JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a miserable 2020 season that included 15 straight losses and an even worse 2021 under Urban Meyer, the Jaguars’ new head coach knew that he has to build trust first.
He took two more steps to build that trust on Thursday.
On what was supposed to be the last day of the Jaguars’ organized team activities (OTAs), Doug Pederson opted not to run plays on the field but instead took the team for an outing at Top Golf.
Pederson has said that if you don’t build trust with the players, you can’t push them when the time comes. That time is training camp. His experience as a Super Bowl-winning player and coach has taught him that. In addition to the top golf excursion, Pederson told the veterans that most of them didn’t have to come back for next week’s mandatory mini-camp. So it will just be the rookies and select veterans.
Pederson also knew that when he took this job, some players and assistant coaches had endured quite a bit between the 1-15 campaign in 2020 and last year’s disaster of the Urban Meyer regime. So he came in with an approach that has created a sense of transparency, honesty and preparedness, traits that weren’t always obvious last year. Two of the assistants who were kept on from last year’s staff, running backs coach Bernie Parmalee and Tony Gilbert both say they have seen how the culture has changed and how quickly it was apparent that things were on the upswing.
“For some guys, it’s been a couple of years in a row for, some guys one year,” said running backs coach Bernie Parmalee. “And it’s like, ‘Okay, do we have to do this all over again?’ So obviously, it’s a trust thing. And Doug has done a great job of giving us the message given the players the message showing it, coaching staff, everything. So at some point as a player, though, you have to believe it. If you don’t believe it, you won’t progress.”
Parmalee called it a “black cloud” that the Jaguars had to get out from under.
Gilbert, who played for the Jaguars from 2003 to 2007, was the Jaguars’ assistant linebackers coach in 2020 and 2021, so he’s seen the lowest of the lows. But he also sees what Pederson has done in the first two months of his tenure to earn the trust of his coaching staff and the players.
“I think it started right when Doug came in,” Gilbert said. “He kind of laid out the plan for what he envisioned his coaching staff and his team to be and once he laid out that plan, and we kind of started meeting separately. Offense, Defense special teams. I think it transitioned until when the players got back I think everything’s just running smooth.”
For Pederson, these two decisions are about showing that he understands when to let off the gas.
“It goes hand in hand. It’s one of the key message points,” Pederson said. “Back on April 11, when when I started with this group we talked about the healing process and trust. I’ve seen this team grow from April 11 to today and how they’ve come together and a good, good group of leaders on this football team and how they’ve handled things and it’s just the right time.”
The Jaguars’ full roster will be back on the field on July 24 when they open training camp at The Episcopal School’s Knight campus.