Jaguars owner Shad Khan issued a statement Monday regarding Marrone’s permanent role as head coach.
“I am particularly enthused to introduce Doug Marrone as our new head coach,” Khan’s statement read. “Doug is a strong football man in every respect and offers us qualities that will serve us well in all facets of the team, from the meeting rooms to game day and so much more.”
Marrone was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and 2014, and his record with the team is 15-17. However, he opted out of his contract after going 9-7, which was the Bills’ best season since 2004. Marrone exercised his opt-out clause, which stated he could leave in three days if there was an ownership change. The opt-out clause was included in the four-year contract he signed in 2013.
Players were upset and stunned when they heard the news. Safety Aaron Williams tweeted this:
Center Eric Wood sent a text message to the Associated Press that said, “Surprised me. Didn't see it coming."
After his shocking departure from Buffalo, Jacksonville hired Marrone to become the team’s assistant coach and offensive line coach in 2015.
Why Marrone deserves this second shot
No one knows for sure why Marrone left. Indeed, there was an ownership change, but that probably wasn't the only reason he decided to opt out of his contract. Looking past that, he coached some great defenses during his time in Buffalo. In 2013, the Bills had the 10th-ranked defense, and they had the fourth-ranked defense in 2014.
His defenses did not surrender too many big plays, especially through the air. Marrone deserves another shot because he knows how to get a lot of production out of a defense.
On the other hand, his offenses struggled to make plays. In 2013, the Bills had the second-best rush offense in the NFL, but they did not have solid quarterback play. Quarterbacks EJ Manuel, Thaddeus Lewis, and Jeff Tuel each started in at least one game in 2013, and they only combined for 3,373 passing yards to go along with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Kyle Orton and Manuel both started in 2014, and they combined for 3,856 passing yards to go along with 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Marrone did not have a lot of talent on offense, but he still experienced some success.
He could thrive with a team that already has a great defense and some talent on offense. The Jaguars fit that bill.
Is this the right time for Marrone to be a head coach?
Marrone stays with a Jacksonville team that has a good defense with tons of talent. On the other hand, they have a significant issue: Poor quarterback play.
Quarterback Blake Bortles struggled in 2016. He couldn't avoid turnovers and didn't play with efficiency. Marrone has worked with Bortles for two seasons — albeit in a not-so-hands-on way — and may want to draft a quarterback or find one in free-agency, although he’ll work in conjunction with general manager Dave Caldwell to answer that question.
But the likely answer is that Bortles remains under center in 2017:
Jaguars 'liked the direction' Marrone took the offense in, as well as his 'belief' in Blake Bortles, per @RapSheet.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) January 9, 2017
With Marrone at the helm for the final two games of the season, the Jaguars looked like the team that many anticipated seeing in 2016. First, Jacksonville blew out the Tennessee Titans, 38-17, ending the team’s postseason hopes. Then, they jumped out to a big lead on the Indianapolis Colts before losing from a last-second touchdown pass by Andrew Luck.
In those two games, Bortles avoided some of the mistakes that proved costly all year. With Marrone as interim coach, he passed for 626 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The seemingly reinvigorated Jaguars team following the firing of Gus Bradley is a good sign that Marrone has what it takes to get Jacksonville back on track. If the team finds more consistent play on offense, the turnaround may not take long.