Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 79d

Doug Marrone returns to face Jets with chance for revenge

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone will say it's just another game because coaches are programmed to speak that way. Make no mistake, it's not just another game. On Sunday, he faces the New York Jets, the team that snubbed him and sent his career into a temporary tailspin.

It'll be remembered as one of those mysterious chapters in Jets history. In the first few days of the team's 2015 coaching search, Marrone went from early front-runner to persona non grata.

He opted out of his Buffalo Bills contract, in part, because he was led to believe he'd have the inside track on the Jets' job, according to NFL insiders. But the marriage never happened because Jets owner Woody Johnson got cold feet after personally calling Marrone to request an interview. Something happened between the call and the interview. Many believe Johnson was influenced by agenda-driven newspaper articles that painted Marrone in an unflattering light. By the time he got to the interview, he never had a chance.

The Bronx native and former Jets assistant would've been a different kind of hire for Johnson, who's never had an offensive-minded head coach or a head coach with previous experience in the job. Marrone also would've been a natural fit with Mike Maccagnan, who landed the general manager job at that time. They've been good friends since 1991. Maccagnan was a personnel scout for the London Monarchs (NFL Europe), and Marrone was a player. Three years later, Maccagnan hired Marrone as a scouting intern with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL. Maccagnan attended Marrone's wedding.

It wasn't hard to connect the dots, especially with Charley Casserly -- Maccagnan's mentor -- spearheading the coach and GM searches as a paid consultant of the Jets.

Jilted by the Jets and unable to land any other head-coaching jobs, Marrone spent 2015 and 2016 as the Jaguars' offensive line coach. He resurrected his career in relative anonymity, and now he coaches one of the surprise teams in the NFL. The Jaguars are trying to be 3-1 for the first time since 2007.

In a 2015 interview with ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill, Marrone addressed his ill-fated courtship with the Jets. Asked if he believes Johnson bailed because of outside noise, he said, "If it was because of that, I wouldn't want those jobs anyway because when the s--- hits the fan, it's not going to work, so I don't ever want to go that way."

On Sunday, Marrone gets his shot at revenge.

A quick look at the Jaguars:

THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH, OFFENSE

QB Blake Bortles: The 2014 first-round pick, who nearly lost his job in the preseason, played out of his mind Sunday in London -- four touchdown passes in a blowout win over the Baltimore Ravens. It was an aberration for Bortles, who committed an NFL-high 63 turnovers from 2014 to 2016. Coming into this season, he had as many wins as pick-sixes -- 11.

RB Leonard Fournette: Drafted fourth overall, Fournette already is one of the NFL's top rookies. He became only the third player since 2000 to have a rushing touchdown in each of his first three games. The others: Karlos Williams (Bills, 2015) and Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs, 2017). Fournette is big, tough and deceptively fast, a downhill nightmare.

TE Marcedes Lewis: At 33, he discovered the Fountain of Youth in London. He set a single-game career high with three touchdown catches, equaling his total from his previous 36 games.

TWO PLAYERS TO WATCH, DEFENSE

CB Jalen Ramsey: Ramsey, drafted fifth overall in 2016, is a lockdown corner for one of the top emerging defenses in the league. Against the Ravens, he was targeted seven times but allowed only two completions for 11 yards. He also made a terrific interception. He's confident, too. Ramsey said the Jaguars have "the best secondary in the league" and "the best defense in the league."

DT Calais Campbell: The Jaguars lured him away from the Arizona Cardinals with a four-year, $60 million contract. So far, the Jags like the results. The 31-year-old lineman has 4.5 sacks, including four in their 10-sack demolition of the Houston Texans in Week 1.

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