When I started writing this post, Urban Meyer was the coach of this team, and it was not done before he wasn’t. So, rather than going on a rant about how Urban Meyer needs to go, let’s just look forward to where we can hope this team goes in the coming offseason.
Step #1: How should this organization structure itself?
Now Urban being the "top dog" should not prevent this team from considering a coach-centric structure moving forward, but it is understandable if Shad has a bad taste from this debacle of a hire last year. Frankly, I am lesson concerned about structure and more concerned about getting good people! I think Baalke through no real fault of his own should also be relieved of his duties and this team should start again from scratch.
With that being said, I think the "EVP-GM-HC" structure is the way to go and I would like to propose the following.
"Executive Vice President": I do not know what the exact title will be and sue to the bad taste of TC, I figure this team can find a different name for the same basic type of role, but I think identifying a veteran of the NFL who can come in and stabilize things. I will give Hays Carlyon the credit on this one when I say I think Jim Caldwell makes a lot of sense for this job. Caldwell has coached close to 20 years in the NFL, he has had success with multiple teams (he had success with the Lions!), and he seems to be less of a "disciplinarian" that Coughlin, which should be a good thing. In fact, after Coughlin and Urban, I think this team needs "boring" and to me Caldwell is such a boring hire that I would love it.
Head Coach: Let me start out with the following statement – "Trevor Lawrence is the single most important person in the organization, and everything this organization does this offseason needs to reflect this!" In fact, Jim Caldwell is not the worst person to have around with a young quarterback in mind, and the head coach hire obviously needs to be on the same page as Caldwell when it comes to developing a quarterback. I do not know specifically who fits that, so the best I could do is try to look for a guy with a background working with Caldwell. In doing some research I came across a coach who spent 3 years on the same staff as Caldwell and who I have been thinking is a sneaky good hire for this team. That coach is Wink Martindale. With his background on the defensive side, I don’t think he would stand in the way of Trevor Lawrence’s development. The offensive staff Martindale and Caldwell would put together would be extremely important, but I think the defensive staff might not need much of a makeover. I think some stability with the vision for the defense would be a good thing!
General Manager: So again, I think some background working with Caldwell might be important here, but I am less concerned about that, and more concerned with finding a quality personnel evaluator. Just like (I think) I did with head coach, I want to present an unexpected option. That option is Jeff Ireland. He has spent the past few years with one of the more successful organizations in the NFL and he has received a lot of the credit for success the Saints have had of late in the draft. In retrospect, I am not sure his tenure in Miami was as bad as people make it out to be, and I think a 2nd chance is something Ireland has earned himself. Again, I would not say this is an "exciting" hire, but I am not sure that is what the team needs.
Step #2: Roster Improvement
I am not really in the mood right now to plan out an entire free agency strategy, but I would like to make a few points about things I feel strongly about come this upcoming league year.
1) DJ Chark should NOT be brought back – There is a caveat to this statement, and that is if Chark is willing to take a one year "prove it" deal (at a salary barely above this past year’s). As I mention above, this offseason needs to be all about putting Trevor Lawrence in the best position to succeed. Players coming off their rookie contracts expect raises, and despite all the potential and intrigue of Chark, to me he does not represent enough of a surefire upgrade over a rookie who can be brought in. Obviously there is some level of advantage, and so giving him a slight raise could be a reasonable move. However, I might still prefer to spend the bigger dollars and try to get Chris Godwin (eventually Tampa will not be able to bring players back, right?), bring back Allen Robinson (if he somehow becomes available) or bring in a guy like Jamison Crowder, who I think gets free from the Jets and who has shown himself to be a quality contributor both in Washington and New York.
2) Spend on the offensive line!! – Without knowing exactly where this team will be picking in the draft, I am not sure whether the projected state of the tackle positions, but Walker Little and ________ should be the starting tackles next year or this team. Is __________ going to be a rookie LT taken in the first round? Is __________ going to be a rookie or free agent RT? I do not know. Either way though, there are 3 other positions on the offensive line, the current starting guards are hitting free agency, and the Jaguars should be prepared to spend money to replace at least one of them.
As for the draft, I figured I would get started with a 7 round mock draft using the NFLMockDraftDatabase simulator. I "forced" the trade into the #1 overall pick (from #3). I am not sure if what I did put the picks exactly where they would be in every round, but the general idea is there.
1.1 Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE Oregon – As a Wolverines fan, I do prefer Hutchinson, but I will admit potential bias. I see both of these EDGE players as premier talents, and either one at the top of the first round would make me happy and hopefully allow this defense to step it up next year!
2.1 Nicholas Petit-Frere OT Ohio State – Do not be surprised if every pick from now through the end of the 7th round is on offense, and at least 1-2 more after this one are offensive lineman. Without knowing exactly what gets addressed on the OL in free agency, I am going with a tackle here, although I could have gone with Darian Kinnard who projects nicely to the inside at the NFL level. I probably do prefer to find a veteran tackle to hold down one spot while Walker Little grows into the other tackle spot, but I went with the more important position that is harder to address later in the draft.
3.1 John Metchie III WR Alabama – This team needs skill position upgrades badly! Metchie may have been the best WR on Alabama this past year, and I think that ACL injury is going to have him drop just a little lower than he should go. When I saw him available here, I pounced!
3.8 Jeremy Ruckert TE Ohio State – You known this is not reality when the Jaguars address the tight end position at a respectable time in the draft. I did it here and I double dipped with another TE from Ohio State. This time though, the TE is more of a legitimate option in an NFL passing game.
4.1 James Cook RB Georgia – Behind James Robinson and Travis Etienne I do not see a RB on the roster that needs to be on the roster next year. Dalvin’s brother has a similar game to his brother, and at the top of the 4th round I think adding that kind of player (even if at a lower level of performance) as an RB3 could make some real sense!
5.14 Jaivon Heiligh WR Coastal Carolina – I really do not like how the board shaped up at this point. I was hoping to be more enamored with the interior OL at this point, but I just can’t say that anyone stood out here. I went back to the offensive skill positions and went with a 6’2 WR who has been playing for a decent team these past few years.
6.1 Myron Cunningham OL Arkansas – While Cunningham is listed as a tackle, he is also said to be a bit on the raw side, so I wonder if he can be shifted inside. Worst case, he is a true developmental player who can provide ome depth on this OL.
6.8 Cam Taylor-Britt CB Nebraska – I guess you will not need to be surprised that I went offense with every pick after 1.1 because it just seemed that unless I traded picks for future picks, there was only so much I could do to ignore the board and go offense on every pick. Britt just stood out near the top as a player at a position on defense that could use some depth.
6.12 Marquis Hayes IOL Oklahoma – I said this offensive line needs to be addressed, and a depth interior lineman in the 6th round after taking 2 lineman earlier certainly fits.
6.14 Connor Heyward FB? Michigan State – Listed as a tight end, the 6’0 230 lb. brother of Cam Heyward seems like more of a fullback or H-Back type. Without a real sense of what this offense would look like, I am imagining a role for such a player and so I figured when he was available here that I would grab him.
7.17 Ellis Brooks LB Penn State – Some depth in the linebacker room could certainly be something this team looks to address in the draft.
7.24 Ainias Smith RB/WR Texas A&M – A versatile player on the offensive side, this is again about me fantasizing of what we might see in this offense. While highly unlikely a 7th round player ends up as a major contributor, this is a good place to "swing for the fences" and the skillset here could be a worthwhile one.