One of the fun things about having a new head coach, at least for me, is figuring out how to get the wheat from the chaff. Coach speak is obnoxious when you’re trying to get answers, but being able to read the coach speak and determine what the coach is really saying is an art form and usually takes a good while. With Gus Bradley we figured out everything was good in degrees, so something like “solid” actually meant bad.
New Jacksonville Jaguars head coach has been an interesting one to crack. He made some comments about Dante Fowler Jr. on Monday that I’ve been trying to parse, but I’m not entirely sure what he means. I asked a few friends and got an array of answers. I wanted to write about it, at least what I think it means, but I thought it would be fun to kind of go through how I go through some of these quotes to pick out what I believe is the real information.
So, I thought I’d kind of “show my work” on this quote from Marrone and trying to figure out what exactly he means. I’ve determined that Marrone is always quick to say everyone needs to improve, but if a player has done particularly well, he will slip in a compliment about them and then bring it back down, similar to what he did with his comments about Myles Jack.
Here is the quote, in full, with the context of the question asked. It immediately followed Marrone talking about coaching Jack hard and how some players need that. Knowing the order and context in which questions are answered helps a lot, too.
(On if Dante Fowler is another one of those players and how Fowler’s done this offseason)
“I mean he was doing well. Today was the first time he missed, which he communicated, we spoke to him about that. I’ve seen him getting better and better.I think it’s the same thing, the big thing for him is going to be, he’s done a very good job while he’s been here in gaining strength, flashing, and doing a good job nutritionally. I think he’s going to be in that same boat like I talked about with Marqise before, it’s really going to be a big transition for how we finish up this week and next week and more importantly the second offseason and how he reports. If he reports with his left knee and his weight and all that stuff is in the right spot, and then all we have to worry about is football, I think he will have a great chance to contribute. But we’ve got to say ‘Hold on a second here, we’ve got to add more weight, we’ve got to make sure you’re in better shape,” and I’m saying this about everyone, not just Dante. If you have to do that with any of the players, well then, you’re not really getting better and you’re not going to put yourself in a position to help your team win; what you’re doing is you’re taking up valuable time to get yourself in a position just to step on the field. That’s what we can’t have as a team and that’s going to be a big message for our team after the mandatory minicamp.”
Hopefully, everyone can read that well enough through the portions I’ve stricken through, which means I don’t think they’re worthwhile or really mean anything specific other than hollow coach speak. The bold portions I believe are the real meat of what we should take away from Marrone’s comments, so now we need to try to figure out what exactly he’s trying to say with them.
- “he’s done a very good job while he’s been here in gaining strength, flashing, and doing a good job nutritionally” - To me this says that like most young players, he had to learn how to prepare himself like a professional athlete. Getting his diet right so he can add functional strength rather than just mass by eating poorly. No harm no foul here and to me this says he took care of that end, which he may not have the past two offseasons.
- “more importantly the second offseason and how he reports. If he reports with his left knee and his weight and all that stuff is in the right spot, and then all we have to worry about is football” - In my opinion, this quote tells me Fowler may not yet be at the weight the coaching staff would like him to be at. Whether it’s heavier or lighter than he played last season, he’s not there yet. Again, I’m not sure if they’re wanting Fowler to be up or down from there, but to me it seems he’s not where they want him to be. It also tells me that these issues are impacting his play on the field more than they should. Maybe he’s not in the best shape yet, so he’s not able to take as many reps or he fades faster than he should. Maybe he’s too light and they think he will get pushed around and it’s not helping him take that next step.
- “But we’ve got to say ‘Hold on a second here, we’ve got to add more weight, we’ve got to make sure you’re in better shape,” - For the second time Marrone brings up weight, this time saying they need to add more. So perhaps the team wants Fowler in the 260’s to be able to play full time right end, or even full time left end down the line. Marrone does add the caveat that it’s for everyone and not just Dante, but by saying that the way he did he made sure to confirm it was, at the very least, referring to Dante. He’s currently listed at 255 pounds, which is about 10 pounds heavier than Yannick Ngakoue, Lerentee McCray and Caroll Phillips, by comparison. Dawuane Smoot, who the team has stated will play both end spots is listed at 264 pounds.
- “If you have to do that with any of the players, well then, you’re not really getting better — what you’re doing is you’re taking up valuable time to get yourself in a position just to step on the field.” - Here Marrone is stating that if you’re not coming in at the weight or shape the team is expecting you to be, you’re only hurting yourself because now instead of focusing on technique, etc., you’re still spending time getting yourself into the right shape/weight. For someone like Fowler, he really needs to be focusing on his technique headed into the 2017 season. He needs to be working on things like his hand fighting and developing a pass rush move. Those things should be taking up the lion’s share of his time, not focusing on hitting a target weight.
So, working through that I think this was a way for Marrone to say that Fowler isn’t quite where they want him to be right now and if he isn’t where they want him to be when he gets back from the “second offseason” (break between OTAs and training camp), then it’s going to be hard for him to contribute like they want. Perhaps because other players are further along than him and able to soak up those reps, which in turn will lead to playing time.
I don’t think it’s necessarily a damning view of Fowler, but just a nudge for him to focus on those things so he can properly focus on developing his technique going forward.