Whatever it is, the Jags ain't it. Entering our 25th season, we have won the AFC Championship zero (0) times and thereby been to the Super Bowl zero (0) times. We also have had just one (1) winning season in the last decade. Perhaps even more alarming, the magical 2017 season was the Jaguars first and only AFC South division title. That's right. Since the AFC South's inception in 2002, the Jags have finished in first place one (1) time.
Sure, we've had some good times (1996-1999, 2007, 2017), but by and large we've been a failure as a franchise. If you define success like I do (division titles, AFC Championship wins, and Super Bowl wins), the level of failure is magnified.
Most fans won't admit it, but in the big picture that's what success is: division titles, AFC Championship wins, and Super Bowl wins.
Best Examples of Success
There are many ways to build a good NFL team, and multiple ways to win. However, in the modern NFL, there has been a trend. In general, you won't compete for championships (at least consistently) without a good passing offense. Don't believe me?
Here's a list of AFC Champions since 2003:
- 2003 - Brady
- 2004 - Brady
- 2005 - Roethlisberger
- 2006 - Manning
- 2007 - Brady
- 2008 - Roethlisberger
- 2009 - Manning
- 2010 - Roethlisberger
- 2011 - Brady
- 2012 - Flacco
- 2013 - Manning
- 2014 - Brady
- 2015 - Manning
- 2016 - Brady
- 2017 - Brady
- 2018 - Brady
The Royal Dynasties
- Bradshaw to Stallworth
- Montana to Rice
- Aikman to Irvin
- Elway to Smith
- Brady to [Long List]
Blake Bortles to Marqise Lee
- Gardner Minshew II to Chris Conley?
"Tanking" in the NFL
In general, I'm not an advocate for tanking in that I'm not an advocate for losing on purpose. That's especially true for a team that (I used to think) had an elite defense and that I still pay for season tickets to see.
However, "tanking" is just a dirty word for what can be a reasonable strategy if implemented correctly and in the proper context. At its best, it's not losing on purpose - but rather paring the roster to amass more (higher quality) draft picks and thereby getting more shots at true franchise-changing players.
In the NFL, the only position to even consider in this regard is QB. This isn't like the NBA where one dude can take you from last place to contention in one season usually. However, a true franchise QB could be worth losing for depending on the circumstances. Especially if you feel you have a good young core to build around, but are missing the QB of the future.
There's also an aspect to tanking that's not mentioned enough: you don't have to spend the top pick on 1 player necessarily, especially not every time. If you want to trade down and get more than 1 impact player, you can. The trouble is, it requires a shrewd franchise that's good at evaluating prospects.
So what's the plan? How can the Jaguars be the next NFL dynasty?
The (Ridiculous*) Plan
1. Tank the 2019 season
2. Fire everyone including Tom Coughlin
3. Trade down in 2020 Draft for Jerry Jeudy and D'Andre Swift
4. Tank the 2020 season
5. Pick/extend the young core moving forward
6. Draft Trevor Lawrence #1 in 2021 Draft
7. Ride the Lawrence/Jeudy/Swift trio to glory for years to come
Tank the 2019 Season
Well we're off to a solid start. Say whatever you want about this team or the Chiefs, or that game, but the fact is we were down 37-13 with 10:56 to go (and 40-19 with 3:41 to go) in our home opener. Our "starting" QB (Nick Foles) is out indefinitely. Despite the grit shown by Gardner Minshew, he's a 6th-round rookie that can't be expected to lead this team to the Playoffs. And our "elite defense" is - in my opinion - not elite anymore. Top 10? Maybe. But the changes since 2017 have been largely underestimated or overlooked, and Todd Wash doesn't appear to be helping matters. Combine that with Foles injury, a few bad drafts (aside from players I'll address soon) and a complete lack of depth and...we suck right now.
Don't waste the suck. What's the best we can realistically expect to finish? Right now, ESPN's FPI has us on average picking 10th. Would you rather go 5-11 again and pick 10th overall, or use this season to acquire the #1 overall pick and trade down for 2 impact players?
Fire Everyone Including Tom Coughlin
How many Jaguars out there on Sunday came from Caldwell’s draft classes from 4 years or more ago? The reason I ask is because it’s directly indicative of how good you are at drafting and developing players (they’re still on your roster after their rookie deal).
- 2013 – 0
- 2014 – Marqise Lee (didn't start), Brandon Linder
- 2015 – A.J. Cann (didn't start)
The Ramsey/Jack/Ngakoue haul in 2016 is amazing, but if me and my friends on a couch were screaming for Ramsey and Jack before they happened, how much credit should the GM get on them? Enter Coughlin, and this duo drafted RB 4th overall when in need of a QB (despite Deshaun Watson and Pat Mahomes). I’m not even going to go into the Bortles contract extension, Taven Bryan, Tanner Lee, Allen Robinson, etc.
We’ve averaged 5 wins per season in the last 6 seasons since Caldwell was hired, and are no closer to having a consistently competitive team, a franchise QB, or a championship. He also missed on 3 consecutive Top 3 picks (Joeckel, Bortles, Fowler) and hired the worst coach in NFL history (Gus Bradley).
We need a clear gameplan and direction for the roster, and nothing that we’ve done from the 2008 Draft to the present makes me think we’re capable of being a consistently competitive franchise with current leadership. It’s a salary cap league, yet largely the same franchises have been consistently competing for championships and we still can’t seem to figure out that it’s the QB position and drafting well that matter most. Despite my love for Tom Coughlin, I don't think he fully appreciates the actual value of a draft pick because he's always in Win Now, Win Lunch mode. Don't believe me? Look at the Joshua Dobbs trade.
Trade Down in the 2020 Draft for Jerry Jeudy and D'Andre Swift
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I'll do a brief summary:
- Trade #1 pick to whoever wants QB Tua or QB Herbert the most
- Use your newly-acquired Top 5 or 10 pick on WR Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
- Use your other draft capital to grab RB D'Andre Swift (Georgia) where available (hard to say now, but likely late 1st or a 2nd rounder depending on production and if he remains healthy)
Tank the 2020 Season
With Jeudy and Swift on board, now we need the elite QB prospect. Trevor Lawrence is the target.
Pick/Extend the Young Core Going Forward
This part is perhaps the most important. You use these 2019 and 2020 seasons to evaluate all of your young talent and decide who will be a part of the revamped roster moving forward. Pick 5 to 8 players on each side of the ball as your possible building blocks. You won't be able to extend all of them, but you pick your building blocks as you go. Here are the candidates as I see it on the roster today:
- RB Leonard Fournette
- WR Dede Westbrook
- WR DJ Chark
- TE Josh Oliver
- LT Cam Robinson
- OL Will Richardson
- RT Jawaan Taylor
- QB Gardner Minshew II
- DE Josh Allen
- DL Taven Bryan
- DE Yannick Ngakoue
- OLB Quincy Williams
- LB Myles Jack
- CB Jalen Ramsey
- SS Ronnie Harrison
- LB Telvin Smith (?)
Draft Trevor Lawrence #1 in 2021 Draft
The best part about any plan is you can change it. If Gardner Minshew II looks like an elite QB for the next 2 years then plans change. You can take a pass-rusher, left tackle, possibly elite corner, or trade down. Heck, another college QB could emerge as the #1 prospect for 2021. But as it stands today, the long play is for Lawrence in 2021.
He's perhaps the most-touted QB prospect since Andrew Luck or Elway/Marino Draft (1983). He's easily researchable, so I leave it to you to scout him as you wish.
Ride the Lawrence/Jeudy/Swift Trio to Glory for Years to Come
Some of the best teams in the history of this sport had a trio at QB/RB/WR. Let's evaluate ours of the future:
- QB Trevor Lawrence - possibly the most highly-touted NFL QB prospect since 1983
- RB D'Andre Swift - dynamic running back with speed and power who can catch like a receiver; would potentially be a Top 10 or Top 15 pick but for the depth of UGA backfield and Coach Smart's philosophy; #1 RB for one of best rushing teams in SEC, at a school that has produced 20 NFL-drafted running backs since Herschel Walker including Garrison Hearst, Terrell Davis, Robert Edwards, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel
- WR Jerry Jeudy - possibly the best WR prospect since 2012; his play draws comparisons to Odell Beckham, Jr. but taller (6'1); polished route-runner who looks ready to play Day 1
Take one step back to take two steps forward. You can jump a lot farther if you get a running start. Quit leaping for the ceiling and raise the floor. A good foundation IS the foundation.
Businesses do this stuff all the time. You get lean and mean, and even though you may be reducing total revenue in the short term, you're increasing net profitability in the long term. "Tanking" is a dirty word, but in the context outlined above it shouldn't be.
There is no lottery, we largely can control whether we get the top pick (0-16). First-rounders also essentially are under team control for up to 7 years. If Jeudy, Swift, and/or Lawrence are truly elite - you can build a winning team fairly quickly. The point is the core of your team should be from young, homegrown talent (draft and develop), something the Jags have failed to do for a long time.
* It's only ridiculous if it "doesn't work". I wonder what that would feel like as a Jags fan...
We're going to have to compete with the Deshaun Watson's Texans and Pat Mahome's Chiefs for years to come. We'll have to (probably) get past one or both to win a Super Bowl any time in the next decade. Why not play chess while all the other teams without good, young QB's play checkers?