The Jacksonville Jaguars are tearing up the NFL. Their quarterback is finally playing like a No. 3 overall draft pick, elevating an offense that consists of undrafted rookie wide receivers and a thin stable of running backs, both the offensive and defensive lines are performing as good as they ever have in the history of this franchise, the secondary is the best in the NFL and cannot help themselves from forcing turnovers, and the linebackers are flying around the field wreaking havoc and preventing long-developing plays by the opposing offense.
In short, this team is firing on every cylinder at the most important time of the year -- and that was not the case 12 months ago.
After Week 15 of last season, the team was at a low point. They’d lost on the road and fired their head coach Gus Bradley. This was a team at a major crossroads with underperforming players at every position.
And then Doug Marrone happened.
Last year, this team was 2-12 before Marrone took over.
Today, the Jaguars are a game back from the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race.
It’s finally fair to ask — is Doug Marrone in the NFL Coach of the Year conversation?
This roster was filled with talent, but Marrone did what coaches are supposed to do — guide, lead, direct, form, and build a group of players with potential into an actual team.
Marrone’s discipline has kept the Jaguars focused in games where they would have lost their way in years past. Whether it was Allen Robinson’s season-ending injury in Week 1, bouncing back from losses all season where the frustration was palpable, or patiently developing Blake Bortles into more than just a game manager but a game winner, Marrone is getting every ounce of production out of this team.
Should other candidates be in the conversation? Sure.
Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams.
I think Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings will win it, honestly.
But Marrone deserves a spot in the final four or five teams. Going from 2-12 a year ago to a possible first round bye in the playoffs is a monumental turnaround and one indicative of the type of leader he’s been for this team.