It looks like the first coaching domino has fallen this year, and it involves an AFC South team. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jacksonville Jaguars plan to hire Doug Marrone as their next head coach.
Marrone was the Jaguars’ interim head coach for the final two games of the season, when the Jaguars went 1-1 and more importantly looked like a much more competent NFL football team than they had in the previous 14 games. Marrone had been the Jaguars’ assistant head coach and offensive line coach for the past two years, so he’s familiar with the team, and recent indications pointed to him being a serious candidate for the head coaching job. He’s been a head coach at both the collegiate and professional levels before, as he was hired by Syracuse University as their head coach after three very successful seasons as the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. In four seasons at Syracuse (2009-2012), Marrone went 25-25, won two bowl games, and in his final season clinched a share of the Big East conference championship.
He was then hired as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and went 15-17 in two seasons, leading them to a 9-7 record in 2014 - the best record the Bills have had in a season since 2004. Then, however, Marrone made one of the most curious decisions by a head coach in recent memory: he opted out of his contract with the Bills after just two seasons. He became an assistant with the Jaguars, serving as their assistant head coach and offensive line coach for two years, but it sounds like he’ll finally be getting his shot as a head coach again.
This hire likely won’t really excite many Jaguars fans, but it’s a solid hire. It doesn’t seem like a hire that will rejuvenate the entire fanbase, but Marrone is a solid coach who is familiar with the Jaguars, has a good background of experience as a head coach, and has done some good things as an offensive coach. The big question will be whether sticking with a guy that was in-house and part of the culture of the past few seasons is truly good enough to hire instead of going with a talented pool of outsiders. Whether that proves to be the case or not, the Colts saw him on the opposing sidelines in their week 17 win over the Jaguars and it sounds like they’ll be seeing much more of him next year. In short, this seems like a hire befitting of the AFC South: it might work out, but it’s certainly not exciting.