JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have one week of stability remaining.
Changes are coming. The players know it. The coaches know it. Everyone inside the building is waiting for the inevitable moves that could make last season’s roster turnover seem like a minor tweak.
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In a league in which winning is all that matters, the Jaguars (2-13) realize they haven’t done enough to prevent massive upheaval under new owner Shad Khan.
So as players prepare for Sunday’s season finale at Tennessee (5-10), they also are bracing for what lies ahead.
“When a new owner comes in and you don’t have the record you want to, I’m pretty sure he wants to win right away,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said Wednesday. “Being 2-13 right now, you’ll see the ramifications of that in the offseason. He might give everybody another year. You never know. It’s really an audition for everybody, even the coaches.”
Khan has been mum in recent weeks about his pending decisions. He said last month he didn’t want to make any “knee-jerk reactions,” but that was before the season became the worst in franchise history.
Jacksonville has lost 11 of its past 12 games, including four in a row, and ranks 31st in the league in offense and defense. The team’s last win came against the Titans on Nov. 25.
“Anytime you have a season like this, you know that changes could easily happen,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “But I hate to think about it now. It clouds your mind to think about it now. But as soon as we’re done playing Sunday, that’s the last time that this group of guys is going to play together as a team and there could be changes in the future. … When you play like we did, that’s the reality of it.”
General manager Gene Smith, the architect of Jacksonville’s roster the past four years, could be the primary scapegoat for the franchise’s fourth losing season in the past five years.
And since Smith targeted coach Mike Mularkey during the search to replace Jack Del Rio, outsiders believe the head coach could be one-and-done at his second head-coaching stint.
Mularkey’s Buffalo Bills lost six of their final seven games in 2005, so the coach is 3-19 in his past 22 games. A far from impressive resume. And the reality is the Jaguars were slightly better last season with Del Rio and his lame-duck staff, a rookie quarterback and about the same number of injuries.
One thing that could prompt Khan to give Mularkey another year is the team’s effort down the stretch. The Jaguars have been competitive in seven of their past nine games, including the past three when five other teams around the league have dropped games by more than 30 points.
“That sounds good, but it’s all about winning,” Knighton said. “You can play hard, you can go out there and give it your all, but if you’re not winning, that’s the bottom line. It’s about production in this league, and production is judged by how much you win, and obviously we’re not doing that. Nobody knows what’s going to happen right now.”
Knighton is one of about two dozen potential free agents who know that changes in the front office and on the coaching staff lessen the likelihood they’ll remain in Jacksonville.
Center Brad Meester, cornerback Rashean Mathis, linebacker Daryl Smith, fullback Greg Jones, guard Eben Britton, cornerback Derek Cox and running back Rashad Jennings also could be playing their final game for the Jaguars. They are all veterans who were starters at some point this season.
So all of them could be auditioning for future jobs around the league. Either way, they have one week left before the potential chaos begins.
“It’s a hard thing just mentally,” Mularkey said. “These guys have responded. I am not proud about the losses. Like I told them this morning, the one thing this has shown is we’re closer than most think.”