When you muse about the historic franchises in the NFL, there’s always at least one guy that comes to mind when you think about a team.
Tom Brady with the Patriots.
Joe Montana with the 49ers.
John Elway with the Broncos.
Dan Marino with the Dolphins.
And the list goes on and on.
All these teams have “the guy” that surfaces in the forefront of the brain and evokes emotions for a fan base. Heck, some teams like the Green Bay Packers has multiple options in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers and the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
When it comes to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the answer is easy for the fans who live and die with the franchise day in and day out — it’s Mark Brunell.
But would the casual football fan come up with that answer within three seconds of being asked the question? Probably not, and that’s a problem.
The Jaguars need to join the list, and in order to do so, it’s my opinion that they need to go overboard on quarterback and figure this thing out once and for all. Until they get the most important position in professional sports right, nothing else matters. You can draft all the T.J. Hockensons you want, but until the franchise tone-setter is entrenched under center, you’re just spinning your wheels.
Could Nick Foles be the guy? Sure. Heck, you can even argue that he already holds that mantle in Philadelphia.
The Jaguars certainly think so by making him the most handsomely paid free agent quarterback this cycle, and his experience in high-pressure situations and influence in the locker room makes the move an extremely logical one for a regime under duress to provide immediate results in 2019. I do not fault the Jaguars for bringing Foles in. I will fault them, however, if they don’t hedge their bets and put all their eggs in a quarterback basket that doesn’t have more than 11 starts in a season as a starter.
Now it’s time to put on the tin foil hat. Depending on how you look at it, the three main decision-making pillars from the team has dropped a hint for potentially still taking a quarterback they really like (Dwayne Haskins) with the No. 7 overall pick.
- Doug Marrone went on a tangent during his NFL Combine interview saying that it’s difficult because sometimes the coaching staff and front office have different responsibilities and frames of mind when it comes to acquiring players. The coach wants to win in the present and the front office has to keep checks and balances to maintain a long-term blueprint. It almost sounds like there was some serious internal dialogue about targeting Foles in free agency and a rookie they value highly in the draft. Perhaps they’ll end up compromising with both?
- Dave Caldwell stated that his biggest regret with Blake Bortles is not sticking to his guns about redshirting Blake for his rookie year. To be fair to Caldwell, they didn’t really have a choice. Chad Henne was playing so ineptly that he gave the team zero chance to win. Perhaps this is Caldwell’s second chance to take his quarterback and allow him to sit behind Foles for one or even two years to develop? For a prospect like Haskins who’s biggest knock is experience (14 games started), this could be a huge context clue.
- Tom Coughlin stated that signing Foles does not take them out of potentially selecting another quarterback in the draft. While it’s unclear if that means quarterback as high as seven or a guy like Will Grier, Tyree Jackson or Ryan Finley on day two/three, it’s obvious that the team wouldn’t be comfortable with just Cody Kessler, Alex McGough and Tanner Lee as contingency plans.
It’s more than just reading between the lines, as the logistics of Nick Foles’ contract could certainly insinuate a rookie quarterback as a long-term plan to give the team future salary cap flexibility.
A four-year deal on paper, the Foles contract is essentially a two-year deal with a very welcoming escape hatch after 2020. Oddly enough, this is right around the time the Jaguars will need to allocate some serious funds to extending their defensive stalwarts in Yannick Ngakoue and Myles Jack (both entering the final year of their rookie deal), and most importantly, Jalen Ramsey, who can be tagged for 2020. Caldwell mentioned in his press conference this week that he has a plan for these guys and the extensions – is the structure of the Foles deal part of the plan?
The offensive coordinator
Having a rookie in the wings with two years of studying and tutelage under John DeFilippo would be a huge asset for future team building and roster construction. While DeFilippo has a prior relationship with Foles that will expedite the installation of the 2019 playbook, DeFilippo’s reputation around the NFL is his ability to develop a rookie quarterback. Dwayne Haskins is the most cerebral quarterback in this class, and you didn’t hear a peep from him when he sat two years behind J.T. Barrett at Ohio State. In the modern era of the NCAA where players threaten to transfer if they get looked at the wrong way by their coach, that says a lot. Haskins is an ultimate team player and had been telling teams at the Combine that if he had to sit, he would sit, study, and be ready whenever the time comes.
DeFilippo was part of the Eagles staff that not only drafted Carson Wentz despite trading for and paying Sam Bradford, but the Eagles traded up to one for Wentz. Is it really that much of a stretch of the imagination to pull the trigger on Haskins if he slipped all the way to seven? We just spent the last month on Twitter tossing around what we would give up to trade up for Haskins before the Foles deal in terms of future draft picks, and now he might land in the Jaguar’s lap. It wouldn’t shock me if he wanted a two-headed monster in the quarterbacks room with the experienced veteran and the ideal rookie to mentor, with the possibility of Alex McGough being his Nate Sudfeld “project.”
A competent rookie quarterback also gives the team necessary insurance in the event of a Foles injury, which he is prone to. One of the Jaguars’ biggest failures in the Bortles era was never acquiring any legitimate competition to push Blake. I don’t think they should make that mistake again. They can always fleece a team with a training camp/preseason injury and move Foles (or Haskins, if Foles is taking them deep in the playoffs) in 2020 for a king’s ransom.
Simply put, not having a legitimate backup plan to give yourself insurance for a quarterback who has never proven he can play a full 16-game season would be incredibly brazen, and if Foles did get injured, the amount of “I told you so’s” uttered around Duval County would be endless.
One topic I’ve seen bandied about is the ripple that taking Haskins with that pick would cause within the fan base and the locker room. There’s conjecture that some fans would be calling for Haskins the moment that Foles throws his first interception, and I couldn’t disagree more. After watching five years of some of the most incompetent quarterback play and lowest of troughs in the NFL, the bar is set so incredibly low for a Jaguars quarterback when it comes to the fan base that all Nick Foles basically has to do is throw a spiral in training camp and fans will be in love.
If Foles can lead the offense on a two-minute drill at the end of the game and get a win? He will be revered and celebrated. It works both ways, and the team and the fan base would give him ample leash to succeed. I think the fan base is more educated than given credit for by some pundits, and maybe I’m giving too much credit, but I don’t see a lot of griping from the peanut gallery unless Foles is personally contributing to a three or four game losing streak.
Then there comes the locker room. I have no doubt that Foles will earn everyone’s respect and the morale will be at an all-time high. Until he proves otherwise, the defense especially will have a new lease on life, knowing that the offense will at least give them a chance and capitalize on any turnovers they can muster. For anyone suggesting that the locker room would immediately splinter into #TeamNick or #TeamDwayne — stop it.
You know what the locker room wants? Wins.
If Foles is helping to bring in wins, you won’t hear a single rumble out of that group. Jalen Ramsey already posted on social media endorsing the Foles move but caveating that they should still draft a rookie. I agree with my King. Just win.
I have seen arguments that drafting a rookie would be a blow to Foles’ ego and confidence. If that really is the case, I’m sorry to break it to you – Foles was never a franchise quarterback. If “St. Nick” is really the transcendent locker room leader that everyone in Philadelphia depicts him to be, he wouldn’t throw a fit if he wasn’t producing wins or living up to his contract. He would do whatever was best for the team.
The Jaguars have already been chastised for passing on franchise quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes for Leonard Fournette (and some can argue Lamar Jackson for Taven Bryan, although it’s still early). Can you imagine adding Haskins to that list if he were to slip to seven? What if he started to ball out and became the next Watson/Mahomes? Jaguars fans would be at their wit’s end.
Foles is the guy until, at least, until 2020. There is no arguing that, and the team will also need to add weapons around him to increase his effectiveness. The popular picks for the seventh pick as of today are T.J. Hockenson and Jawaan Taylor. We all know that the draft history of both Tom Coughlin and Dave Caldwell hasn’t valued the tight end position, but with John DeFilippo’s offense so reliant on the position, that is likely to change. And to be clear, I like Hockenson. As Zach Goodall has put it, he should be a top ten tight end for the next decade and I agree with that assessment.
With that said, I would also urge fans to realize the salary allocation that the seventh overall pick comes with. Last year’s seventh pick, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, was slotted with a four-year, $21.1 million deal, averaging $5.3 million per year. That type of salary would be fairly steep for a tight end, but would be considered a steal for a competent back up quarterback due to positional value. Tyrod Taylor, for example, just signed a back up deal with the Chargers for two years/$11 million ($5.5 average). History has also shown that tight ends usually struggle to significantly contribute during their rookie years, so counting on a rookie like Hockenson to be the fulcrum of the offense off the bat in 2019 would be extremely optimistic, despite how advanced he is as a run blocker.
I’ve seen some opinions that they could look at quarterback in round three or four. Why? Those guys historically have very little potential of developing into a franchise quarterback. Say they go tight end, offensive line, and quarterback in the first three picks.
Would you rather come away with a trio of Dwayne Haskins/Offensive LIne/Foster Moreau or TJ Hockenson/Offensive Line/Ryan Finley?
The draft may lack elite offensive talent, but is chock full of depth at running back, wide receiver, and specifically, right tackle. There is a very good chance that a strong right tackle prospect is available at 38, and the Jaguars can come away with maybe two tight ends in the mid-to-late rounds at a much more reasonable salary than Hockenson at the top of Day 1.
If I was going to bet money, it’s most likely that the Jaguars go with an offensive non-quarterback with that seventh pick, even with Haskins on the board. I get that. I’m not insane. They seem to be all in on their marriage to Foles, for better or for worse.
But for a franchise with a constant question mark at quarterback next to their name, the most prudent approach moving forward would be to go overboard at the position.
Hey, the Jaguars could have gotten that last guy. Let’s not make that mistake again.