Sam's Commentary

January 18, 2018 Commentary Archive

Marrone: Right Guy, Right Place, Right Time

by Sam Kouvaris
Posted January 18, 2018 ===========================================================================

When it comes to the subject of leadership, perhaps no group is easier to study than football coaches. At one point, fans in Jacksonville had Steve Spurrier, Bobby Bowden, Vince Dooley and Howard Schnellenberger or Jimmy Johnson leading the major college programs they followed. All very successful, all very different in philosophy and personality.

Although the Jaguars have only had a few head coaches, all have been very different, and that's probably by design. From the imperious bearing of Tom Coughlin, Owner Wayne Weaver went completely in the other direction, hiring a former player, Jack Del Rio, who suffered (and perhaps still does) from the "I'm the smartest guy in the room" problem. Mel Tucker took over as the interim and introduced the "servant leader" idea. (Tucker is a fabulous coach and a really good guy as well. I'm surprised he isn't a head coach somewhere). Mike Mularkey was suspicious of the media but never really had a chance to develop a relationship with anybody being in Jacksonville only a year. Gus Bradley brought a whole new approach from a new generation, trying to empower the players for their own discipline and accountability. He's one of the best people I've ever met. He's also a very good football coach but his team was too young to grasp the power he was trying to give them. (Plus I thought getting rid of guys like Montel Owens and Daryl Smith created a leadership vacuum in the locker room.)

When Jaguars Owner Shad Khan talked with Tom Coughlin about running the football side of the organization, Coughlin gave Khan a few names he'd bring in as head coach. One was Doug Marrone. Marrone had been serving as an assistant on Bradley's staff and was known as a solid coach, a good soldier, and the guy who walked away from the head coaching job in Buffalo looking for greener pastures.

When Marrone was named the Jaguars head coach, I checked with one of my colleagues in Buffalo to get a sense of what he was like. "He'll be more miserable when they win," my friend said with a laugh. I wasn't sure what to make of that but I've seen that transformation throughout the season. "Miserable" might not be the right word, but Marrone's demeanor seems so downtrodden that it's easy to understand that his nickname at a few stops in his coaching career was "Eeyore."

"I never have fun," Marrone deadpanned at his Monday press conference after beating Pittsburgh and earning a shot at the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. "I like winning. I like winning. I am not a fun person. That is my problem. I think when I look back I will say that it is fun. People always say the same thing. People that know me well will say, 'Make sure you enjoy it.' I sit there and I go, 'Pshh, yeah.' How do you enjoy it? I don't know. My mind right now is focused on digging into New England and seeing what is going on."

With all due respect to the media contingent in Buffalo, everybody who knew Marrone as the head coach there and has seen him this year says he's changed. Changed in his approach to the other things that go along with being a head coach but not with his core values on how to win. He's engaging with the media, and in turn, that somewhat of the snapshot that fans see of their head coach.

"I give a lot of credit to the guys here," pointing to the group of beat writers and assembled media on Monday. "The media is something I have struggled with in the past, when people say what have you learned or what have you gotten better from. For whatever reason I feel comfortable with the guys in this room."

But he also admitted that he's been able to separate the things that matter from the things that don't when you're in charge.

"People talk about experience. You gain experience. What does that mean? You start to learn more of what, okay, this is important," he explained. "Maybe this is not as important. Then, you create maybe more of a comfort in that. I don't know. I just know that I feel more comfortable. I can't really put it into words, as far as specific things. I just feel very comfortable. I feel comfortable in everything here."

Marrone is a good guy, somebody who wants to do well and do it right. He's the guy who would be the designated driver on a night out if you asked him. And he'd be the guy who stepped in front of some jerk in a bar giving you a hard time.

Taking the Jaguars from a three-win team to the AFC Championship in one year is a monumental feat. The easy narrative is that Coughlin should get the credit, and some of that is true. Mostly in his hiring of Marrone. While they see the path to victory and success through the same lens, they're very different people and personalities. Marrone agrees with Coughlin's "Earn the right to win" philosophy, he's able to impart that to the players in a very matter of fact; here's what we have to do way. Easy to digest. No screaming or yelling, no folksy, fake back slapping, but rather a serious approach to getting the job done. Like the offensive lineman he was as a player.

He takes some satisfaction in the success his team has had, but mostly he says he's happy for the people around him as well as the fans and the organization. As a player at Syracuse, the Orange were 2-9 his freshman year and he didn't want to wear his "Syracuse Football" gear anywhere. He knew the ridicule he'd be subjected to. He's glad to change that for Jaguars fans that have been in that situation for a decade.

"So last Thursday I went to a high school basketball game," he said, storytelling being one of his media strengths. "I went to watch the J.V. play first. So when I went to the school there was a ton of people that had Jaguars stuff on, and I was like, 'Holy Cow! That's good.' It wasn't like that when I first got here, and I think that, and I've said this many times, we appreciate the support. It's something that we needed to earn, but at the end of the day, the fans…it goes back to when I was a player."

He's already been named Coach of the Year by several organizations, and deservedly so. But it doesn't seem to matter to Marrone. He wants to be successful, but he enjoys being a part of something bigger, in this case, the Jacksonville community that has rallied around the team after years of disappointment. He gets that part of being a fan that either lifts or dampens your spirit with every victory or defeat.

"The people that support you, you want to be able to do a good job so when they are around whether it's the water cooler or a moment they can spend with their kids or a moment when they are in the airport and they are traveling and they can wear the team logo or say they support the team and not be ridiculed, I just always believe in that. I grew up in a sports town, and I know what it's like when your team's not doing well and all the crap you take. For me I get a lot of joy when I see people that are proud of their team and I see the players that are happy with their performance and I see the building. That's probably the joy that I look at the most of what occurs."

So when you see Marrone in sound bites or brief descriptions this week as the spotlight gets pretty bright on the Jaguars, know that he's ok. He's working. And although he says he's not really a happy person, he's happy in different ways.

"it's hard to enjoy. You win a game, after that game is over my mind's [already on] what we could have done a better job in that game and my mind's already on to the next opponent. One thing in this profession, at least for me, it's very hard to enjoy those things, but I do find a lot of joy for myself when I see other people happy with the success, whether it be the players, especially the fans and I said that from the beginning. Everywhere I've been I've always felt the same way."

Hard to not like that. He might be Eeyore, but he's our Eeyore as the right guy in the right place at the right time.


Commentary by Sam Kouvaris

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01-17-2018 - Blake, Teammate, And That's How He Likes It
01-14-2018 - Jaguars Come Alive, Upset Steelers, Head To AFC Title Game
01-13-2018 - Jaguars In Pittsburgh, All Business
01-11-2018 - Jaguars To Play Eagles In London
01-07-2018 - Jaguars Beat Buffalo With Defense,"Grit"
01-05-2018 - Khan, "I'm very, very bullish on Jacksonville."
01-03-2018 - Boselli, Dawkins Finalists For 2018 Hall Of Fame
01-01-2018 - Marrone's Routine Stays The Same
01-01-2018 - Jaguars Home, Have Already Moved On
12-31-2017 - Jaguars Look Ahead To Playoffs
12-31-2017 - Jaguars Limp Into Playoffs
12-31-2017 - Jaguars Win AFC South, Lose Game, Poise In SF
12-17-2017 - Jaguars Dominate Texans 45-7, Qualify For Post-season
12-10-2017 - Jaguars Make Big Statement Beating Seattle, 30-24
12-03-2017 - Jaguars Sweep Colts, Eye Post-season
11-28-2017 - Mullen Is The New Gators Head Coach
11-26-2017 - Jaguars Falter, Lose To AZ, 27-21
11-24-2017 - Boselli's Chances For The Hall? Pretty Good
11-22-2017 - Boselli, Dawkins, Butler Among Hall Of Fame Semifinalists
11-20-2017 - Jaguars Do Just Enough, Beat Browns 19-7
11-12-2017 - Unlike Previous Years, Jaguars Find A Way To Win 20-17 In OT
11-05-2017 - Back To Back And At Home, The Jaguars Look Legit
10-30-2017 - McElwain Departure "It's Never Pretty"
10-26-2017 - Telvin Smith New Deal: Worth Every Penny
10-18-2017 - NFL, Khan, Players and Protest
10-16-2017 - Inconsistent Again, Jaguars Lose To Rams
10-08-2017 - Jaguars Real Selves? Dominate Steelers 30-9
10-01-2017 - Jaguars Models Of Inconsistency, Fall To Jets In OT
09-24-2017 - Jaguars Kneel, Lock Arms With Khan In Show Of "Solidarity"
09-24-2017 - Jaguars Rout Ravens in London
09-24-2017 - Jaguars To Use "Home" Field Advantage vs. Ravens
09-22-2017 - Jaguars Say London Trip Is Pretty Routine
09-17-2017 - Jaguars 2017 Look Like Jaguars 2016 vs. Titans
09-13-2017 - Fournette Works In Relief Effort
09-13-2017 - Jaguars, Khan Help In Relief Effort
09-12-2017 - Jaguars Workout In Houston, Thinking Of Home
09-11-2017 - Jaguars Notes From Houston
09-10-2017 - Jaguars Don't Just Win, They Dominate Texans
09-01-2017 - Jaguars Decisions: Not Just "The 53"
08-23-2017 - Quarterback Decision Can Wait
08-18-2017 - Jaguars Step Backwards vs. Bucs
08-17-2017 - Jaguars Need A Big Step Forward vs. Bucs
08-10-2017 - Jaguars Better 1st Impression vs. Patriots
08-09-2017 - Bortles Better But Not Close To Brady
08-08-2017 - The PLAYERS In March Is The Right Fit
08-08-2017 - Jaguars/Patriots Practice: What It's Supposed To Look Like
08-07-2017 - Gipson Now Knows Tom Brady Is The Goat
08-05-2017 - Marrone's Jaguars Camp: Old Is New Again
07-28-2017 - Jaguars 2017: All About Blake
07-13-2017 - Kingfish Tournament Still Fishing
07-12-2017 - TPC Performance Center Will Make You Better
07-07-2017 - Players Is Big And Getting Bigger
06-29-2017 - Gators Baseball Win National Title
06-28-2017 - Gators Baseball National Champs
06-17-2017 - Bortles Knows This Is It
06-17-2017 - Marrone, Albert Lynchpins To Jaguars Success
06-10-2017 - Marrone Unimpressed In OTA's
05-24-2017 - Bortles On Being Bad, Better
05-15-2017 - Sunday Stroll For Si Woo Kim
05-12-2017 - Still Anybody's Tournament
05-11-2017 - Malik Jackson At The Players: "It's Pretty Dope"
05-10-2017 - Winning Score? TPC Stadium Is Firm And Fast
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05-09b-2017 - THE PLAYERS In May Or March Is Still Huge
05-09-2017 - GJO To The Players Is A Long Trip
04-29-2017 - Jaguars Take "Bama OL In 2nd Round
04-28-2017 - Jaguars Take Fournette: "Physical"
04-27-2017 - Past Is Prologue For The Jaguars Draft
04-22-2017 - Jaguars Draft 2017: Take The Best Player
04-21-2017 - Nothing Good In The Jags 2017 Schedule
03-31-2017 - Mt. Acosta Classic Is Something Special
03-29-2017 - Marrone Looking For Competition, Consistency
03-28-2017 - Khan "Actions Speak Louder Than Words"
03-28-2017 - Coughlin "We Need A Culture Change"
03-26-2017 - NFL Owners Talk Player Safety, Shorter Games In Phoenix
03-19-2017 - Gators Swamp Virginia, Head To New York
03-19-2017 - FSU Can't Shoot, Loses To Xavier
03-14-2017 - DL3 In The HOF, Still Wants To Play
03-08-2017 - Jaguars Free-agency Preview: Plugging Holes
02-24-2017 - Shorter SpeedWeeks, Better Racing?
02-22-2017 - One Stop Sports Recovery (Now available to everybody)
02-07-2017 - The Case For Boselli In The Hall, And The Process It Entails
02-01-2017 - Coughlin Says Boselli "Should Be In The Hall Of Fame"
01-19-2017 - Hackett Stays As Jaguars OC
01-12-2017 - Coughlin, "Winning Is What It's All About"
01-11-2017 - Marrone Starts To Change The Staff
01-09-2017 - Marrone, Coughlin, Caldwell Try To "Fix" Jaguars
01-03-2017 - Boselli Makes Hall Of Fame Final 15
01-02-2017 - Jaguars To Compete For A Head Coach

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