Jaguars open training camp with eye on changing culture
By MARK LONG
Jul. 27, 2017
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jaguars coach Doug Marrone had a predominant theme during his first team meeting of the season: Winning.
It hasn't been the focus in Jacksonville for years and hasn't been a reality in a decade. It's the buzzword now as the Jaguars begin their first camp under Marrone and football czar Tom Coughlin.
"It's the first message because, to me, it is the most important message," Marrone said.
It's been a welcome change for a franchise that has posted a league-worst 17-63 record over the past five years and hasn't been above .500 or made the playoffs since 2007.
Players crave better results, which is why they gladly accepted stricter rules and increased accountability that come with working under a pair of old-school coaches.
"There's a different feel in a lot of ways and in a very positive way," veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "That alone should have an enormous impact on the way we play. We're going to be very disciplined. We're going to be very physical. ... I think training camp will be a great challenge for us this year to really grow and mature and transform this team into what we want it to become."
Marrone and Coughlin have made a number of tweaks to the way Jacksonville operates, most notably by putting an increased emphasize on running the football.
They drafted LSU star Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick, added Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson in the second round, traded for veteran left tackle Branden Albert and made Brandon Linder one of the league's highest-paid centers by giving him a five-year contract extension worth $51.7 million.
Equally important to the change in philosophy, the Jags want to change the culture in the locker room.
Former coach Gus Bradley took an unconventional approach while rebuilding a roster that looked (and played) like an expansion team in 2013.
Bradley's always-positive approach came with annual slogans like "get better" and "we believe in victory" and "do your job" and "trust the process."
Winning was never the main topic of conversation in meetings or before games. Criticizing players publicly? No chance. Benching guys for poor performances? Unlikely.
Practices were relatively easy. Rules were kind of lax.
"I'll say this about Gus' philosophy: You wanted his way to work because it was something I had never seen before," said tight ends coach Ron Middleton, one of several holdovers from Bradley's staff. "You busted your butt and did everything to help it to succeed because you wanted it to succeed."
Owner Shad Khan fired Bradley with two games left in the season. Bradley went 14-48 in three-plus seasons, one of the worst coaching tenures in NFL history. Marrone, the team's former offensive line coach, served as interim coach the final two games.
Khan retained Marrone and hired Coughlin in January, and the former Buffalo Bills coach kept offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett and defensive coordinator Todd Wash a few weeks later.
The moves were a clear indication that Khan, Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell believe Bradley's methods were among the team's biggest problems.
Now, Marrone and Coughlin are tasked with winning — the lone goal these days.
"You can get yourself in trouble (with), 'Hey, what do you think of the locker room? Do you think it's starting to change? Hey equipment room, what do you think?' I'm more of, 'Hey, listen, this is where we are going. This is how we are going to do it. You are either on the bus or you are under the bus," Marrone said.
"We know exactly what we want in this team and we are going to try to instill those values in the team and hopefully all the things that we do on the field and all of the competitive values we are able to carry that over on Sunday and win football games."