Fans rejoiced when Shad Khan bought the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011. We were promised a fresh approach and victories. For the first time in years, we had hope.
Apart for the 2017 campaign which ended one win away from the Super Bowl, the Jaguars continued to guarantee improvement and success, only to deliver a myriad of failures.
By hiring Urban Meyer as the new head coach and tanking the 2020 season to land the No. 1 pick in last week’s NFL Draft, Jacksonville is telling us better days are coming in a few months. But after being duped by the team for so many years, it’s not easy to keep buying into the hype.
Or is it?
Something does seem different this time around. The Jaguars have made sweeping changes after finishing 1-15. They’ve signed 12 free agents. They drafted nine new players, including everybody’s All-America Trevor Lawrence. And now there’s talk Tim Tebow could come back to play tight end.
While Khan has a collective record of 41-108 as the owner, he did more than come up with a catch phrase to keep the fans from hitting the exits.
“This time, I got it right, OK? I talked about the process here, seriously, over the last few months,” he said while introducing Lawrence to the franchise. “And you know, for me, it’s like as the owner you’re sitting on that knife edge of micromanagement and abdication. How do you strike that balance? And so, learning from experience. But starting off, we have the opportunity go with winners and then let them build.”
For fans, it’s a lot to take in. It’s the wakeup call we’ve wanted for years.
It’s going to take a lot to forget Blaine Gabbert. Or Justin Blackmon and Luke Joeckel. The team’s decision to draft punter Bryan Anger in the third round with the 70th pick – five spots before Seattle took quarterback Russell Wilson off the board with the 75th pick – should be a reminder for fans to keep their exhilaration in check.
Lawrence clearly was the best quarterback on the market. And for a team that’s been desperate to fill that void in the lineup, it was an easy pick. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder led Cartersville (Ga.) High to 41 consecutive wins and two Georgia state championships. From there, he was 34-2 at Clemson, where he led the Tigers to the 2018 CFP National Championship.
More impressive, he brings a refreshing attitude to a franchise that’s been going nowhere for too long.
“Obviously, you don’t know a place until you get there, and it’s been special since I’ve been here today, so [I’m] really excited to learn more about it and really be a part of the community and just to go to work,” Lawrence said. “I’m excited that I’m here and I’m officially a part of a team now. It’s kind of a weird period going from you’re on a team your whole life and you have this period before the draft, where you’re kind of just working to get better, but you’re not a part of the team and I miss that, so [I’m] just excited for that.”
Meyer also seems enthused. He emphasized winning will be an immediate priority, not a step of another rebuilding project.
“This team lost a lot of games last year,” he said. “There’s a bunch of games they could’ve won. You look at the roster that has some very good core players, but there’s also some very significant weaknesses that you had to hit, and I think we hit them. The one that was brought up, the tight end position, no, there’s still work to be done at that spot. We hit the three technique right at the end and hopefully he’s good enough and he comes in ready to go. It’d be a bad feeling if we started the draft with a bunch of holes and left the draft with a bunch of holes.”
By all accounts, Jacksonville didn’t address the need for a pass-catching tight end in free agency or the draft, which added fuel to the Tebow speculation.
Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner at Florida who was part of two national championship teams – both coached by Meyer. He had a brief career at quarterback in the NFL – all while scouts said he was better suited to be a tight end.
He left football in 2015, saying, “I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback.”
A year later he was playing baseball in the New York Mets farm system.
Now 33, he recently got a workout with the Jaguars as a tight end.
“Tim and I’ve talked about, when he was a quarterback in the NFL that was a big topic,” Meyer said. “I was so busy I didn’t give him the time. ‘What do you think? What do you think?’ and I didn’t know, I was too busy to even think it through. I know playing a position in the National Football League without — that’s a long shot, this is years ago. How did it happen this time? We had a conversation. He worked out with our tight ends coach, I stopped by, did not stay for the whole workout. We’re going to revisit here in the near future.”