How Has Doug Marrone Survived This Long as Jaguars Head Coach?

Liam McKeone
Doug Marrone
Doug Marrone / Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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The Jacksonville Jaguars are trudging through yet another season as a bottomfeeder of the AFC standings. They currently sit at 1-10 on the year. Three different quarterbacks have started for the Jags in 11 games. Gardner Minshew, once viewed as some type of shiny rock found in the rough of the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, has been firmly planted on the sideline after hurting his thumb. Forced to start Mike Glennon this past Sunday, the Jags lost their 10th game of the season to the Cleveland Browns.

General manager Dave Caldwell paid the price soon after. Jacksonville announced it had fired Caldwell at 5:30 p.m. ET, less than two hours after the end of the Browns-Jaguars game. The decision brings an end to a seven-year run by Caldwell at the helm of the Jaguars, although he worked under Tom Coughlin for a few of those years. Given Jacksonville finished above .500 exactly once in those seven years, it's a bit of a surprise he lasted this long.

The same feeling could be extended to head coach Doug Marrone, who kept his job despite Caldwell's dismissal on Sunday. The Jags did not induce a house-cleaning of the most thorough type like the Detroit Lions did a day prior when they fired GM Bob Quinn and HC Matt Patricia. They gave Caldwell his pink slip, but kept Marrone around. It is not the first time Marrone survived a round of layoffs, and it's remarkable that he remains employed.

Marrone was brought on as an offensive line coach in 2015. By December 2016, he found himself as the interim head coach once Gus Bradley was fired. Interim head coaches rarely succeed in any capacity, given the nature of how they got the position in the first place. But Marrone did, doing enough to convince Jacksonville to hire him as the full-time head coach after the season ended. This was the same time they brought in Coughlin.

That 2017 season, Marrone's first as head coach, was the best Jaguars season since the days of Byron Leftwich. The team got all the way to the AFC Championship Game with a lead in the fourth quarter before falling to the New England Patriots. It turned out to be a flash in the pan in the truest of senses, as everything fell apart in 2018 and most of the key contributors to that playoff run were gone by 2019. Coughlin was sent on his way. The Jaguars continued to lose games.

And yet, Marrone has stuck around. All the more power to him. Keeping an NFL head coaching job even though his team has come in dead-last in the division in three of four years under his guidance is a difficult achievement.

It does make one wonder exactly what ownership sees in Marrone, though. He had that one good year, but otherwise hasn't shown much of anything that would suggest he's the man to lead the franchise into a new era of winning football. Perhaps they didn't want to fire him like Caldwell because firing a head coach midseason is far more disruptive for the players than firing a general manager. He could very well be on his way out the door as soon as Week 17 is concluded.

The Jags are reaching the point where they have to seriously consider doing that, no matter how much they appear to like Marrone. They will be picking in the top three of the draft, barring an unforeseen end-of-season winning streak, which finally gives them a chance at a top-tier quarterback prospect after a few seasons of drafting just low enough to miss out on such prospects. Whether it be Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance, the Jaguars will be picking a QB of the future come April.

Is Marrone the right man to tutor that quarterback and lead the organization to the success they've been failing to achieve for the better part of this century? His recent track record suggests not, but the front office may think he is. Their recent track record suggests that's the case.

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