Timeline of a collapse: How the Jaguars fell apart on and off field

  • Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
  • Graduate of Jacksonville University
  • Multiple APSE award winner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — What a long, hard, unusual fall it has been.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were roughly 10 minutes away from their first Super Bowl appearance, leading the New England Patriots by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium. Then Tom Brady engineered two touchdown drives — converting a third-and-18 on one of them — to give the Patriots a 24-20 victory.

Nothing has been the same since for the Jaguars organization.

The Jaguars are 11-22 in the past two seasons, are on their third starting quarterback since then, and only two starters remain from what was one of the best defenses in football. Last Sunday they agreed to trade their best defensive player and on Monday they cut their best offensive player, who also was the fourth overall draft pick in 2017.

So, how did the Jaguars get here since that playoff loss? Glad you asked:

Feb. 24, 2018: The Jaguars could have let QB Blake Bortles play on the fifth-year option, but instead signed him to a three-year contract extension through the 2020 season. The deal was for $54 million (up to $66.5 million with incentives) and included $26.5 million guaranteed. Bortles was coming off the best season of his career in 2017 (21 TDs, 13 INTs) and made key plays in playoff victories over Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

March 6, 2018: The Jaguars tell WR Allen Robinson they will not use the franchise tag on him. Robinson missed almost the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL but he had 80 catches for 1,400 yards and a single-season franchise record 14 TDs in 2016. Robinson later signs a three-year deal with Chicago for $42 million with $18 million guaranteed.

March 13, 2018: Andrew Norwell signs a five-year, $66.5 million contract with $30 million guaranteed with the Jaguars. The $13.3 million average per year makes Norwell the highest-paid guard in NFL history, though it gets surpassed by Dallas’ Zack Martin that June. Norwell missed six games in 2018 because of a foot injury. His play has been solid but not at the high level expected of his salary.

March 13, 2018: WR Marqise Lee signs a four-year deal worth $34 million with $16.5 million guaranteed. Lee, whom the Jaguars drafted in the second round in 2014, had battled injuries early in his career but caught 119 passes for 1,553 yards and six TDs in 2016-17. Lee, however, suffered a massive knee injury when he was hit low by Atlanta Falcons S Damontae Kazee midway through the first quarter of the third preseason game that summer. Lee tore the MCL, ACL and PCL in his left knee and missed the 2018 season. He caught three passes for 18 yards in six games in 2019 and was released this offseason.

March 13, 2018: LB Paul Posluszny retires after 11 seasons in the NFL. He was the heart and soul of the Jaguars’ defense. Posluszny was instrumental in keeping LB Telvin Smith in check on the field and not freelancing in coverages, which became a significant issue later.

March 15, 2018: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins signs a two-year deal with the Jaguars worth $10 million. Seferian-Jenkins plays in only five games, catching 11 passes for 90 yards and a TD, before suffering a core muscle injury and missing the rest of the season. The team doesn’t pick up his 2019 option.

March 20, 2018: The Jaguars cut TE Marcedes Lewis one week after picking up the option on his 2018 contract that would have paid him $3.5 million. Lewis, who got a $500,000 bonus when the team picked up the option, ranks third in receptions (375) and receiving yards (4,052) in team history and his 33 receiving TDs are second only to Jimmy Smith (67). Lewis signed with Green Bay and is still with the Packers.

Aug. 12, 2018: DEs Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue get into a post-practice altercation. CB Jalen Ramsey goes on a profane rant against members of the media that were filming the altercation. Ramsey meets with the media to tell them not to post the video or there will be consequences and then sends a tweet that threatened that players will wage war with the media after the video is posted.

The team suspended Fowler and Ramsey for a week for “violating team rules and conduct unbecoming of a Jaguars football player.”

Aug. 15, 2018: GQ Magazine publishes a piece on Ramsey in which he criticizes numerous NFL quarterbacks.

Oct. 7, 2018: After starting the season 3-1 (including a 31-20 victory over New England in Jacksonville), the Jaguars lose the first of seven consecutive games. Bortles plays the worst game of his career that day in Kansas City, turning the ball over five times (four interceptions).

Nov. 18, 2018: On the day the Jaguars are to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Jaguars are likely to consider trading Ramsey in the offseason. Within an hour, the Jaguars release a statement refuting that report: “The Jaguars have zero intention of trading CB Jalen Ramsey. There is no truth to this rumor.”

Nov. 25, 2018: Fournette leaves the bench, runs across the field and gets into a fight with Buffalo Bills DL Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ 24-21 loss. The NFL announces the following day that Fournette is suspended for a game for violating the league’s unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules. Shortly after that, the Jaguars tell Fournette they were voiding the guaranteed money remaining in his contract as punishment, a move that Fournette has appealed with the NFL.

Nov. 26, 2018: Head coach Doug Marrone fires offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett one day after the Jaguars’ seventh consecutive loss. Quarterbacks coach Scott Marinovich takes over as interim offensive coordinator.

Dec. 6, 2018: Fournette is caught on video yelling at a fan in the stands during the team’s 30-9 loss to Tennessee. A video clip released on TMZ.com shows Fournette yelling that he is going to “beat your ass” at an unknown fan before two people walk up and escort Fournette away. Fournette said several days later that the fan used a racial slur, a claim that teammate T.J. Yeldon corroborated.

Dec. 30, 2018: Executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin publicly criticizes Fournette (who was inactive because of a foot injury) and Yeldon for sitting alone on the bench and acting disinterested during the season finale against Houston. Fournette had missed six full games and half of two others with a right hamstring injury in the first eight weeks of the season. There was mounting frustration inside the organization about the length of his absence, and all that time away apparently had an impact on his conditioning. Fournette ended the season heavier than when he reported for training camp.

Dec. 30, 2018: Owner Shad Khan announces that he will retain Coughlin, GM Dave Caldwell and Marrone after the team finishes the season 5-11. “I have the same trust in Tom, Dave and Doug as I did upon their introduction two years ago, and I do believe our best path forward for the moment is the one less disruptive and dramatic,” Khan said in a statement. “Stability should not be confused with satisfaction, however. I am far from content with the status quo, and while it’s best to put 2018 behind us, I will not overlook how poorly we accounted for ourselves following a 3-1 start. There were far too many long Sundays over the last three quarters of the season, with today’s loss in Houston being the final example, and that cannot repeat itself in 2019.”

Jan. 16, 2019: The Jaguars hire John DeFilippo to be the team’s offensive coordinator. DeFilippo, not coincidentally, happened to be Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII. The MVP of that game was QB Nick Foles.

March 8, 2019: The team releases DT Malik Jackson, one of seven defensive players named to the Pro Bowl on the 2017 team. Jackson had signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract with the Jaguars in March 2016 after four seasons in Denver. The team also releases starting RT Jermey Parnell and starting FS Tashaun Gipson as part of moves to create salary cap space.

March 11, 2019: The Jaguars sign Foles to a four-year deal worth $88 million (up to $102 million with incentives) that includes a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed.

March 13, 2019: The Jaguars waive Bortles, cutting ties with the player they took third overall in 2014 and signed to an extension a year earlier. The move costs the Jaguars $16.5 million in dead money on the salary cap.

April 18, 2019: Coughlin calls out Ramsey and Telvin Smith during a four-minute speech at the team’s annual state-of-the-franchise presentation for not attending voluntary workouts. Coughlin didn’t mention either by name, but they were the only two players on the roster that were not at the workouts.

Ramsey responded the next day to Coughlin’s comments by saying that the team knows why he’s not there and that he’ll show up in shape when attendance is mandatory. The team admits they hadn’t had any contact with Smith since the end of the 2018 season.

May 9, 2019: Smith announces on social media that he will not play football in 2019, posting a statement on his Instagram account saying that he needs to take time off for his family and his health. Smith did not notify the Jaguars about his intentions before his announcement.

June 11, 2019: Ramsey says in a news conference after the second day of the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp that his agent told him the Jaguars will not be giving him a contract extension in 2019. Roughly an hour later, Ramsey joked on social media that he’s going to “ask for so much money, they have to put me on lay-away.” Ramsey was entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Jaguars picked up his fifth-year option, which set his salary at $13.703 million for 2020.

July 2019: The team begins contract extension talks with DE Yannick Ngakoue and reportedly offers him a deal worth up to $19 million annually. Ngakoue declines and Coughlin abruptly breaks off negotiations. The sides would not have any further discussions until after the 2019 season.

July 24, 2019: Ramsey reports to training camp in an armored bank truck. He’s accompanied by comedian Haha Davis, who jumps out of a truck with a bullhorn and loudly proclaims: “Y’all know what time it is. … A man so good they’re fixing to give him his own jail, Jalen Towers, because these receivers are on 24-hour lockdown. He’s got eight Master Locks in his pocket. They’re on lockdown all season. The man, the myth, Jalen Ramsey.”

Aug. 4, 2019: Ngakoue, who skipped the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp in June, ends an 11-day training camp holdout. He was fined $528,650, which included $88,650 for skipping the minicamp. He was up against an Aug. 6 deadline to report to camp to ensure that he would be able to accrue his fourth season and be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season if he did not sign a new contract or if the team used the franchise tag on him.

Sept. 8, 2019: Foles suffers a broken clavicle while throwing a first-quarter touchdown pass to WR DJ Chark and is out indefinitely. Rookie sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew takes over and completes 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in the Jaguars’ 40-26 loss to Kansas City.

Sept. 15, 2019: Ramsey gets into a sideline altercation with Marrone. He’s upset because Marrone did not challenge a 3-yard completion to DeAndre Hopkins and Ramsey urged him to do so. Ramsey and Marrone have to be separated by safety Ronnie Harrison and strength and conditioning coordinator Tom Myslinski.

Sept. 16, 2019: Ramsey’s agent, David Mulugheta, tells the Jaguars that Ramsey wants to be traded.

Sept. 17, 2019: Ramsey holds a 16-minute news conference in which he explains his camp did not leak his trade request, says he doesn’t want to be a distraction, and that he wants to play in the Sept. 19 game against Tennessee “if I’m still here.” He would not answer questions about why he was unhappy with the franchise.

Sept. 19, 2019: Before the Thursday night game against Tennessee, the Uninterrupted releases snippets of the latest episode of its 17 Weeks podcast in which Ramsey said an upsetting conversation he had with Jaguars management after the loss to Houston the previous Sunday was the final push that made up his mind to seek a trade.

“Some disrespectful things were said on their end that made me definitely walk out and call my agent as soon as I walked out and I told him, I said, ‘It’s time; my time is up here in Jacksonville. I want to ask for a trade,'” Ramsey said. “I was truly at peace. I wasn’t in a mindset of making a decision while I was angry; I was completely calm. I still stand by my decision to ask for a trade.”

Ramsey plays in the Jaguars’ 20-7 victory over Tennessee at TIAA Bank Field. After the game, he hugs fellow cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and D.J. Hayden. Ramsey holds a short news conference in the locker room but said he would not answer questions about his trade request.

Sept. 22, 2019: Ramsey notifies the Jaguars that he is ill and will not be able to practice. ESPN’s Adam Schefter, via sources, reports the following day that Ramsey believes he has the flu and may not be able to practice all week. Ramsey does miss practice that day but is spotted at the facility.

Sept. 25, 2019: The Jaguars announce Ramsey is not expected to practice because of a back injury. Marrone says just before noon that he doesn’t know when Ramsey got hurt. Three hours later, however, the team releases a statement that says Ramsey actually told the trainers about his back during the fourth quarter of the Sept. 19 game against the Titans.

Schefter reports that league sources say it’s “far-fetched” that Ramsey would play in Sunday’s game at Denver. However, a league source says the team expects Ramsey to play.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the team releases another statement that Ramsey has left the team to return to Nashville for the birth of his second child and there is no timetable for his return. Marrone said Ramsey told him earlier in the offseason that his daughter was due in late September.

Oct. 15, 2019: The Jaguars trade Ramsey — who sat out the previous three games with a back injury — to the Los Angeles Rams for first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021. He plays for the Rams the following Sunday.

Nov. 17, 2019: Foles returns from the broken clavicle against Indianapolis. He throws a 34-yard touchdown pass to Chark on the Jaguars’ second possession to give them a 7-0 lead, but the Jaguars don’t score again until their final possession in a 33-13 loss.

Dec. 1, 2019: The Jaguars bench Foles after a horrendous first half against Tampa Bay: An interception, two fumbles and three consecutive three-and-outs that gained minus-4 yards. Minshew takes over and remains the starter for the rest of the season.

Dec. 18, 2019: Khan fires Coughlin two days after the NFL Players Association warned players of potentially signing with the franchise because of excessive fines and player grievances. Khan said he initially decided to make the move once the season ended, but the letter the NFLPA sent to its players clearly accelerated his timetable.

The letter the NFLPA sent to every player in the league that announced it won a grievance filed against the Jaguars for requiring former player Dante Fowler to attend rehab and doctor appointments in Jacksonville during the 2018 offseason and fining him more than $700,000 when he didn’t. That is against the league’s rules. The letter also warned about potentially signing with the Jaguars because it said more than 25 percent of the grievances filed by NFL players in the past two years have been against the club.

Dec. 30, 2019: Khan announces after the season finale (the Jaguars beat Indianapolis 38-20) that Caldwell and Marrone would return in 2020. Khan said in a statement he doesn’t believe this was the time to make a complete change in the organization but he expects things to be better in 2020.

“The 2019 season was unacceptable and I’ve made my dissatisfaction clear. While many unusual circumstances influenced our season, none can fully explain or defend our second-half collapse with first place in the division within reach on Week 9. At the same time, there were positive developments and contributions that should not be overlooked.”

Jan. 13, 2020: Marrone fires DeFilippo after just one season. The Jaguars averaged 18.8 points per game in 2019.

Jan. 22, 2020: Marrone hires former Washington head coach Jay Gruden as offensive coordinator and former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo as quarterbacks coach.

Feb. 25, 2020: The Jaguars decline the option on nose tackle Marcell Dareus, who was another key piece of the 2017 defense. The Jaguars had acquired Dareus in October 2017 in a trade with Buffalo, sending a sixth-round pick in 2018 to the Bills in exchange for the two-time Pro Bowl defender. Dareus immediately became the key to the Jaguars’ run defense. Since the start of the 2017 season, the Jaguars gave up 109.1 yards per game rushing with Dareus in the lineup (30 games) and 153.2 yards per game rushing when he was not (18 games, including the first seven of the 2017 season when he was with the Bills).

March 2, 2020: Ngakoue announces on Twitter that he’s told the Jaguars he no longer wants to sign a long-term deal with the franchise.

March 13, 2020: The Jaguars place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Ngakoue, which means he will be paid $17.8 million in 2020 unless he and the team can work out a long-term extension.

March 15, 2020: The team trades DE Calais Campbell to Baltimore for a fifth-round pick in 2020. He was a key member of the Jaguars’ defense since joining the team in 2017. His 31.5 sacks in just three seasons ranks fourth in team history and his 14.5 sacks in 2017 was a franchise record.

March 18, 2020: The Jaguars agree to trade Foles to Chicago, just one year after giving him the most guaranteed money in franchise history. The Bears gave up a compensatory fourth-round pick for Foles, whose threw 117 passes and totaled 736 yards, three TDs, and two interceptions in four games with the Jaguars, all losses.

The move means the Jaguars will have to absorb $18.75 million in dead money in 2020. After cutting Bortles last March, the Jaguars were paying $35.25 million in dead money to two quarterbacks to not play for them over the past two offseasons.

March 18, 2020: The team trades CB A.J. Bouye to Denver for a fourth-round pick in 2020. Bouye, Campbell, Smith, Ngakoue, Jackson and Ramsey were Pro Bowl selections in 2017.

April 20, 2020: Ngakoue’s frustration over the fact that the Jaguars have yet to trade him bubbles over and he goes on a social-media rant in which he called the team owner’s son a clown and urged the team to get “this s— done.”

April 29, 2020: Smith is arrested and charged with suspicion of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

July 15, 2020: The deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal passes without Ngakoue signing his franchise tender, which means Ngakoue must play the 2020 season on a one-year deal.

Late July and August, 2020: Within the span of several weeks, NT Al Woods, LB/DE Lerentee McCray, and CB Rashaan Melvin decide to opt out because of COVID-19. All three were expected to play key roles in 2020. In addition, DL Rodney Gunter retires after doctors discovered a heart condition. He, like Woods, was signed in free agency to help bolster a run defense that allowed 139 yards per game in 2019.

Aug. 12, 2020: The Jaguars begin training camp. Ngakoue, who still hasn’t signed the franchise tag tender, does not report.

Aug. 30, 2020: The Jaguars agree to trade Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings for a second-round pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-round pick (that could be has high as a third-round pick) in 2022. Ngakoue, who had to sign the franchise tag tender before the deal can be completed, agrees to a $5.8 million pay cut to play for the Vikings in 2020. He would have made $17.8 million if he signed the tender and remained with the Jaguars.

Aug. 31, 2020: The Jaguars waive Fournette in a surprise move. Despite numerous off-field issues and whispers about Fournette not being good in the locker room, Marrone says the move strictly has to do with what’s happened on the field. Fournette was working with the first-team offense throughout training camp, including the scrimmage two days before his release.

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