SportsPulse: If road teams post a winning record in Week 17 home teams could have a losing record for the season for the first time in NFL history, proving there was never any real home-field advantage in 2020.
With their 41-17 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars fell to 1-14 and clinched last place in the NFL. This translates into the rights to the No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 draft, which everyone expects to be used on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
NFL talent evaluators regard the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Lawrence as a generational talent.
As we all know, it’ll take more than just a quarterback to truly transform the Jaguars into consistent contenders. But fortunately for Lawrence and Jacksonville, he presumably will enter a promising situation. If they play this right, the Jaguars could position themselves for a quick turnaround.
But first, owner Shahid Khan must decide to whom he will entrust this rebuilding project.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is indeed the favorite to go No. 1 in the NFL draft. (Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)
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This offseason, Jacksonville will hire a new general manager, and likely a new head coach, although Doug Marrone (23-42 in five seasons) has yet to officially receive his walking papers. Thanks to the No. 1 pick, an already intriguing opportunity only became even more enticing.
People in NFL circles now view the Jaguars as the most attractive gig on the market. General manager and head coaching candidates will find that this opportunity checks off all of the most important boxes that potentially could ensure long-term success.
Unity and patience
Everyone wants to work with someone that shares their vision and philosophy, especially when undertaking the daunting task of rebuilding an NFL franchise. They also desire ample time to carry this mission out. Khan has a track record of patience, which bodes well for the future GM and coach. The Jaguars have the opportunity to hire a unified tandem rather than dealing with the scenario where an incumbent coach or general manager inherits the other and experience frictions fueled by differences of philosophies on team-building. Khan’s best chance for success could be settling on package-deal hires similar to the 49ers’ selection of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch or the Bills’ Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane. Each of those franchises has enjoyed promising rebuilds because their coaches and general managers share the same beliefs on roster construction and talent evaluation. A similar partnership could help the Jaguars establish a similar foundation and pathway to success.
The No. 1 pick, which figures to be Lawrence, will provide the Jaguars a franchise cornerstone to build around. If for some reason they wind up trading the pick as San Diego did in 2001 with the stunning move to pass on Michael Vick, Jacksonville will receive a haul of picks to expedite its reclamation process. But even if they hold onto the pick and take Lawrence, the Jaguars have plenty of resources. The No. 1 overall pick is one of two first-rounders held by Jacksonville. The other is the 25th overall selection. The Jaguars also have two second-rounders (34th and 47th), a third (65th) and two fourth-rounders (98th and 121st) and fifth, sixth and seventh-rounders.
And that’s not all. Rookie running back James Robinson has been a bright spot this season, rushing for 1,070 yards third in the NFL), and third-year pro D.J. Chark is a talented wide receiver who posted a 1,000-yard season in 2019. Defensively, the Jaguars boast young stars like linebackers Joe Schobert and Myles Jack (both top 25 in the league in tackles), and promising cornerback C.J. Henderson, among others.
The new general manager and head coach also will have the ability to expedite the roster overhaul with a productive free agency, if they so decide. Jacksonville has spent the last several years purging their books by trading away stars like Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue. In addition to the bevy of picks those moves provided, Jacksonville also projects to have roughly $80 million in salary cap space when the free agent market opens in the spring.
Brighter days seemingly lie ahead for the Jaguars after a 10-year stretch in which they have endured nine double-digit loss seasons while reaching the playoffs just once. And the promise offered by a Lawrence-led future could help the organization secure a long-term future that includes greater marketability and a new stadium deal in Jacksonville.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.