Leonard Fournette

Jaguars Fire Executive VP Tom Coughlin

The major changes in Jacksonville are starting. The Jaguars fired executive vice president Tom Coughlin on Wednesday night, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). The team has announced the move.

Coughlin, 73, was in his third season with the franchise. This marked the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach’s second stint in Jacksonville. He was the Jags’ first head coach, serving in that role from 1995-2002.

This move comes, obviously, as the Jaguars are wrapping up a second consecutive disappointing season. It also follows Monday’s news of an arbitrator ruling against the Jaguars and the NFLPA indicating in a statement that 25% of player grievances over the past two years have been against the Jags. In the statement, which centered around the Coughlin-led organization levying offseason fines, the union urged players to avoid signing with the Jaguars as free agents.

Owner Shad Khan said in a statement he determined earlier this season he would fire Coughlin at year’s end but changed his mind after recent days. It would appear the grievance ruling accelerated this timetable. Khan added that GM Dave Caldwell and HC Doug Marrone will report directly to him for the time being.

I determined earlier this fall that making this move at the conclusion of the 2019 season would be in everyone’s best interests but, in recent days, I reconsidered and decided to make this change immediately,” Khan said. “I thank Tom for all his efforts, not only over the past three years but for all he did from our very first season, 25 years ago, to put the Jacksonville Jaguars on the map.”

Khan hired Coughlin in January 2017, stripping some of Caldwell’s powers to bring the longtime Giants HC into the fold. After Caldwell’s first four years as GM did not produce any winning seasons, the Coughlin-Caldwell tandem installed Marrone as the team’s full-time HC. The Jaguars went 10-6 and came as close to reaching a Super Bowl as they had in their 25-year history, losing a lead late in the 2017 AFC championship game.

On the field, the Jaguars have gone 10-20 since. Off the field, matters have been worse. Players were fined hundreds of thousands of dollars during offseasons, with Dante Fowler and Leonard Fournette confirming they filed grievances against Coughlin. The old-school leader also was the driving force behind Jalen Ramsey‘s decision to request a trade earlier this season, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes players had become frustrated by Coughlin’s mere presence in the building (video link). While the disciplinarian adapted in New York, winning over the Giants and guiding them to two Super Bowls, Coughlin’s methods did not go over well with a younger crop of players in Jacksonville.

Marrone looks like a Black Monday candidate, and although Caldwell has managed to avoid ouster rumors, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes (via Twitter) Jags coaches and scouts have inquired about other jobs for weeks. Quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich landed another CFL head coaching job last week. Caldwell made the Blake Bortles draft pick in 2014 and, along with Coughlin, authorized a 2018 extension for the embattled quarterback. The Jaguars, who selected Fournette over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in Coughlin’s first draft, took a $16.5MM dead-money hit to cut Bortles this year. Neither Marrone nor Caldwell, however, are locks to be fired, Rapoport adds.

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Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette Arrested

Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was arrested on Thursday. Fournette was pulled over for speeding and later cuffed for driving on a suspended license, as Justin Barney of News 4 writes.

[RELATED: Jaguars Tried To Acquire Robert Griffin III?]

The Jacksonville Jaguars are aware of the situation involving running back Leonard Fournette and are continuing to gather more information,” the Jags said in a statement. “No further comment will be provided at this time.”

Fournette topped 1,000 rushing yards during his rookie campaign in 2017, but still failed to manage four yards per carry. Last season, he was set back by injuries. In total, he appeared in only eight games in 2018, rushing for 439 yards and five touchdowns. On an efficiency basis, Fournette ranked just 32nd among running backs in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA and 26th in success rate.

It’s yet another roadblock for the Jaguars and their starting running back. Last year, the Jaguars moved to void Fournette’s guarantees after a brawl with the Bills resulted in a one-game suspension. Then, in Week 17, Fournette irked team brass by sitting on the bench instead of standing on the sideline.

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Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette Challenges Voiding Of Guarantees

The Jaguars want to “move forward” with Leonard Fournette, but the running back wants to discuss some matters of business first. The former No. 4 overall pick wants the guarantees on his contract to be reinstated, according to Mike Florio of PFT

The entirety of Fournette’s contract was guaranteed until the Jaguars used Fournette’s late-season ban as reason to void the remaining guarantees on his rookie deal. Fournette’s team believes that the language in his contract does not allow the Jaguars to 86 his guarantees over a one-game ban for on-the-field conduct.

Fournette topped 1,000 rushing yards during his rookie campaign in 2017, but still failed to manage four yards per carry. Last season, he was set back by injuries. In total, he appeared in only eight games in 2018, rushing for 439 yards and five touchdowns. On an efficiency basis, Fournette ranked just 32nd among running backs in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA and 26th in success rate.

If the Jaguars truly want to start fresh with Fournette, it might make sense for them to cave on this dispute.

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Jaguars Will “Move Forward” With RB Leonard Fournette

The Jaguars intend to “move forward” with running back Leonard Fournette after he met with executive Tom Coughlin and the rest of Jacksonville’s decision-makers in order to “clear the air,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

To say Fournette had a tumultuous end to 2018 would be an understatement. First, he was suspended one game by the NFL after taking a swing at Bills defender Shaq Lawson. Next, Coughlin ripped Fournette and fellow running back T.J. Yeldon — calling them “selfish” and “disrespectful” — after they sat on the bench instead of on the sidelines during Week 17. Finally, the Jaguars used Fournette’s ban as reason to void the remaining guarantees on his rookie deal.

As a former No. 4 overall pick, the entirety of Fournette’s contract had been guaranteed. It’s still not evident if the Jaguars would have gotten away with voiding Fournette’s guarantees without facing a grievance from the NFLPA, but that no longer appears to be an issue if Jacksonville plans on retaining the 23-year-old back.

Fournette topped 1,000 rushing yards (but still failed to manage four yards per carry) during his rookie campaign in 2017, but he was hampered by injuries last season. In total, he appeared in only eight games, rushing for 439 yards and five touchdowns. On an efficiency basis, Fournette ranked just 32nd among running backs in Football Outisders‘ DVOA and 26th in success rate.

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South Rumors: Mariota, Jags, Falcons, Bucs

This season did not produce the uptick in Marcus Mariota production the Titans wanted, but part of the reason for that was the starting quarterback’s multiple injuries. Elbow troubles plagued Mariota for much of this season, but he is not expected to need offseason surgery, Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com tweets. A nerve issue affected Mariota (11 touchdown passes, eight interceptions, 2,528 passing yards) this season and cost him a chance to help the Titans back into the playoffs, forcing Blaine Gabbert back into action in Week 17. Mariota is attached to a $20.9MM fifth-year option in 2019.

As the 2019 hiring period ignites, here’s the latest from the South divisions a

  • Dirk Koetter‘s interview for his old job as Falcons offensive coordinator will occur Saturday, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports. The Falcons’ OC from 2012-14, Koetter is a free agent again after being fired by the Buccaneers. He may well be the leading candidate to succeed Steve Sarkisian running Atlanta’s offense. Matt Ryan has praised Koetter in the recent past. Mike Mularkey, Atlanta’s OC from 2008-11, and Darrell Bevell are the other known candidates.
  • The Jaguars voided the $7.1MM in remaining guarantees in Leonard Fournette‘s rookie contract. He has 50 days to file a grievance, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes Fournette surely will. Florio argues the contract does not include language addressing the voiding of guarantees for on-field misconduct, and such an omission will be key for the former top-five pick keeping those guarantees in his four-year deal.
  • Although the Jets are believed to be ready to make a run at Le’Veon Bell, Albert Breer of SI.com does not see that pursuit winning out. Instead, Breer said during an interview with Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd (via the Tampa Bay Times) the Buccaneers are his best guess as to who will be signing the running back’s checks in 2019. This would be interesting because of the Jets’ cap-space advantage ($106MM-plus to $17MM-plus, though the Bucs can clear a substantial amount of room without incurring dead money) and the fact Tampa Bay used a 2018 second-round pick on Ronald Jones.
  • Kyle Allen was not the first player summoned to action when Cam Newton was shut down, but he ended the season as the Panthers‘ quarterback. His short stay as the Panthers’ first-stringer earned him a legitimate chance to be Newton’s backup next season, Breer notes. Allen was a UDFA but came to college as a five-star recruit. He threw two touchdown passes and no interceptions in Carolina’s season-finale win over New Orleans.
  • Alex Okafor stood to miss a $400K bonus because he fell one sack short of the incentive’s five-sack threshold, but, interestingly, the Saints paid him the bonus anyway, per NOLA.com’s Luke Johnson. This could be a key component of the starting defensive end’s upcoming decision on whether or not to opt out of his contract. Okafor signed a two-year deal with a player option to stay in New Orleans and has until the final day of the 2018 league year to decide on the option.

Extra Points: Fournette, Jaguars, Foles, Gase, Dolphins

While today’s NFL news is almost entirely focused on coaching staff shakeups, there are still some other interesting nuggets out there. One very noteworthy situation is the drama unfolding with the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette. Yesterday, head of football operations Tom Coughlin blasted Fournette for sitting on the bench during the team’s Week 17 loss, and now the team is voiding the remaining guarantees in his contract, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN (Twitter link). The voiding is a result of Fournette’s suspension by the league for one game a couple of weeks ago for his role in a fight that broke out in the Jaguars/Bills game. The NFLPA could challenge any such move, but if his contract included an exception for suspensions, as most rookie deals do, there might not be much they can do.

As a first round pick, Fournette’s multi-million dollar salaries for 2019 and 2020 had been guaranteed, but that’s no longer the case. The team can now cut Fournette without paying him anything more, and a parting of ways whether by trade or release now seems like a very real possibility. It’s a pretty significant development as a few weeks ago no one would’ve guessed the 2017 fourth overall pick’s longterm future with the team was in doubt. The Jaguars invested a very early pick in Fournette, but the returns have been underwhelming. He’s been injury prone and not particularly efficient even when healthy, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this season. The Fournette situation will be one of the most interesting to monitor this offseason.

Here’s more from around the league on Black Monday:

  • Nick Foles scared Eagles fans everywhere when he went down with a rib injury late in the team’s win over the Redskins, but the undeniably clutch signal caller will be alright for the playoffs. Tests on his ribs came back “clear”, and Foles will start this weekend against the Bears, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). It’s great news for Philly’s chances, as they look to make a second straight magical run to the Super Bowl. No matter what happens with Foles, he’s extremely unlikely to be back with the Eagles in 2019.
  • Adam Gase has been fired by the Dolphins, and not all of Miami’s players are sad to see him go. “Many players in Dolphins locker room won’t be hurt by decision to fire Adam Gase”, reports Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who reports that some players told him they felt “alienated” by Gase and that he held some players to a “different standard.” Reports like these surely won’t help Gase in his quest to land a new head coaching job, although he is still expected to be a hot candidate.
  • Speaking of the Dolphins, one pleasant development for Miami this year was the breakout season cornerback Xavien Howard had. While Howard wants to sign a longterm extension with the Dolphins, his price tag might be too high, according to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald. Howard picked off seven passes this year, and told Beasley he wants to land the biggest contract for a cornerback in NFL history. Josh Norman currently holds that record, and Howard thinks he deserves to break it. Howard will be playing the final year of his rookie deal in 2019, and Beasley writes that “$15 million annually is expected to be the floor when Howard’s representatives begin extension talks this offseason.” The Dolphins will have a new coaching staff and front office, and it will be interesting to see if they’re willing to meet his demands as they head into a rebuild.

Extra Points: Jets, Johnson, Jaguars, Yeldon, Fournette, Blount, Lions

We heard yesterday he was being fired, and the Todd Bowles era ended in very disappointing fashion today. The Jets were destroyed by the Patriots by a final score of 38-3. The defense was shredded by Tom Brady, and the unit was without one of their top players in Trumaine Johnson. Johnson was a healthy scratch, and it was because he was a no show for meetings and practice this week, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN (Twitter link).

Johnson said after the game that he overslept and was late to practice on Wednesday, and that that’s why he was benched, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. Johnson was signed away from the Rams this offseason with a massive contract, and has mostly been a disappointment. He’s played pretty well overall, but not at the level to deserve the five-year $72MM contract New York handed him. While GM Mike Maccagnan likely wishes he had that one back, his contract makes it impossible to move on until 2020 at the earliest, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com thinks the Jets might be “trying to set the stage” for a suspension of some sorts that could void guaranteed money in his contract. Any such actions would surely draw a stiff challenge from the player’s union.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Jaguars running backs T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette were caught by TV cameras sitting on the bench for nearly the entire game today instead of standing on the sideline, and head of football operations Tom Coughlin ripped their actions after the game, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player,” Coughlin said. While Fournette is locked into Jacksonville’s future with his fully guaranteed contract, Yeldon is set to be a free agent at the end of the year and is highly unlikely to be brought back.
  • LeGarrette Blount didn’t seem to have much left in the tank this year with the Lions, but the 32 year old bruising runner wants to play in 2019. Blount only averaged 2.71 yards per carry this year and was an afterthought in the offense when Kerryon Johnson was healthy, so Blount might not be able to find a team willing to bring him in this offseason. He had a very quiet market this past spring before Detroit eventually decided to give him a one year deal.
  • In case you missed it, Matthew Stafford isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Injury Notes: Brown, Wallace, Berry, Bolts

As the Steelers enter their must-win (plus-help-required) Week 17 scenario, their best player is not certain to be available. Antonio Brown missed three practices this week and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bengals. The four-time All-Pro is undergoing tests on his injured knee, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Brown has not missed a game this season. While Pittsburgh would be favored to beat Cincinnati at home without Brown, two-time reigning AFC North champions have not exactly been bastions of consistency this season or in recent years. The Steelers can clinch their fifth straight playoff berth with a win and a Ravens home loss to the Browns.

Here’s the latest on the injury front, shifting to one of Brown’s former teammates:

  • Although the Eagles surprisingly brought Mike Wallace back onto their 53-man roster without the usual IR-return practice routine, the deep threat will not play against the Redskins on Sunday. Philadelphia declared Wallace out because of his ankle injury, making the team’s move to activate him strictly for the playoffs. To make the playoffs, Philadelphia needs to beat Washington and have Chicago stop Minnesota. Wallace is not signed past this season, so it’s now possible he will end his Eagles tenure having played in only two games.
  • The Chargers are assured of a playoff spot, making a possible Hunter Henry cameo more likely. It might occur as soon as next week. Tom Telesco did not rule out his top tight end being ready to return before a possible wild-card game, per Eric Williams of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Henry participated in seven-on-seven drills with the Bolts on Friday, Williams tweets, doing so after being confined to individual work last week. The Chargers designated Henry to return from IR on Dec. 17, so they have until the divisional round — if their season extends that far — to make a call on Henry.
  • Eric Berry cannot shake his troublesome heel ailment. The three-time All-Pro Chiefs safety continues to battle this issue, Andy Reid said, via the Kansas City Star’s Brooke Pryor (on Twitter). Berry has been on a snap count (99 in two games) since making his season debut in Week 15, and Reid did not commit to Berry playing Sunday against the Raiders.
  • Ahead of the Texans‘ pivotal Week 17 game, Lamar Miller will return. Bill O’Brien said his top running back is “good to go” against the Jaguars. Miller missed much of the past two games with a sprained ankle. The Jags are unlikely to have Leonard Fournette available, with the second-year back listed as doubtful.

Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette Loses Appeal

Leonard Fournette‘s one-game suspension will stick. On Wednesday, the NFL announced that the Jaguars running back lost his appeal and will be suspended for this week’s game against the Colts. 

Fournette was ejected from Sunday’s game for taking a swing at Bills defender Shaq Lawson and was hit with a one-game ban on Monday for violating the league’s unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules. The former fourth overall selection will forfeit 1/17th of his $1.699MM base salary, which amounts to roughly $99K.

Unfortunately for the running back, the fiscal ramifications go far beyond one game check. If Fournette’s rookie deal includes void language regarding suspension, the remaining $7MM in guaranteed money left on his deal could be removed. Given Fournette’s injury history, that’s no small matter.

The Jags head into their Week 13 matchup against the Colts with a new offensive coordinator (quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich, who replaces Nathaniel Hackett), quarterback (Cody Kessler), and running back. Carlos Hyde, whom the Jaguars acquired from the Browns earlier this year, figures to see split time with T.J. Yeldon in a makeshift Jaguars backfield on Sunday. Both backs will run behind an offensive line that’s now without its best player in Andrew Norwell, who was placed on injured reserve this week.

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NFL Suspends Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette

The NFL has handed Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette a one-game suspension after he took a swing at Bills defender Shaq Lawson on Sunday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Specifically, Fournette — who was ejected from yesterday’s matchup along with Lawson — will be banned for violating the league’s unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules. Fournette has already appealed the suspension and will hear back on Wednesday, tweets Rapoport.

Jacksonville will now head into its Week 13 matchup against the Colts with a new offensive coordinator (quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich, who replaces Nathaniel Hackett), quarterback (Cody Kessler), and running back. Carlos Hyde, whom the Jaguars acquired from the Browns earlier this year, figures to see split time with T.J. Yeldon in a makeshift Jaguars backfield on Sunday. Both backs will run behind an offensive line that’s now without its best player in Andrew Norwell, who was placed on injured reserve earlier today.

At 3-8, the Jaguars have no shot at a playoff berth, so missing Fournette for one game won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. However, Fournette — who had returned in Week 10 from a lengthy injury-related absence — will be penalized financially. The former fourth overall selection will be now forfeit 1/17 of his $1.699MM base salary, which amounts to roughly $99K.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains, Fournette could potentially be subject to an even greater financial loss. If Fournette’s rookie contract contains void language regarding suspension, the remaining $7MM in guaranteed money left on his deal could be removed. If the Jaguars were to attempt to release Fournette and not pay him those remaining guarantees, he’d surely take his case to an arbiter.

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