JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shad Khan is ready to build a winner, and the Jaguars have never been in a better position to do that than they are now.
Yes, a team coming off of a 1-15 season that has been a national punchline for years holds the most desirable jobs in the NFL.
Jacksonville has the No. 1 pick in the draft, expected to be a generational quarterback prospect in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It has six draft choices in the first four rounds, four of those coming in the first and second rounds. It has the most salary room in the NFL in what is expected to be a reduced cap in 2021. It has no state income tax to help pad offers to free agents.
And it has arguably the most patient owner in Khan, who stuck by losing coaches like Gus Bradley and Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell far longer than others in his position would have.
Add those together and it’s easy to see why the Jaguars, after years of losing, irrelevance and being a national punchline, hold most of the cards in 2021.
In the Jaguars’ 27th year as a franchise, this is the most pivotal stretch ever.
It’s also, without question, the top job on the market in what is going to be a very active coaching offseason.
Six teams go into the offseason looking for new head coaches. Six teams are in the market for a new GM.
Khan, and most around the league, see this in a far different light than when the Jaguars were making their last coaching hire in 2017. They elected to make interim coach Doug Marrone the full-time coach. An AFC championship appearance came in Marrone’s first season, followed by nothing but a steady and significant decline in the three seasons that followed.
While Urban Meyer is the big name linked to Jacksonville’s head coach opening, only one confirmed coach has been requested to be interviewed. San Francisco general manager John Lynch said on Monday that the Jaguars were one of three teams who requested permission to interview defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Lynch says Jaguars, Falcons and Lions have asked for permission to interview Robert Saleh.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) January 4, 2021
“Well, I certainly think there’s a huge amount of interest in this, much more so than the last time around. And I also look at really — we’re in a much different, and I would say a better position today than we were a year ago,” Khan said. “A little over a year ago, as you well know … we did have team disharmony and we were — for lack of a better word — salary cap hell. I think today, I frankly thought that we would do better.”
Khan finds himself in a different position, too.
He leaned more on others in making personnel choices in the past, and has actually been more of a hands-off owners during his first nine years as Jacksonville’s owner. Now, Khan said, he has a better view on what it means to be involved and an owner. A coaching and general manager hire, whenever that may come, will be determined largely by Khan.
“This time around, I think I have a much better sense myself. So, I am the key decision-maker, but we do have people at the Jaguars,” Khan said. “[Team president] Mark Lamping would be one who will be working with these people, so they will be involved from that viewpoint. But when it comes to who the key decision maker is going to be, I mean, you’re looking at him.”
That decision-making also includes keeping control of the roster, something that Khan has held since executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin was fired in late 2018.
“I think I can also share with you that last season, especially after Tom [Coughlin]’s departure, he had the roster control, so I kept the roster control. The candidates, the general manager candidates, I’ve been talking to them, [I told them that] for the immediate future I’m going to keep the roster control,” Khan said.
“I want the coach to know that also. It’s not really [about] who’s coming in, but it’s to really have a rhythm that everybody’s aligned on who might be leaving the team and who might be coming in, at least for the immediate future. Those are some of nuances that I want to make sure that everybody’s on board with because I think it’s really important here that we don’t head off in a wrong direction with an imbalance in power, for lack of a better word.”