The Jacksonville Jaguars have extended the contracts of executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone through the 2021 season, team owner Shad Khan announced today.
Prior to today’s extensions, their previous contracts were set to expire following the 2019 season.
“The decision to extend the contracts of Tom, Dave and Doug isn’t so much a reward for last season, which no doubt was impressive, as it is to recognize their importance to our football team this coming season and for years to follow,” Khan said. “We’re past celebrating the accomplishments of our division title and playoff run, and now it’s time to take the next step. We need the right leadership firmly in place to make that happen, and it’s good to know we’ll have that with Tom, Dave and Doug secure in their roles with the Jacksonville Jaguars.”
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco reminded readers, Khan fired Gus Bradley, who compiled a 14-48 record in nearly four seasons, on Dec. 18, 2016. Marrone, who was the team's assistant head coach/offensive line coach, served in the interim for the final two games of the 2016 season. Khan removed Marrone's interim tag less than a month later in January 2017.
When he announced the hirings, Khan also announced a one-year extension for Caldwell through the 2019 season so the trio could be on the same timetable.
All three remain on the same timetable; it’s just longer now. And the reason is clear.
The Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South and made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The team played its first home playoff game since Jan. 23, 2000, and beat the Buffalo Bills 10-3. The Jaguars beat host Pittsburgh 45-42 the following week to advance to the AFC Championship Game against New England at Gillette Stadium.
The Jaguars held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead but quarterback Tom Brady
led the Patriots on two touchdown drives for a 24-20 victory.
One of the reasons for the team's turnaround was the construction of one of the league's best defenses.
Caldwell drafted numerous key players on the unit -- linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack, end Yannick Ngakoue, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey -- and signed what is regarded as the greatest free-agent class
in franchise history last March: end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church.
"The success we had last season was due to the efforts of many people, but Doug and Dave certainly played key leadership roles in guiding our team," Coughlin said in a statement. "They set the tone and managed the process on a daily basis, and we look forward to building on that process throughout this offseason and the coming season."
Still, as NFL.com pointed out, Caldwell isn't without fault.
His first draft with the team, in 2013, yielded zero positive results. None of that year's selections -- notables include Luke Joeckel, Johnathan Cyprien and Denard Robinson
-- remain with the team. To his credit, Caldwell rebounded in 2014, selecting Blake Bortles
, Marqise Lee
, Allen Robinson
, Brandon Linder, Aaron Colvin and Telvin Smith, all of who were contributors in one form or another in 2017 (save for Robinson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year).
In addition, the brain trust will apparently be dealing with a tricky issue in coming days.
The Jaguars have a window of opportunity to attempt to negotiate a new deal with a free-agent quarterback before the window closes on severing ties with Bortles.
A league source with knowledge of the situation tells Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio the Jaguars currently are exploring their options, actively.
Florio explained, "While the tampering rules prohibit direct communications with agents who represent looming free agents, tampering has become a normal business practice for all teams as free agency approaches. The process already has begun as it relates to Jacksonville’s effort to upgrade at the quarterback position, and it likely will continue -- if not accelerate -- next week at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis."
Available free agents include Kirk Cousins
, Case Keenum
, A.J. McCarron, Sam Bradford
, Teddy Bridgewater
and Josh McCown
This strategy has two potential glitches. Bortles is under contract for 2018 at a fifth-year option amount of $19 million. The payment becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year. If Bortles (who had wrist surgery not long after the team’s playoff run ended) can’t pass a physical by March 14, he can’t be cut.
Second, the quarterback with whom they reach an agreement in principle can renege without consequence, refusing to sign the contract after the Jaguars have torn up Bortles’ deal (much like Frank Gore did to the Eagles in 2015
Still, with Bortles in hand, the Jaguars have a chance to chase Cousins or McCarron if they so desire. It's not without risks, but couldn't the same be said of sticking with Bortles as their starter?