They’ve done it.
Following its 14th-straight loss this season, the Jaguars (1-14) have secured its bid to pick the best player in the 2021 NFL Draft by virtue of the No. 1 overall pick. While the Jaguars needed some help - the New York Jets defeated the Cleveland Browns 23-16 -, the team’s 41-17 loss against the Chicago Bears today would secure it.
Entering the matchup, much of the talk around Jacksonville and nationally centered around Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the opportunity to select him. It would become a battle between the Jets (2-13) and the Jaguars, who were able to leap frog the Jets last week after New York secured its first victory of the season over the Los Angeles Rams.
While the Jets and Jaguars can still finish the the same record following Week 17, the Jaguars will own the strength-of-schedule tie breaker. The current SOS difference, according to Tankathon.com, is .553 for the Jaguars and .598 for the Jets.
In its 26-year history, the Jaguars have never selected first overall, its highest placement would be second overall during the 1995, 1996 and 2013 NFL Drafts. At 1-14, the Jaguars will also either tie or surpass its worst ending record in history at 2-14 in 2012.
Lawrence, a true junior, has been the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2021 NFL Draft, if he should declare this season, since his freshman campaign. During his three-year career at Clemson, Lawrence has completed 725 out of 1090 (66.5%) of his passes for 88 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions.
While there has been talk of tanking, or losing on purpose, throughout the season for Jacksonville, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has denied that thought process and the team has looked competent for much of the second half of the season.
“I feel a sense of responsibility. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being able to get a football team to play well and a team that people can be proud of. I think when people start talking about that (tanking), then they know that you’re obviously not performing to the level that you want to perform to,” Marrone said earlier this month.
“Myself, personally, it’s very difficult for me to manage a team and to really read about what goes on and what people say or anything like that, so I really don’t pay a lot attention to that because I just have too much going on. But I’m not an idiot either, I understand that there’s talk out there.”
While there has been “talk” of the team tanking, that simply hasn’t been the case for the players nor for the coaches. The Jaguars, simply put, haven’t been good, and haven’t been able to finish games they ought to finish. A young, injury-riddled team is bad, nothing more than that.
Over the past several seasons, including this year, the Jaguars have not had a reliable player at quarterback. While the team had seen flashes from former sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew II, the quarterback regressed heavily this year, ultimately being benched twice during the season.
The Jaguars have started three quarterbacks this year, including Minshew, Mike Glennon and sixth-round rookie Jake Luton.
Now, the Jaguars will have their choice of any quarterback that enters the 2021 NFL Draft, including Lawrence. While the team has endured perhaps its most frustrating and complicated season in history, it could change the shape of the franchise for the next decade-plus.