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Jaguars will need to overcome outside distractions this season

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From being picked dead last in the power polls, to a media-driven tanking agenda, 2020 will be a true test for the Jaguars organization.

Philadelphia Eagles v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Jaguars are underdogs in each of their 16 regular season games this season.

While it is likely that statistic won’t stand the test of time, it is an indictment on the perception from outside of the organization as a whole. The team, quite frankly, has not been any good over the past two seasons, oftentimes stumbling their way to a victory or two before the season ends, offering just a glimmer of hope to an otherwise dismal showcasing.

That’s the perception of the team, and the Jaguars locker room will need to find unique ways to not allow the distractions to interfere with their performance next season. As as loudly as the Tank for Trevor, or Lose for Lawrence voices loom, for the most part, NFL teams rarely, no, never have that on their mind.

Last season, the Jaguars dealt with a litany of internal distractions. From the team’s most valuable player demanding a trade, which is well documented, to the NFL Players Association outing the team’s former EVP of Football Operations for a string of fines that would likely have Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin handing out packages instead of “envelopes” per week as a result.

Yes, the Jaguars have dealt with these issues before, however, the entire landscape has now shifted outward coming in instead of the opposite. The Jaguars have made a concerted effort to clean up their locker room, however, they’ve also allowed two important catalysts in the locker room to leave via trade, furthering the outside agenda of the team entering yet another rebuild.

With young players especially, there is a very delicate period from the moment they enter the building, to their opinions being formed about an organization. For now, the team is within the honeymoon period, however, without the right direction, leadership, and messaging all of that could be lost in an instant.

In speaking with Adam Schein of Mad Dog Sports Radio yesterday, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone spoke of the outside perception and cautioned that, for the most part, there isn’t a single NFL team that resorts to ‘tanking’, and definitely not on the gridiron.

“Just from being a former player and you hear words like ‘ah, they’re tanking’ or things like that,” Marrone said. “I’m not saying for us specifically, I’m talking about, you hear that in sports...But, I can you this with football: when you’re on that field and you’re in a game and it’s a physical contest, that’s not going on.”

There really isn’t. There is not much incentive for a team to physically push themselves to lose. Jobs are on the line, and without any other assurances of an unknown “saving the ship”, the gamble simply isn’t worth it. To win, that’s the only goal. However, while that is typically the fans’ angle on all of this, the players could view things from a different perspective, Marrone said.

“Where it comes in is if your players don’t understand the moves that you’re making. In other words, if you’re doing things and they’re going ‘wait a minute now, this is a great teammate, great player, this was a right decision’, those are the things that hurt a locker room.

“But, when you’re in there and you’re clear in your vision of what you want done for your football team and you’re explaining to the team what we’re looking for and what we’re trying to get accomplished and they’re like ‘okay yeah we get it’, that’s good.”

The team has had to let players of tremendous value leave. As mentioned before, the team traded two former Pro Bowlers in defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye. The team, however, will now have to buy in to what not only Marrone is selling, but every level of management within the organization as well.

For the Jaguars, Marrone says, the team will need to turn the outside noise into positive motivation moving forward. The team knows about the outside talk, the team being picked to be 4-12, picked to be in last place - none of it slips through, however how they handle it will tell the tale.

“All of that stuff, if you can say ‘oh woe is me’, but we take that stuff and turn it right around and use that as motivation. Part of the young player thing... one of the key things for us as coaches is we gotta make sure that we develop these players, because there’s no doubt that we feel like they have the talent. Now it’s up to us as coaches to develop them and put them in the right situations.”