The Jacksonville Jaguars are still sitting in limbo as far as hiring a new head coach, now 46 days since the firing of Urban Meyer back on December 16. The head coaching search has been nothing short of a roller coaster. Last week, it appeared as if it was winding down as multiple reports surfaced, including from Big Cat Country, that the team was in the process of finalizing a deal to hire Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
The team had done a final interview with now current Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, scheduled a final interview with now current Denver Broncos head coach Nate Hackett and had Leftwich in the fold. There was a clear final three and it was coming to an end.
Until it didn’t. Something changed at the 11th hour.
The reality is however, nothing changed. Something stayed the same and that the was the problem.
General manager Trent Baalke was still there.
It has become increasingly clear the biggest hang up in the Jacksonville Jaguars hiring a new head coach is the presence of Baalke still on staff. Baalke has earned a reputation in league circles as someone who is a snake in the front office, will fight for his own job security while throwing others under the bus, despite his poor track record as a general manager in the NFL.
There were reports early in the process that Baalke would hinder the Jaguars coaching search, including rumors that a lot of the Jaguars top targets for head coach had reservations working with Baalke and those reports and rumors pretty clearly have some validity to them as it has played out. The team had hoped people would agree to work with Baalke in the interim, but that’s a big reason the Leftwich situation has gone radio silent and seemingly at an impasse.
There was a near 48 hour period where there was absolutely no updates to the Jaguars coaching search or the status of Byron Leftwich, from anyone. Not from the national media, not from local media, and not anything from Twitter. I can personally state my sources went dead silent.
Then suddenly on Sunday it was reported that the Jaguars were interested in interviewing Los Angels Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell for their head coaching job, the first sign that the Leftwich deal was potentially dead in the water. It was also reported that O’Connell could emerge as a favorite for the Jaguars quickly, which is where it got weird.
See, the problem with O’Connell is, his team is still in the playoffs. The Jaguars never requested an initial interview with O’Connell, who is someone who reportedly could fast track as their favorite... So now that the Rams have won and are in the Super Bowl, the Jaguars can’t even conduct a first interview with O’Connell until after the Super Bowl, in two weeks time. That’s simply time the Jaguars cannot afford to sit idle, especially when O’Connell is having a second interview with the Minnesota Vikings this week.
How can someone you never interviewed be a dark horse candidate who could be the front runner? What?
Regardless of what the truth is in the coaching search for the Jaguars right now, the optics of it are an abject disaster. It appears no worthwhile candidates want to work with Trent Baalke at the top, with good reason. It also appears the Jaguars are seemingly being stubborn to a fault with keeping Baalke on hand, who’s track record as a general manager in the NFL is actually awful.
I don’t know where this is going to end, but the Jaguars are now over 40 days in their coaching search where they had a head start on everyone in the NFL, but it appears as if they’re starting over from scratch.
The coaching search is a complete disaster because of the Jaguars insistence on keeping a bad general manager with a bad reputation around the league.