For some strange reason, teams who finished with the worst record in football the previous season are often popular futures bets.
Maybe it’s because with a new coach, new system, and hopeful outlook, teams can shock the world?
And it’s not as far-fetched as it seems.
In 2018, the San Francisco 49ers finished with the second-worst record in the NFL. After a stellar 2019 campaign, they came within one quarter of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Imagine placing a futures bet on them a year and a half ago.
Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock. And sure, you may consider whether to place a futures bet on a team facing long odds to probably even encroach over an over/under.
So what does the future hold for the rebuilding Jaguars?
Today’s post will set a few things straight.
Will Trevor Lawrence Be Ready?
Although I’m writing today’s post in February, it’s common knowledge that the Jaguars will draft Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence will also have a torn labrum in his left shoulder repaired, and he’s expected to be ready by the beginning of training camp in July.
But if he has a setback, it will also set the Jaguars back in their transition. And if you placed a positive futures bet on the Jaguars, chances are it will also hurt your chances of winning your wager.
So track Lawrence’s progress throughout the offseason. Watch for any setbacks, and make sure that Lawrence is at 100 percent before Week One, or ideally, at 100 percent before training camp begins.
If Lawrence is ready and raring to go, the Jaguars will become a safer bet. Not a surefire bet, given their 1-15 debacle the previous season. But let’s be honest. Lawrence is a huge upgrade over Jake Luton, Gardner Minshew, and Mike Glennon.
Of the trio, only Minshew is worthy of becoming a long-term NFL starter. Even if it’s clear he won’t elevate anyone’s talent as Tom Brady would; Minshew would thrive in a game managing role.
But it’s what separates Lawrence’s potential from Minshew. Lawrence has the potential to upgrade the talent of other players around him. And it’s why the Jaguars will select him first overall in April’s draft.
Unfortunately, we don’t know when he will play. So the big takeaway here is to make sure you know he’s the Week One starter before you place a futures bet.
But even if Lawrence is back in time for training camp and Week One, you still need to expect something else.
Expect Learning Curves From Lawrence and Urban Meyer
You should know two things before you place a futures bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence have won National Championships. But neither have coached nor played a down in the NFL. That said, you need to remember that the NFL differs from the college game.
For example, Meyer thrived in a spread offense that always featured a scrambling quarterback. It’s something you can’t do as often in the NFL. And it’s something you definitely can’t use with Trevor Lawrence as your quarterback.
Lawrence can run. But he’s more of your traditional pocket passer who scrambles when it’s necessary.
Don’t forget that.
Meyer must also learn how to coach an NFL offense using an NFL playbook. Not that he can’t use some old tricks from the college game. But it’s another world in the NFL. And the sooner both player and coach adjust to the NFL game, the faster the Jaguars can improve.
But history is not on their side.
Few college coaches have succeeded in the NFL. And even fewer have seen success in their first season.
Arguably, your 2 best former college coaches of the modern era are Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll. Johnson owns 3 Super Bowl Championships. Carroll owns one.
But neither fared well during their formative seasons at the NFL level.
Johnson finished 1-15 when he took over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. Carroll had stints with the New York Jets in 1994 and the New England Patriots from 1997 to 1999. He didn’t return to the NFL game until 2010. And he didn’t become a relevant coaching commodity until 2012.
History shows that former collegiate coaches can succeed. But as you can see, it rarely occurs in Year One. Especially in the modern era. So if you’re looking for a team who finished in the bottom of the barrel last season, it’s best to consider a team with a more experienced NFL coach.
But again, all droughts end. And Meyer may end that drought.
What the Jacksonville Jaguars Have
The Jaguars have stellar puzzle pieces on offense. Yep, even for a team who finished 1-15. Not that they were one of the better teams in the history of NFL. But they have a decent running back in James Robinson, plus a pair of pass catchers in Laviska Shenault and D.J. Chark.
Also, Meyer went out and hired Darrell Bevell. Bevell spent his last 2 seasons with the Lions in Detroit. Where his offense at least did what they could to keep the team in games. Not that it mattered, considering how poorly the defense played in the Motor City.
And it showed in 2020. Better yet, Bevell has head coaching experience after serving as the interim head coach for the Lions after the team fired Matt Patricia. With Bevell’s limited head coaching experience, he also gives Meyer a role of a trusted advisor.
Plus, they have a solid nucleus on defense, bad as they were in 2020.
With no offseason to work, it hurt the inexperienced defense. But after a crash course that was training camp and the tidal wave of a 16-game season, the defense now has a year of experience under their belts.
And they also have several key defensive puzzle pieces. Among them are Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, Josh Allen, C.J. Henderson, DaVon Hamilton, and Chris Claybrooks. Most of the aforementioned players minus Jack and Schobert were rookies.
And while they need help on defense, one NFL year of experience will make a huge difference for this team moving forward.
What the Jacksonville Jaguars Don’t Have
The Jaguars just don’t have experience. And with the offseason still up in the air, it can hurt a team like the Jaguars. Virtual offseasons can only take a team so far.
And for teams with NFL experience or those who have chemistry, a lack of an offseason program is nowhere near as detrimental. In fact, NFLPA President JC Tretter pointed out a record in scoring and massive decrease in penalties as potential benefits for a lack of an offseason program.
The product was still good.
And to an extent, the Cornell graduate is absolutely right.
As for teams in transition, however, it can hurt. Most of the players are young. Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke will bring in their own players to fit the respective offensive and defensive system. And with it comes their own playbooks.
For a team like the Jaguars and others in transition, little to no offseason workouts and organized activities can hurt. So if you like the Jaguars for a potential futures bet, remember that they’re the third most experienced team in the AFC South. If not, the fourth.
Then there is Lawrence, who we discussed earlier. And again, unless something crazy happens between the time of this writing in February 2021 and the NFL Draft in late April, he’s going to be a Jacksonville Jaguar.
But besides Lawrence’s labrum tear, operation, and rehab period, how well will adjust to the NFL?
And how fast?
The upside is that he has a lot of talent. And he has a lot of talent around him. Among talented players is a good running back.
But it’s already a guarantee that Lawrence will not get any offseason reps in. So will it affect his transition to the NFL?
Lawrence will have little to no experience when he takes the field, either in training camp or maybe even a regular season game. And we’re not talking about COVID protocols here. But his rehab time clashing with the offseason.
Losing valuable experience can cost him. But hey, we can say the same about Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. Neither of whom had a chance to mesh with their offenses in the offseason in 2020 because of COVID.
Burrow looked good until his own injury midway through the year. And Herbert set a few rookie records. Including touchdown passes.
Maybe Lawrence does the same?
The Jacksonville Jaguars have talent. And they have a little more experience than they did in 2020. Plus, they were the worst team in football and that alone makes them somewhat hot futures bets. Ironically.
But the Jaguars are still a good ways away from becoming a realistic futures bet that will win you money. Sure, they can always surprise. But they still lack overall experience, and they have a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback on the way.
What are your thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars? Would you place a futures bet on them? Why or why not?
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