JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The last time the Jacksonville Jaguars lost nine consecutive games, owner Shad Khan fired coach Gus Bradley before they left the stadium.
Khan could be on the verge of a similar move.
Jacksonville (1-8) dropped its eighth straight at Green Bay on Sunday and can match the longest, single-season skid in franchise history against unbeaten Pittsburgh. It would be impossible for Khan to ignore, even if he’s giving coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell credit for cleaning up the locker room and the salary cap.
But Khan’s call might not be as easy as it seems.
After all, the Jaguars have shown signs of progress in the past two weeks — something Marrone reluctantly acknowledged after saying “there’s something that’s in my soul that just gets (expletive) ripped out” with every loss.
The NFL’s youngest roster had two chances to upset the heavily favored Packers and had the ball near midfield both times before giving it back. Jacksonville also had a shot at tying Houston in the closing minutes a week earlier, but rookie Jake Luton’s 2-point conversion pass landed at DJ Chark’s feet in the end zone.
“All I know is we’re putting everything in this thing and we’re fighting our butts off,” Marrone said. “We’re doing everything we possibly can, you know what I’m saying? We’re coming up short. And it’s hard. I’m not going to lie.
“It’s hard, and I just want to do the best job I can for these coaches and players to keep them going so they can continue to get better. I do see that. I think if I wanted to feel good about myself, I think you can talk about some of the play or some of the players … and guys are playing, different guys.”
Most of them young, too.
A handful of rookies have flashed, most notably running back James Robinson, receiver Laviska Shenault, cornerback CJ Henderson, defensive tackle Doug Costin, nose tackle DaVon Hamilton and safety Daniel Thomas.
Add Chark, defensive end Josh Allen, linebacker Myles Jack, cornerback Sidney Jones and offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor into the mix, and the Jaguars appear to have a number of building blocks to go along with two more first-round draft picks and two second-rounders in 2021.
But the end results might not be enough to save Marrone and Caldwell, who have dropped 19 of their past 28 games.
“Obviously, we can come up with a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day, we line up in front of them and we have to finish it,” receiver Keelan Cole said. “We’re starting to figure out how to come out, how to be consistent throughout the game, and then we have to figure out how to finish it through — not even in the fourth quarter, but the last four minutes of the fourth quarter.”
The Jaguars are now 41-99 in Khan’s nine-year tenure. One more loss would tie him with former New Orleans Saints owner John Mecom Jr. as the second fastest to reach 100 losses. If the Jaguars don’t beat the Steelers, Khan will hit the dubious mark in 141 games, one more than late Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse.
Special teams gave the Jaguars a chance in Green Bay. Cole had the longest punt return in team history, a 91-yarder for a score. Logan Cooke dropped four punts inside the 15-yard line, including one at the 4 and another at the 2. And newly signed kicker Chase McLaughlin made both field goals, including a 52-yarder.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Jacksonville’s defense needs to eliminate big plays after giving up touchdowns passes of 70, 57, 77 and 78 yards in the past three games.
Cole has 34 receptions for 427 yards and four touchdowns, becoming a consistent option opposite Chark. He signed a one-year deal in the offseason and could be in line for a big payday in free agency.
Luton misfired on six of his final seven passes and was sacked twice, showing his inexperience in crunch time. He’s much better when there’s a threat of running the ball.
RB Chris Thompson (back) will be placed on injured reserve. C Brandon Linder (back), Costin (concussion) and LB Dakota Allen are expected to return against Pittsburgh. QB Gardner Minshew (thumb) “will go out and maybe throw a little, but he won’t be ready,” Marrone said. Marrone says it’s “too early” to tell whether Shenault (hamstring) can play this week.
8 — number of consecutive games Jacksonville has with at least one turnover, coinciding with its losing streak.
Jacksonville’s revenge tour, which saw Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis finish without a catch Sunday, continues against 2010 Jaguars first-round draft pick and current Steelers defensive tackle Tyson Alualu.
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