Week 14 Start or Sit
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The Jaguars coaches and players endured another tumultuous week, with the repeated benching of top running back James Robinson highlighting their latest blowout loss and prompting quarterback Trevor Lawrence to plead for him publicly as Urban Meyer’s handling of the team continues to draw scrutiny.
The extent of Meyer’s credibility issues with his players and staff is mounting, with one position coach exiting for a college job last week and several others contemplating their next move as at least some changes to this staff are inevitable whether Meyer remains head coach in 2022 or not. Sources said general manager Trent Baalke has become a strong proponent of Jaguars assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong as an in-house candidate should ownership end up parting with Meyer after just one season.
Strong is well liked by the players and other coaches and has also impressed some in the front office with his mentality and approach in what quickly became a lost season. Strong has over 30 years of college coaching experience, including head coaching stints at Louisville, Texas and South Florida that included no shortage of success. He has adapted well to the pro game, and would have abundant support as a potential in-house replacement should Shad Khan opt to make a change.
There have been very few positive developments for the franchise since Meyer took over — his decision not to return with the team after a loss to Cincinnati going into the bye week was highly controversial — and at 2-10 they are clearly one of the worst teams in football and in contention for the first-overall pick again. They have yet to score more than 21 points in a game and have virtually no passing game in the first half of games since their Week 7 bye, with Lawrence’s development not going as planned and the yards and points coming mostly after the Jaguars are already well behind, with blowout losses occurring with increasing frequency.
His relationships with players were never a strong suit and have deteriorated further since his scandal-filled bye weekend in Ohio, sources said, and his abrasive interactions with coaches have only further deteriorated morale. Robinson’s usage has become another point of controversy; the run game was the one strength of the team, and Robinson is clearly one of their most impactful players, but Meyer has benched him for fumbling, including early in last week’s 37-7 loss to the Rams.
According to sources, Meyer made it clear on the coaching headsets that he wanted Robinson out of the game after he fumbled on his second carry on the Jaguars’ second offensive play of the game. Robinson did not return to the field until late in the second quarter and then was used more heavily late in the game with the team already down 30 points. Lawrence inquired with Meyer at one point as to why the team’s best skill player was still not in the game, sources said. Robinson ended up with just eight rushes, one fewer than struggling Carlos Hyde.
In his postgame remarks, Meyer indicated that running backs coach Bernie Parmalee was in charge of the rotation, which shocked coaches and players. Parmalee, sources said, has had an increasingly marginal role in the offense with offensive quality control coach Kyle Caskey, a former running backs coach in Detroit, assuming many of those duties.
Lawrence, not one to rock the boat in any way, addressed the issue publicly as well, urging Meyer that Robinson “needs to be on the field.” Protecting the quarterback is vital — a robust running game is essential to that — and Lawrence has not had the rookie season ownership envisioned when tapping Meyer to be entrusted with him.
“I know James is a hell of a player, so I want him out there,” Lawrence insisted in his midweek press conference.
The Jaguars play divisional games against the Titans and woeful Texans the next two weeks, which are generally seen as barometers of progress. A loss Sunday would give them their second five-game losing streak of the season.
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