When it comes to the traits needed to be a successful NFL head coach, Arians – the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach – said Marrone absolutely has them.
“He’s straightforward; he’s a football coach,” Arians said between practices Tuesday for the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “He’s one of those guys where if it’s not right, it’s going to get fixed.
“It might be loud, but it’s going to get fixed. That’s what I love about him.”
Marrone, the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and 2014, served as the Jaguars’ assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach in 2015 and 2016. He was the interim head coach in the final two games of the 2016 regular season and was named head coach on a permanent basis on January 9.
Marrone and the Jaguars’ coaching staff are not attending the Senior Bowl. Marrone and the Jaguars remain in the process of finalizing the coaching staff.
Arians is a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, receiving the honor as interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 and as the head coach of the Cardinals in 2014. Arians said Marrone’s straightforward approach will serve the Jaguars well.
“There’s not enough football people left; he’s a football man,” Arians said.
Arians said he and Marrone have known one another through coaching circles for 30 years, adding that the two became close at the 2013 NFL Owners Meetings. Marrone at the time was in his first offseason as the Bills’ head coach and Arians was in his first offseason in his current position.
“I was a first-time head coach walking through the lobby at the owners meetings, and he and his wife were sitting there having breakfast,” Arians said. “He said, ‘You by yourself?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I sat down with him, really enjoyed the conversation and got to know him on a more personal level.
“I’ve always respected him as a great offensive line guy, and thought he did a great job when he got his opportunity. I’m really happy to see him get another.”
Arians called the trio of Marrone, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell and Jaguars Executive Vice-President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin “an unbelievable combination.” Arians also said Marrone’s experience with the Jaguars the past two seasons should be a positive.
“It should be an easy transition,” Arians said. “He knows the strengths and knows the weaknesses, and he should be able to lead that group.”
And while Marrone waited nearly two seasons between head-coaching positions Arians said there’s little question about whether Marrone is ready for the opportunity.
“There’s no doubt – no doubt,” Arians said. “Experience is something you can’t teach. When owners are looking for head coaches now, sometimes I don’t know that they put enough stock in experience – failure, especially.
“If you haven’t failed, you don’t know how to fix things. He has his battle scars. He’s more than ready.”
A GOOD MIX
ESPN NFL front office insider Mark Dominik sees a lot to like about the Jaguars’ front-office structure of Coughlin as executive vice president of football operations and Caldwell as general manager.
“I think it has some good layers in it,” said Dominik, who spent 2009-2014 as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “There are checks and balances, meaning there are things you can throw off people who have had a lot of experience.
“Caldwell has been around as a general manager for a long time. I think people forget that you’re going to make some mistakes, but you learn a lot. To be able to have Tom Coughlin that you can bounce things off – or he bounces things off you – is very helpful.”
Dominik compared the situation to that of the Atlanta Falcons, where general manager Thomas Dimitroff works with assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who previously served as general manager for the Kansas City Chiefs for four seasons from 2009-2012.
Former Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster and former Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery hold national scout positions with the Falcons.
“He’s surrounded himself with ex-general managers in Scott Pioli, Ruston Webster, Phil Emery,” Dominik said. “They’re doing a better job because the more people you have to talk (with). I think it can make you better. I’m not concerned about the structure. It’s just a matter of, ‘Who’s Blake Bortles and what can he do?’ Everybody wants to know that.”
Bortles, the Jaguars’ starting quarterback the last three seasons, threw 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season after throwing 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2015. His status and whether he can develop into front-line NFL starter are widely considered critical issues for the Jaguars moving forward.