This is somewhat unexpected. According to multiple reports, the Jacksonville Jaguars will retain general manager Trent Baalke for the 2022 campaign. Baalke initially joined the Jaguars' front office as the team's director of player personnel under former general manager Dave Caldwell. Baalke was then named the team's interim general manager after Caldwell was fired in late 2020, and remained in that role upon the hiring of Urban Meyer.
Many naturally assumed that Baalke would follow Meyer out the door as Jaguars owner Shad Khan would embrace an opportunity to hit the reset button following the unmitigated disaster that was Meyer. That appears not to be the case, and it profiles as yet another grim mistake by Khan's ownership group and the Jaguars franchise.
First, Baalke has done nothing to prove he deserves to retain his role. The Jaguars are closing in on a miserable 3-28 record since Baalke joined their front office. Baalke (and Meyer) were awarded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in a rare year where a generational talent at the quarterback position was available. It was always going to take more than just Trevor Lawrence to turn the Jaguars around, but they've failed to meet even the low expectations we all had for them in Year 1 of the Lawrence era. Don't look now, but the Jaguars currently own the first-overall selection in the 2022 draft following Sunday's embarrassing loss to fellow basement dwellers, the New York Jets.
The decision will reportedly have a profound impact (AKA a negative one) on Jacksonville's search for a new head coach. Baalke has been described as difficult to work with in the past and few coaching candidates will be attracted to a destination that already has a below-average general manager in place. Baalke's track record when it comes to hiring head coaches is rather pitiful too. He undeniably landed a winner when he originally lured Jim Harbaugh from Stanford in San Francisco, but the two quickly clashed and eventually parted ways. Baalke was largely blamed for driving away one of the game’s most impressive and successful coaches at the time.
Baalke then stunningly appointed Jim Tomsula, who finished 5-11 in his lone season as head coach while looking dutifully unprepared to lead a franchise. Baalke then went for another splash hire by anointing Chip Kelly as the savior. It was somehow an even bigger disaster than the Tomsula hiring. Kelly went 2-14 in his one-and-done season and Baalke was quickly fired (alongside Kelly). It's a stretch of failures that should put Khan on high alert but has dumbfoundingly done the opposite.
Baalke was initially retained following Caldwell’s departure to essentially babysit Meyer and his antics when it came to NFL roster rules and procedures while seemingly taking a backseat to Meyer's roster-building ideologies and philosophies. Meyer had full control over roster decisions and Baalke was fine playing second fiddle. With Meyer now rightfully out of the picture, Khan bought himself an opportunity to start from scratch, to once and for all hire a general manager and head coach combo that could fall in line with one another while sharing the same vision for the future direction of the franchise. Khan should have taken this golden opportunity to clean up a toxic workplace while (re)building from the ground up. That's how it's supposed to be done, but Khan has seemingly bungled another opportunity before the 'next' era of Jacksonville football even gets off the ground.