JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dear Trent Baalke,
News4JAGs isn’t going to bury the lead here. We’re a proud and active newsletter, but not too big enough to admit when we were wrong. So, for all the fans who donned red noses and rooted for your next draft pick to be with a new franchise, we collectively throw out an apology.
We’re sorry for going along with the popular opinion at the time that you were part of the problem in Jacksonville. We should have known that it was that wretched Urban Meyer all along. What you managed to resurrect out of the ashes of Meyer’s stench is nothing short of remarkable. Sure, you had to overpay for free agents last year, but that’s not your fault. That’s what happens when you’re a Jaguars franchise that has been a perpetual laughingstock for just about every year in the 2000s.
There was Gene Smith and Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell and Mike Mularkey, good guys but just not good at their jobs. You got too much blame for cleaning up the Caldwell mess, and too much blame for being attached to the anvil that is Meyer. See, the Jaguars have been, historically inept, both on the field and in the draft and in free agency. The fans lumped you in with that because everyone wanted a reset after Meyer.
News4JAGs didn’t sign the Change.org petition for Shad Khan to fire you last year and we didn’t don a red clown nose for the Week 18 finale. But, we may or may not have been on the front office clean sweep train and liked a few ‘Fire Baalke’ posts on Twitter. Could you blame us? Even the fan who started that petition had a change of heart.
Entering the 2022 season, Trent, your signature move in Jacksonville was telling Meyer he could stay in Cincinnati after a Week 4 game. We know what happened next. Meyer stayed up there — an unbelievable move on its surface to not fly back with the team — and got caught with his hands on a woman who wasn’t his wife. That was a cloak and dagger move, Trent. That was the first major domino to fall in the Urban situation, and you pushed it over! The fans owe you for that one!
So, now is the perfect time to say we were wrong. We’re sorry. We take everything we thought and all of those liked social media posts back.
The 2021 draft class was a slam dunk! We can’t give you credit for Trevor Lawrence though. Even Gene Smith would have drafted him, although it would have been a coin flip on Lawrence or a punter from Delaware A&M.
Travis Etienne and Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco are long-term building blocks. Walker Little could be a starter at tackle this upcoming season and played very well with his opportunities in 2022. And the 2022 draft, while not a home run off the top, yielded an immediate starter at center (Luke Fortner) and defensive players with high ceilings.
That free agent class ... chef’s kiss, my friend!
Sure, the knock on Jacksonville for years has been it had to overpay to get players to come here because the Jaguars were awful. The sales pitch forever has been an easy one. The Jaguars were one of the league’s worst teams, but hey, we have pools! And there’s no state income tax! But then those players had to go out and lose just about every week. It’s great to get paid, but NFL players do have pride. And going 1-15 or 3-14 is a recipe for having to add a few extra zeroes to contracts to offset that awfulness.
So many people thought you massively overspent last offseason, Trent. News4JAGs knew you had to, so we didn’t pile on like the national media. But free agency has not treated Jacksonville well over the years (Bryce Paup, Hugh Douglas, Laurent Robinson, Julius Thomas, anyone?) so it was easy to be skeptical. You spent Khan’s money like News4JAGs’ ex-wife does. Need a receiver, here’s $72 million, Mr. Kirk. The most expensive guard in the NFL? Hey, Brandon, here’s $50 million! Darious! You want to play football in your hometown? Take this $30 million to the bank and come on!
Guess what? Those moves paid off exceptionally well. Not one of those signings would be considered a bad one.
In a season where so many things went right, Trent, the biggest was helping in the coach hiring process. We know you had a major role, alongside your boss, in hiring Doug Pederson. Sure, the hiring process looked out of synch and backwards like so many other Jaguars moves, but it, like so many other things you touched, turned into gold. Pederson already won an AFC Coach of the Year honor and is one of three finalists for the AP’s NFL Coach of the Year award.
So, Trent, we’re sorry there was ever a doubt. We’re sorry for the red noses. We’re sorry for retweeting or liking a ‘Fire Baalke’ social media post or two or three ... or 50. We’re so glad that Khan didn’t take the fans’ advice and send you to the unemployment line.
If anyone deserves a big thank you, it’s you. Job well done, Trent. Just don’t go back to the bottom of the AFC South in 2023 and all is forgiven and forgotten.