Mired in a 1-10 season, Jaguars owner Shad Khan has decided to act. His first move: Fire his general manager.
Dave Caldwell is out as Jaguars GM after eight seasons at the helm of Jacksonville's personnel department, the team announced Sunday following a 27-25 home loss to the Browns. The decision was simple for Khan, who said his team just hasn't been good enough to continue on the same path and expect a better outcome.
"I've met with Dave Caldwell to express my appreciation for his service to the Jacksonville Jaguars as our general manager," Khan said in a statement. "Dave was exceptionally committed and determined to bring a winner to Jacksonville, but unfortunately his efforts were not rewarded with the results our fans deserve and our organization expects. Our football operation needs new leadership, and we will have it with a new general manager in 2021."
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Trent Baalke will serve as the interim GM for the remainder of the season.
Khan informed Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and his staff they are secure for the rest of the season, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. Caldwell tweeted thanks to Khan and Jaguars fans while confirming his departure Sunday evening.
Caldwell's time brought the Jaguars to their highest point reached since the days of Mark Brunell, but has too often produced lows that are simply unsustainable in the win-now NFL.
The architect of Sacksonville began his tenure in Duval County by firing head coach Mike Mularkey and replacing him with up-and-coming defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and then followed that move with the selection of UCF quarterback Blake Bortles as his franchise's chosen signal-caller. That might have been his most damning move, as Bortles never lived up to his first-round status, but Caldwell called a timely audible in building the Jaguars, spending freely in 2017 and quickly constructing a defense that helped turn the Jaguars' hometown into Sacksonville.
The unit was a menace from the beginning and was centered on two key acquisitions: first-round pick Jalen Ramsey, and free-agent acquisition Calais Campbell. Caldwell's luring of the latter stunned the NFL world in March of 2017 and brought immediate legitimacy to the group, which also added rising corner A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church via free agency in the same offseason. The two-year defensive rebuild -- which also saw Caldwell sign defensive tackle Malik Jackson and take a chance on safety Tashaun Gipson, who ultimately didn't work out, in 2016 -- turned Jacksonville into a legitimate contender. The Jaguars landed two All-Pro selections (Campbell, Ramsey), sent six defenders to the Pro Bowl and came within one half of a Super Bowl appearance in 2017, reaching a height many thought would become the norm for the promising franchise.
It instead proved to be their peak, as the Jaguars were unable to sustain such effectiveness, falling from 10-6 in 2017 to 5-11 in 2018. The Bortles experiment -- in which Caldwell made a blunder when he signed Bortles to a three-year extension in 2018 -- ultimately failed, inspiring a necessary change in direction for Jacksonville that ultimately saw Jacksonville torn to pieces.
Caldwell sent Campbell to Baltimore, a disgruntled Ramsey to Los Angeles, Bouye to Denver and exciting-but-unhappy draft selection Yannick Ngakoue to Minnesota, while Khan fired EVP of football operations Tom Coughlin while the walls came crashing down around TIAA Bank Field. The Jaguars went from contender to pretender, an afterthought with which Marrone was forced to try to make chicken salad out of lesser parts.
Caldwell was a decent talent evaluator when it came to the draft, spending picks on key players like Ramsey, Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith, Brandon Linder, Marqise Lee, Myles Jack, Ngakoue, Dede Westbrook, Josh Allen and D.J. Chark. Six of his selections made Pro Bowls, but only two remain in Jacksonville. Caldwell also swung and missed on others like Bortles, Luke Joeckel, Taven Bryan, among others. And ultimately, his roster construction hinged on his decisions at quarterback, which went up in smoke when his deal for Nick Foles imploded with Foles' collarbone injury in 2019.
Caldwell's legacy is still being determined, but with just two more wins over the last three seasons than they won in 2017 alone, and with just one playoff appearance from 2013-2020, we'll largely look back at his time in Jacksonville as one that floated on and sank with unfulfilled potential in its cargo hold. While we wait to see how long Marrone's lifeboat remains afloat, we can safely guarantee the hierarchy in Jacksonville will look a lot different in 2021.