­set­tled.

■ Quar­ter­back Nick Foles broke his left col­lar­bone 11 plays into the opener and missed eight games.

■ Ram­sey got in a heated side­line ex­change with Mar­rone at Hous­ton and a much-less pub­lic one with Cough­lin af­ter the Week 2 game. Ram­sey de­manded a trade and re­fused to play un­til he got shipped to the Los An­ge­les Rams.

“We’ve had a lot of noise,” Camp­bell said. “Coach Mar­rone’s done an in­cred­i­ble job keep­ing the guys fo­cused and stay­ing on the task at hand. That’s im­pres­sive. He’s a very good coach.”

Cough­lin won two Su­per Bowls as coach of the New York Gi­ants. But he clearly failed to make the tran­si­tion from the side­line to the front of­fice, un­able to stop med­dling in game plans and seem­ingly un­will­ing to ease up on his man­dates and minu­tiae. Mov­ing clocks ahead five min­utes was just one of Cough­lin’s many nu­ances. Over­reach­ing with fines was another.

He tried to fine run­ning back Leonard Four­nette, who was in­ac­tive, more than $99,000 for sit­ting on the bench dur­ing the 2018 sea­son fi­nale. He tried to fine de­fen­sive end Dante Fowler $700,000 for miss­ing “manda­tory” ap­point­ments with team train­ers dur­ing the 2018 off­sea­son. An ar­bi­tra­tor over­turned both of those fines — and dozens more levied by Cough­lin.

Some stood. He fined cor­ner­back A.J. Bouye $10,000 for miss­ing a yoga class. He fined de­fen­sive end Dawuane Smoot $25,000 for miss­ing a team breakfast.

“You have play­ers from other teams come and ask me about the fines, like, ‘Is it true y’all get­ting fined for stuff like this?’” Bouye said. “They laugh at me be­cause they think I’m ly­ing. It makes no sense.” Nei­ther did the clocks, play­ers in­sisted. “It was the first thing we re­al­ized to­day: the clocks were dif­fer­ent,” Camp­bell said. “The only thing guar­an­teed in this busi­ness is change, es­pe­cially when you don’t per­form like you’re ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing.”


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