The Jaguars were one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL this season and they’re making it clear to Leonard Fournette he was part of the problem.
When the 2018 season began there were a lot of NFL observers who believed the Jaguars had a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl title. Things didn’t work out that way in Jacksonville. Instead, Doug Marrone’s team limped to an ugly 5-11 campaign.
Part of the optimism surrounding the team in the preseason was the belief that Leonard Fournette was primed to take a step forward after a reasonably promising rookie campaign. Instead, Fournette took a massive step back in his sophomore season. His inability to overcome his own injuries and the predictability of the Jaguars offense was obvious all season long.
Fournette finished the year with just 439 rushing yards on just 133 carries. That amounts to a pitiful average of just 3.3 yards per carry. Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Jaguars front office are not absolving the former LSU star of any blame.
Marrone has already confirmed reports that the organization intends to void significant guarantees in Fournette’s contract. It’s unclear whether they have the legal authority to do so, but the front office believes his multiple suspensions give them cause. Time will tell whether the Jaguars can successfully hit Fournette in the wallet.
As usual, Coughlin isn’t mincing his words. He characterized recent behavior from Fournette and fellow running back T.J. Yeldon as “unbecoming of a professional football player.” Coughlin is well-known to be a no-nonsense football man. It’s clear he’s losing patience with Fournette who was the No. 4 pick in the draft only two years ago.
The organization is also electing to send Fournette a further message with their decision to fire running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. His dismissal gives the Jaguars at least four staff openings heading into the offseason.
It’s safe to assume he wasn’t fired solely based on Fournette’s inability to grind out yards on the field. The organization obviously wants to hire a running backs coach who can instill some discipline inside the position group. Wheatley wasn’t getting that done for the organization. The Jaguars can’t realistically cut ties with Fournette this offseason, so firing his position coach was the only legitimate option available to them.
Add it all up and year three could be a make or break campaign for Fournette. The Jaguars invested a lot in him by drafting him over quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, but he’s running out of time to become a trusted member of a successful team in Jacksonville. If he can’t bounce back in a big way in 2019, look for him to find a new home in 2020.