Throughout my career in the National Football League, I have never been in favor of the idea of a team tanking their season. As I’ve said many times, it’s not a “real thing”. Professional football teams are trying their butts off to win each week, trust me. They don’t want to be embarrassed and the members of the team certainly don’t have their eye on next year 16 games in advance. But having said that, I would definitely have a strategy for the next two games if I’m the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now that the Jets have won their first game of the season, upsetting the Los Angeles Rams this past Sunday, the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has fallen directly into the lap of the GM-less Jaguars by virtue of them having played the weaker strength of schedule of the two teams in 2020. This is a big deal. For a franchise that is looking for identity on offense and has really been irrelevant for all but one month of the last eight years, it’s a no-brainer for Jacksonville. To that end, I would go against everything I stand for and recommend the following:
I had a chance to evaluate Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence on film. What I found is what most others have already known and spoke of, so there is really nothing earth shattering here. As an evaluator, I had to see him for myself, use my own criteria, examine their scheme and what they were asking him to do on offense. Initially, I wasn’t ready to jump on board, but I’m on board now with what I know. Lawrence is really really, really, good. But more specifically, he has all the physical skills you need to be a franchise QB in the National Football League. His arm strength is rare. His accuracy is solid. His athleticism is off the charts for his position and he’s 6050. Lawrence is tough and he can sit in the pocket and operate, even when it’s not a clean pocket. He has shown he can make all the throws that will be asked of him at the next level, both from the pocket and on the run. However, he’s not perfect. He has a tendency to wait too long to release some balls, mainly because he’s waiting for receivers to come open. Lawrence will at times make a questionable decision and predetermine his target (which means throwing into unneeded spots and coverage), but he has every tool that is needed to lead a team to the top in the NFL. Sure, the Clemson offense is simple and other than to execute the RPOs, he doesn’t have to process a lot of pre-snap motions or post-snap coverage information. I’m assuming he is smart, that he can learn, and that his mind is capable of expansion to operate a more-sophisticated NFL offense at a higher level. That’s a big assumption, but only scouts, NFL coaches and others who sit with this kid and talk ball with him will be able to find that out for sure.
I’ve seen enough to know that if I were Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, I’m walking down to Head Coach Doug Marrone’s office first thing this morning and making no bones about what I’m telling him. “There is no way we are winning one of these two irrelevant games coming up,” I’d say. “We have a chance to alter the course of our franchise for years to come and these two games mean absolutely nothing. We need to play all of our young guys to see who is worth keeping around.” If I were Marrone, I might even start QB Jake Luton again to get him two more weeks of facing real bullets. I hate to say this, because I have friends on the staff in Jacksonville, but here is the reality. Their fate has already been already decided. These final two games are not a reflection on them. The Jaguars have many more needs than just the one at quarterback, but the chance to solve their biggest issue is within their grasp. No team signs off on any tanking plan, no matter what the media or fans say. However, now that we are there, I would surely lose the remaining two games in order to insure the Jaguars can draft Trevor Lawrence and start planning for a brighter future. ☺