The Jacksonville Jaguars are no strangers to success. Shoot, they’ve succeeded in being named the winners of the NFL’s offseason each of the last two years. It’s success in the regular season that keeps eluding them.
Despite spending more money than anyone else in free agency (some $488 million) the last three years, the Jaguars have won just 11 games over that span, tied with the Cleveland Browns for the fewest in the league.
Given those struggles, it’s no wonder that owner Shad Khan chose to not only bring in a new architect to redesign the building project he started five years ago, but also to replace coach Gus Bradley with Doug Marrone as well.
As their league-worst 17-63 mark since Khan took over suggests, the Jaguars are a team badly in need of a makeover at both the executive and field level. There’s just one problem with that.
It usually takes a year or two for changes of the magnitude Khan has made to permeate an organization, so even if the Jaguars are indeed back on a path toward success, it could be a while before they actually succeed.
So what, then, would a successful 2017 season look like for the Jaguars?
Well, there is a chance that everything comes together immediately for this team, and that the Jaguars suddenly become the surprise club of 2017 by finally winning more games than they lose and reach the playoffs.
Some might even argue that the Jaguars are poised to do just that. They did spend big in free agency again this past spring, adding mostly to a defense that was better a year season than it’s often given credit for.
And they appear to have taken good advantage of their draft position, grabbing feature back Leonard Fournette fourth overall in the first round and left tackle Cam Robinson 34th overall in the second.
Both of those pieces should help make life a little easier on quarterback Blake Bortles, and so, too, should the executive decision made by new chief architect Tom Coughlin to change the team’s offensive identity.
The Jaguars are going away from the quarterback-driven, pass-heavy attack they’ve run in previous seasons to a more physical ball-control, power-running attack in an effort to be more balanced offensively.
It’s a smart move, largely because the scheme should allow the defense to spend a little less time on the field, which in turn should allow the defense to be more aggressive when it actually is on the field. And that could be huge.
With additions such as end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church, the defense could prove to be quite dynamic, especially if it can figure out a way to take the ball away a little more often.
It’s safe to say then that the pieces are in place for a quick rise, but the Jaguars’ division rival in Tennessee is poised for just such a rise, and the defending division champion Houston Texans haven’t just stood still.
Though the loss of Bouye could prove to be quite detrimental to Houston’s cause, the Texans could easily make up for that with even some moderately improved quarterback play.
Many still see the Indianapolis Colts as a better team than the Jaguars as well, but that will likely only be the case if quarterback Andrew Luck is healthy. Even then, the Colts may not be that much better than the Jaguars.
It’s quite possible then that, at the very least, the Jaguars can pull themselves out of the division basement. And while few would see that as any kind of real success, it would constitute a step forward.
And in the case of the Jaguars, any step forward, even one that doesn’t result in the team winning more games than it loses and reaching the playoffs, would be considered a success. It would be this season, at least.
Though the Jaguars are talented enough to at least contend for a playoff berth, they could miss that mark badly, win just five or six games and still have a successful season as long as they succeed in changing the organizational culture.
There’s little doubt that for years now the Jaguars have been mired in a losing culture, and that is the most important change Coughlin has to forge as the team’s new executive vice president of football operations.
It will likely take him more than a year to achieve the objective, but if he can get the process started he will have set the Jaguars up for future success. That in and of itself will make 2017 a successful season.
MORE JAGUARS COVERAGE
- What Yannick Ngakoue did well in 2016 and can improve on in 2017
- McMullen | Barry Church’s boasts are not as silly as you think
- McMullen | Blake Bortles is dialed in on winning