Jacksonville Jaguars working to 'strengthen' football operations staff around GM Trent Baalke

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have a new head coach and soon they're going to have a new front-office structure.

Owner Shad Khan said Saturday that the plan is to hire an executive vice president of football operations and add someone to work under current general manager Trent Baalke. It's a structure Khan has used before but dumped after the 2019 season and it helped the Jaguars post their only winning season in his 10 years as owner.

"One of the reasons we had the search was not only looking for the head-coaching candidate but really to learn about other organizations," Khan said during the news conference welcoming new head coach Doug Pederson. "That's a byproduct of the coaching search. So some of the practices, some of the structure that works, we got great insight into it. Strengthening the football operations, more staff, that's part of our goal. We've had too flat an organization and we want to add brainpower and more people to strengthen that."

Khan said the team has notified the NFL it plans to add an EVP. The Jaguars have already interviewed former Minnesota GM Rick Spielman -- though Khan didn't say for which position -- but they have to interview at least two external minority candidates for the EVP job per the recent expansion of the Rooney Rule.

Khan hired Tom Coughlin as an EVP and gave him total control of all football decisions in January 2017, and one of Coughlin's first decisions was to retain interim head coach Doug Marrone. The pairing worked that season as the Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South for the first time, played host to a playoff game for the first time since January 2000, and made a run to the AFC Championship game before losing at New England.

However, Coughlin ran afoul of the NFL Players Association because of excessive fines and player grievances. It also didn't help that the Jaguars went 5-11 in 2018 and the high-priced signing of quarterback Nick Foles in 2019 turned into a disaster when Foles got hurt and played so poorly when he returned that he was benched in favor of sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew. Khan fired Coughlin on Dec. 18, 2019 as the Jaguars were headed toward a 6-10 season.

When Khan fired GM Dave Caldwell in November 2020 and Marrone after the 2020 season, he opted to take a coach-centric approach with Urban Meyer. That lasted only 11 months, after which Khan fired Meyer because he went 2-11 and committed a string of embarrassing missteps that included inappropriate behavior in a restaurant/bar with a woman who wasn't his wife, as seen in two viral videos; reports of him berating his assistant coaches; and an attempt to hire a strength coach who was accused of making racist remarks and bullying Black players at Iowa.

With the hire of Pederson -- who went 42-37-1, won a Super Bowl, and made three playoff appearances in five seasons in Philadelphia (2016-20) -- Khan said the Jaguars are taking a collaborative approach, though it's unclear how the EVP will figure into that at this point. Khan on Saturday also threw his support behind Baalke and said the team did not offer the job to anyone other than Pederson. He said none of the 10 candidates the Jaguars interviewed -- including Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich -- said they didn't want to work with Baalke.

Pederson, 54, made it clear Saturday that he's enthused to be back in the NFL after taking a year off, but also said it's going to take some time to turn around a franchise that has gone 4-29 and earned the No. 1 overall pick in back-to-back seasons.

"I'm excited, one, to have this opportunity to lead your organization, but two, to be able to get in here, develop a coaching staff, develop our philosophies, develop our schemes to be successful on the football field," Pederson said. "This is not an overnight fix. This is not we're just going to snap our fingers and start winning football games. Our goal is to win football games, but we're going to do it one player, one coach, one person in the organization at a time."

That Khan was receptive to that is a bit of a change from his approach when he hired Meyer. He said in October that he didn't want to hear a coach say he had a four-year plan and that "the plan is you need to start winning now, and tell me what you need and that's what we're going to do. Because that is absolutely a trap I don't believe falling in."

Khan was apparently willing to adjust his expectations in part because of Pederson.

"We wanted someone who knows exactly what it is to be the last team standing in February and is passionate about doing it and doing it again," Khan said.