JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Marrone is not sure what the future holds for life in the NFL, but he is, like so many of us, plugging away, finding new ways to work and trying to be prepared for the draft, the offseason and the kickoff of the 2020 Jaguars season.
Speaking to reporters on a virtual press conference held over video conferencing technology, the Jaguars’ head coach said that the number of obstacles that the coronavirus pandemic has created have forced him to break out of the regular offseason routine, both professionally and personally.
“Even with my parents, who are in The Villages, you can't really go see them,” Marrone said. “Just kind of reaching out to them saying, ‘Hey if you need anything, I can drop stuff off at the door,’ because I really don't want them out.”
As far as his interactions with the players, right now, it would be limited under normal circumstances. The NFL calendar still calls for teams with returning head coaches to begin the offseason workout program on April 20.
“I think with the players, it's very difficult,” Marrone said. “We’re in a dead period. We've gotten a bunch of stuff out more from a standpoint of precautionary, making sure you're listening, make sure everyone is on board with how serious this is, and how we got all pulled together to treat this virus and stop it from spreading.”
Marrone answered questions for over 40 minutes on Tuesday, including addressing how he and the coaching and scouting staffs were working as they prepare for the continuation of free agency and the draft, scheduled for April 23-25. This is also the time of year that coaches are putting plans in place for offseason practices, Organized Team Activities, and minicamp when the foundation of what the team is going to be about gets laid.
“That's going to be difficult,” Marrone said. “I think that's a challenge. We're still working through that part of it. The part that we are working on at the moment is, the lines of communication, meaning that when April 20 comes, which was going to be our starting date for phase one, what do we have as coaches? What we're going to give the player in that timeframe-- how we're going to present what we're installing and what we're doing. Let’s get those on tape, let’s tape meetings, put them out there-- unless the league tells us otherwise--and then the players had the opportunity to do that on their own.”
With Marrone returning to the sidelines, but without Tom Coughlin over him in the Jaguars’ organization, Marrone also outlined the kind of team he wants the Jaguars to be. The characteristics he listed have been communicated to general manager Dave Caldwell and the scouting staff to help guide the type of players the Jaguars are looking for in free agency and in the draft.
“We want to be a big, strong, tough and smart football team,” Marrone said. “I think we want players that really enjoy playing, that love the game. We don’t want a lot of drama. We want people to be on the same page, as far as everything we’re doing is all about just trying to win. All the individual things will come if we win football games.”
The point about wanting to avoid drama is a clear reaction to the last two seasons when the Jaguars collapsed in the second half of both seasons and the locker room fell into chaos. Despite Marrone’s wishes, there is still drama (see Yannick Ngakoue’s most recent social media posts). There is also a clear starting quarterback. But remember, that was the case each of the last two offseasons. Blake Bortles had been resigned heading into the 2018 season and the Jaguars spent big in free agency to bring Nick Foles in last year. Neither was the starter by the following April.
But it’s not just about the quarterback. Marrone said that he would like to see better play from the offensive line and additional weapons added to the mix.
“We’re always trying to find more weapons whether it be on the outside, whether it be on the backfield or at the tight end position or whether it’s someone that is going to push the offensive line,” Marrone said. “Obviously all the starters are coming back there, our starting running back is coming back. Where do we plug in these players that can get on the field and make plays?”