Woeful Jaguars need total tear down, full-blown restoration

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Shad Khan has tried for a decade to build his floundering franchise into a consistent winner.

The Jacksonville Jaguars owner has gone through four head coaches, three general managers and even brought back two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Coughlin to oversee one regime.

There was a sliver of hope in 2017 when the Jaguars made it to the AFC championship game, but even that star-studded team flamed out and now looks more like a one-year fluke than a timeless masterpiece.

“It’s hard to believe four years ago, but it seems like an eternity,” Khan said last week. “But we were there, very, very close.”

During Khan’s decade of dysfunction – he is 43-118 as Jacksonville’s owner – he has avoided the most obvious approach to fixing it: a total tear down and full-blown restoration.

It’s time, and arguably long overdue.

Khan fired Urban Meyer last week and ended one of the most tumultuous coaching tenures in NFL history after 13 games — and more drama than any team should be asked to endure. Meyer’s staff, including the entire personnel department he helped shape, should follow the former coach out the door.

After all, the Jaguars have shown little, if any, improvement in any area this season.

General manager Trent Baalke’s “value approach” to free agency delivered more mediocrity to the league’s worst roster. And the NFL draft, in which the Jags had five of the first 65 picks, landed more backups than starters. How does that happen to team coming off a 1-15 season?

Meanwhile, the on-the-field product continues to suffer. The Jaguars (2-12) have lost six in a row overall, 10 straight in AFC South play, 15 consecutive on the road and own a 16-game skid against NFC teams.

Jacksonville’s offense has scored seven touchdowns in its last eight games, and three of those came in the fourth quarter while trailing by double digits. The unit managed 16 points Sunday against a Houston defense that was without five starters and ranked 30th in the NFL.

Jacksonville’s defense has been better at times in 2021, but it allowed Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills to throw two touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks and help Houston reach 30 points for the first time since the season opener against, of course, Jacksonville.

And the Jaguars’ special teams have been a debacle most of the year, never more evident than Houston scoring 17 points off special teams gaffes Sunday.

Khan has tried to change his team’s direction several different ways, but never with a complete house cleaning. At this point, what could it hurt to try something new after giving the franchise’s starved fan base nine seasons with double-digit losses in 10 years?

“I feel their pain,” Khan said. “I mean, believe me, I know it because I’m living it. Regardless, I think we’re going to do better.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Although rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence seems to be regressing on the field, he’s making leadership strides off it. Lawrence openly questioned coaches for how little they were using running back James Robinson and then told anyone who would listen that all the drama surrounding Meyer had to stop.

“I think you have to be wise,” Lawrence said. “You can’t ever take things back that you say, especially publicly. But yeah, within the team, coaches, locker room, players, you have to speak your mind.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Lawrence’s receiving corps is one of the least dependable in the NFL. The Jaguars lead the league in drops with 29, more than four times as many as league-leading New England. They had five against Houston on Sunday, including egregious ones by Robinson and receiver Laviska Shenault.

STOCK UP

Cornerback Tyson Campbell has been the lone bright spot for Jacksonville’s rookie class. Campbell has 54 tackles and nine pass breakups, including two interceptions in the last four games. He looks like an upgrade from 2020 first-round pick CJ Henderson, who was traded to Carolina in September.

STOCK DOWN

Pass rusher Josh Allen has no sacks and just one tackle for loss in Jacksonville’s last six games, raising questions about how many pieces the Jaguars really have in place for the next head coach.

INJURIES

S Rayshawn Jenkins, one of the team’s seven captains, is headed to injured reserve with a broken right ankle. … LT Cam Robinson (neck) is considered day to day and should be good to go for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets.

KEY NUMBER

33 — number of losses in Jacksonville’s last 38 games.

NEXT STEPS

Thanks to new NFL rules, Khan can start interviewing coaching candidates working in other jobs during the last two weeks of the regular season.

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