A 15-game losing streak to end the season made head coach Doug Marrone’s firing Monday by the Jacksonville Jaguars expected. A four-game winning streak at the end of the season, however, made Anthony Lynn’s by the Los Angeles Chargers at least a mild surprise.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan intends to take a more hands-on approach to fixing his franchise’s most glaring problems, he said, announcing he is handling the search for his next coach and general manager mostly alone, with some help from team president Mark Lamping.
“This time around, I think I have a much better sense myself,” Khan said after dismissing Marrone, the third coach of his nine seasons as owner. “I’m the key decision maker.”
Khan plans to have the team’s next power duo report directly to him, a structure he expects will keep him in the loop on major personnel decisions. Khan said he wants to maintain “roster control,” a term he later clarified as “you don’t want players going in and out or contracts given until you’re aware of that.” He also made it clear finding a franchise quarterback — hello, Trevor Lawrence — is as important as hiring the right people to those key positions.
“I think what’s unique is we have the ability now to make a choice,” Khan said, referring to its No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, “and it’s going to define the franchise moving forward.”
Marrone went 25-44 in four-plus seasons in Jacksonville, including 2-1 in the postseason. The Jaguars just missed the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 2017, losing a fourth-quarter lead to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, and was mired near the bottom of the league since. Marrone lost 21 of his final 24 games, including 15 by double digits.
General manager Dave Caldwell was fired in late November. Khan already interviewed former Houston executive Rick Smith, current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, and former New York Giants GM Jerry Reese for the GM position.
In Los Angeles, owner Dean Spanos fired Lynn after four seasons. Lynn led the franchise to the playoffs in 2018, but Los Angeles had losing records the last two seasons.
“I’m not sure there is another person in this league more respected as a human being than Anthony, and I want to sincerely express my deepest gratitude for his leadership,” Spanos said in a statement. “As we all know, this is a results-driven business and, simply put, the results of the past two years have fallen short of expectations.”
The Chargers won out after a 45-0 loss to the Patriots on Dec. 6, including a 38-21 victory over Kansas City on Sunday, though the Chiefs sat out many key players. Hired by the Chargers in January 2017, Lynn was the first Black head coach in franchise history and had one year remaining on his contract. He had a 33-31 regular-season mark and was 1-1 in the postseason, his team blown out at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13, 2019.
Quarterback Justin Herbert, a strong contender for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, . Other players said they found out via social media.
“He allowed me to step up and be a leader,” said Herbert, who set a rookie record with 31 touchdown passes in 15 starts and added he found out in a text message from teammates that Lynn was dismissed. “He taught me a lot of things about how to manage the huddle, how to step in there and take command.”
The Chargers were 7-16 since the start of last season in one-possession games. This season, they had double-digit leads in six games and lost four. Lynn’s clock management skills were questioned along with the team’s struggles on special teams.
According to the website Man Games Lost, which provides injury analytics to most NFL teams, the Chargers were the fourth-highest impacted team in terms of players lost to injuries.
General manager Tom Telesco has one year remaining on his contract and will be hiring his third head coach. He is 60-68 during his tenure with only two playoff appearances in eight seasons.
John Elway will hire new Denver GM, but remain to oversee football operations
Just hours after welcoming his seventh grandchild into the world, John Elway announced a major change in Denver’s football operations, saying he’ll hire a general manager who will report to him but have final say on the draft, free agency and the roster.
Elway will remain on as president of football operations in 2021, the final year of his contract.
“It allows me to still stay in touch,” he said. “My seventh grandchild was born this morning and it’s time for me to spend some time with them, too, and to be able to have that flexibility I looked at as a very good opportunity for me.”
Elway, who has been GM since 2011, built a team that reached the playoffs in each of his first five seasons, made two Super Bowls, and added a third Lombardi Trophy to the two he won in Denver during his Hall of Fame playing career. The Broncos, however, have won just 32 of 80 games since Peyton Manning retired in February 2016, following the victory over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.
Head coach Vic Fangio is 12-20, just one game better than the 11-21 mark that got his predecessor Vance Joseph fired, but Elway said Fangio will have a say in who’s hired as GM, as will team president Joe Ellis.
Browns lose Olivier Vernon; Bucs get good Mike Evans news
Browns starting defensive end Olivier Vernon ruptured his Achilles tendon during Sunday’s playoff-clinching win over Pittsburgh and is done for the season. Coach Kevin Stefanski said Vernon, who has played well in his second year with Cleveland, will have surgery. Vernon, an impending free agent acquired last year as part of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, had his ninth sack this season before he went down in the fourth quarter.
Former Patriot Adrian Clayborn will replace Vernon in the starting lineup.
Stefanski declined a chance to update the status on top cornerback Denzel Ward, who missed Sunday’s game after testing positive for COVID-19 and could possibly return for the playoff game at Pittsburgh. Ward was one of six players and three assistant coaches who weren’t available for Sunday’s Steelers game because of the virus.
Meanwhile, an MRI performed on Mike Evans’ injured left knee showed no structural damage, and the receiver’s status for Tampa Bay’s first playoff game in 13 years is day to day. Evans slipped on the turf in the end zone during the first quarter of Sunday’s regular-season finale against Atlanta. Coach Bruce Arians described the injury as a hyperextension, and is hopeful Evans can get on the practice field Thursday in preparation for Saturday night’s NFC wild-card game at Washington.
Eagles, Washington stand by disputed Sunday night show
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson reiterated he was trying to win Sunday night’s loss at home to the Washington Football Team, as others in and around the sport expressed skepticism and dismay at his decision to bench quarterback Jalen Hurts in the fourth quarter of a 3-point game in favor of third-stringer Nate Sudfeld.
Sudfeld’s four drives produced two turnovers and 33 total yards, and Washington won, 20-14, to earn the NFC East title. The Eagles finished 4-11-1, with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, three spots higher than they would have landed with a victory.
“Our offensive struggles have not been about one position group or one guy or whatever,” Pederson said. “It’s been a multitude of issues that we’ve had. And again, last night in that game, we were in a situation where we’d failed to score as an offense. . . . And my plan was to get Nate in the game. Nate’s a guy that is very capable of running our system and executing it [with] an opportunity to pull that game out last night.”
Pederson made other debatable coaching moves during the game, such as opting for a failed fourth-down attempt instead of a short field goal that would have tied the game late in the third quarter. There was a social media avalanche of criticism during and after the game, with the Washington Post running its coverage of the game under the banner headline, “Tanks for everything.”
Washington coach Ron Rivera refused to apologize, both for winning Sunday or for his team becoming the third sub-.500 playoff entrant since the season expanded to 16 games in 1978.
“You play the game as it’s set up. Nobody complained when Pittsburgh did what they did last night against Cleveland. I mean, come on, this is just the way it is,” Rivera said. “We got in the playoffs. We’re 7-9. I’ve been 7-8-1 in the playoffs [with Carolina in 2014]. I was on an 8-8 team that was in the playoffs. And you don’t apologize for getting into the playoffs.”
Josh Jacobs arrested on suspected drunken driving
Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs received minor injuries and was arrested on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge after a pre-dawn single-vehicle crash Monday near McCarran International Airport. A police report said Jacobs, 22, was taken to a hospital for treatment of a cut on his forehead after the air bag deployed when the 2019 Acura NSX sports car he was driving crashed at 4:43 a.m. Police at the scene determined the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Jacobs was impaired by alcohol, and blood was drawn at the hospital, prosecutor Eric Bauman said. Laboratory results can take several weeks. Jacobs was booked at the Clark County jail on a driving under the influence charge and released without bail pending a court appearance March 8. His attorneys noted no complaint was immediately filed . . . A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that in addition to Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, the Carolina Panthers also wish to speak to Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen and Browns vide president of player personnel Kwesi Adofo-Mensah about their general manager position. The team is also expected to interview former Giants general manager Jerry Reese. Longtime GM Marty Hurney was fired last month . . . Buffalo signed former Houston receiver Kenny Stills to their practice squad. Stills, cut in late November, provides insurance should starter Cole Beasley remain sidelined with a knee injury that forced him to miss the win over Miami on Sunday . . . Less than 24 hours after Cincinnati fell flat in the final game of another frustrating season, Bengals president Mike Brown made it clear he still thinks coach Zac Taylor — 6-25-1 in his first two years as a head coach — is the guy who can turn the ship around. “We remain bullish on the foundation Zac is building,” Brown said in a statement. “This season we faced challenges with injuries at key positions and missed opportunities.” Those included Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, who was off to a strong start after being taken No. 1 in the draft when he blew out his knee on Nov. 22.