By Nick Shook
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Jacksonville’s leadership triumvirate produced a trip to the AFC Championship Game in its first season together, and is being rewarded for its efforts.
The most credit for Jacksonville’s turnaround — which took the better part of a decade — is due to Caldwell, who’s served in his current role since 2013. In that span, the Jaguars built the majority of their current roster through a combination of the draft and free agency. Caldwell constructed Jacksonville’s swarming defense with notable signings Calais Campbell, Barry Church, Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and A.J. Bouye, all acquired within the last two offseasons.
Caldwell isn’t without fault, though. His first draft with the team, in 2013, yielded zero positive results. None of that year’s selections — notables include Luke Joeckel, Johnathan Cyprien and Denard Robinson — remain with the team. To his credit, Caldwell rebounded in 2014, selecting Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Brandon Linder, Aaron Colvin and Telvin Smith, all of who were contributors in one form or another in 2017 (save for Robinson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year). He also landed multiple contributors in subsequent drafts: Dante Fowler and T.J. Yeldon in 2015, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue in 2016, and Leonard Fournetteand Cam Robinson in 2017.
Coughlin and Marrone arrived at their current roles simultaneously. The franchise’s first head coach returned in an executive role and Marrone was promoted from interim to permanent head coach on Jan. 9, 2017, after the franchise fired Gus Bradley following a 3-13 finish in 2016. Caldwell received an extension when the team made the two hires, bringing the trio in line through 2019.
Fresh off a 10-6 finish and playoff wins over Buffalo and Pittsburgh (the latter being an upset), Jaguarsowner Shad Khan has seen enough to keep his group together for the near future. He has good reason to: Jacksonville is young, incredibly talented and was this close to its first Super Bowl appearance before a fellow named Tom Brady wiped that out on a January night in Massachusetts.
The bologna sandwich-loving Marrone will see the majority of his AFC South-winning squad return for another run at the postseason with the added confidence gained by the organization’s backing in this deal, while Caldwell will work with the same backing in another attempt to improve his team. Coughlin, a sage football veteran, will continue to oversee operations.
The tarps are off at EverBank Field. Things are as bright as ever in Jacksonville.