When Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan purchased the Jaguars in 2011, he didn't really know what he was getting into, at least on the football side of things. He went into the 2012 season hiring a new head coach in Mike Mularkey and retaining general manage Gene Smith, who was just rewarded with a three-year contract extension from previous owner Wayne Weaver.
The Jaguars could have rebuilt their team in 2012 and started the process they're beginning now, but the problem was that the team sorely mis-evaluated themselves heading into the offseason. Khan, being new to the world of football, was convinced the team was close to winning and was willing to spend money to put it over the top.
"Business I understand. It was pretty obvious to me what we had to do. But the football side was like the Holy Grail. They had the ‘secret recipe' here and the self-analysis of the team was that we were pretty good, that we were just a little bit away from the playoffs and if we just get some free agents signed up, we'll be in great shape," Khan told Brian Soloman of Forbes. "That's why we ended up with the fourth-highest cash payroll last year. The result was self-evident. If you are honest with yourself and the team and the fans, there's only one thing to do when it's 2-14. When it's 8-8 you can be conflicted as to how much baby and how much bathwater there is, but here there was no baby - it was just water."
That didn't seem to be the only issue or the only disconnect inside the Jaguars building, however. When the Jaguars held their coaching search in 2012, Khan wasn't really all that involved according to an interview with Forbes.
"Gene led the search, so he had three or four candidates, but I certainly didn’t know who the candidates were, if that was the best list," Khan told Forbes. "Nothing against Gene, but as I saw in the process I ran [this year], pretty much anybody we wanted to talk to wanted to talk to us. It was all about football and a clean slate."
Not only was Khan not really involved in making the list of head coaching candidates like he was this past season, but the people who were in the positions of head coach and general manager didn't seem to be on the same page at all.
"They were on almost opposite ends of the stadium. That's how the culture was. They also had a lot of closed doors," Khan told Forbes. "To me, you have to have glass doors to see who's there, people walking in and out - have visual command. We went through this in industry. More transparency where you could stand up, see where people were, have a cup of coffee, exchange ideas. Here you're talking about players, the situation. We want both of these guys to sit next to each other and obviously be very engaged in getting the coaches' opinions on the players."
As it stands right now, Khan seems to have at least accomplished the latter with the hiring of Gus Bradley and David Caldwell, who's personalities seem to mesh really well at least from what little we have seen thus far in the process. Both appear to be on the same page.
Both can begin the rebuilding process, which is something Khan acknowledges needs to be and will be done.
"This is rebuilding, rebuilding from the ground up. There's no illusion about that," Khan told Solomon. "This is about as clean and intense a rebuild as you're going to have."
The house cleaning doesn't just end at the players on the roster however, Khan learned last year that it needed to come from the leadership and coaching too.
"But I think the most important thing, and this is one thing that I've learned from last year, that we would be very competitive in the first half. What was the key lesson there? [The opponents] made halftime adjustments far better. We came out and did what we were doing before. They did different stuff. That told me that there was better leadership and coaching out there. [Cleaning house] is disruptive and expensive," Khan said. "I just felt that it was the right thing to do for the fans, for the Jaguars. I was going to have a hard time looking myself in the mirror because I knew what we had to do. There was just no two ways about it."
There are other interesting nuggets from Khan in the interview, which can be read in it's entirety here, but the most shocking thing to me was it seemed like the past regime, ownership included, were kind of just sitting on their hands and going about things the wrong way.
In a way, it was good for Khan to learn the perils of ownership the hard way and getting it over with. A "trial-by-fire," if you will, because now he knows what not to do. How not to run a franchise.