‘Starting over in a good way’: Jaguars turn the page from forgettable season

Offseason program begins as team puts 2021 in the rearview

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws prior to an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Steven Senne, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars have turned the page.

If it wasn’t clear that the train wreck of a 2021 season was behind the Jaguars, it was very obvious as the team started up its offseason program this week.

The previous coaching regime, led by Urban Meyer, was ill-prepared to lead an NFL franchise in more ways than one. The lack of relatability to the NFL game was clear and that manifested itself throughout the roster.

With a new head coach in Super Bowl 52 winner Doug Pederson, the respect is noticeable.

“It’s a different feel. I love that feeling and getting a chance to be with coaches who have experience in the league,” said cornerback Shaquill Griffin. “The first day we met with coaches and people were saying, ‘Yeah, I was in the league 10 years, 11 years, 10 years, 12 years’ that have actually played. That’s amazing to me and that’s a person who can understand anything that I might see or go through or maybe in the future that can help me out. I feel like the atmosphere is different because it’s so relatable.”

The Jaguars endured one of the most dysfunctional, disappointing and embarrassing seasons in franchise history during last year’s 3-14 campaign. Meyer’s partial season in town was a disaster, with public relations nightmares and constant drama swirling around the team on a weekly basis.

As more and more about Meyer’s time in Jacksonville has come out following the season, it’s even more surprising that a full-on mutiny didn’t occur.

In a story from The Athletic last month, numerous sources spoke out about the 2021 season, with one veteran member of the staff saying it was “the most toxic environment I’ve ever been a part of. By far. Not even close.”

Griffin, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne didn’t come out and publicly take shots at Meyer but their messages were united and very clear.

Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick last year, said there’s been a noticeable change in the locker room. “But I would say just from an energy and morale boost, it does feel like starting over in a good way. There’s a lot of positivity in the locker room, the building, a lot of energy which has been great,” Lawrence said. “I think it’s important to just kind of learn from last year and always not necessarily think about that all the time, you don’t want to think about the bad things, but you want to use what you learned and not make the same mistakes, especially as individuals, as players.”

Given a chance to add more about the forgettable season, Lawrence took the high road, saying that players can use those experiences to build on.

Meyer entered the league with impeccable college credentials at Utah, Florida and Ohio State, but never connected to the NFL game. His ways grated on assistant coaches and Meyer reportedly talked down to players.

If Etienne, a rookie first-round pick from Clemson had to miss any season, last year was a good one to miss.

Etienne suffered a Lisfranc injury in the preseason and underwent surgery to repair it. He estimated that he’s operating at 85 to 90% right now.

“Just going off of [head coach] Coach [Doug] Pederson’s resume, he’s won two Super Bowls, he’s been there. I think it was like 2017. He knows what he’s doing, so it’s easier to get behind a guy who’s been there, who has the blueprint. It’s just us trusting him and following his blueprint and I feel like things will work out. I’m definitely excited to see what the future has for us.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.