Tom Coughlin is like a poker player who pushes all his chips on the table in hopes of drawing an inside straight.
The decision by Coughlin, who is now running the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, to trade a conditional seventh-round pick to Cleveland for backup quarterback Cody Kessler is another example that he is all in on the running game and thinks he can win with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
Kessler makes sense as a backup because he’ll cost the Jaguars less than a $1 million in salary in his third year, and Bortles is so durable that Kessler is not likely to see much action.
But it also means the Jaguars don’t figure to draft a quarterback in the first three rounds or address the problem of finding a quarterback for the future in Coughlin’s first two years.
Kessler certainly isn’t a long-term answer. He was drafted in the third round two years ago, but his stock has dropped since then. No team was willing to offer the Browns an unconditional seventh, much less a sixth, for Kessler.
Kessler started eight games as a rookie in 2016 and lost all eight despite throwing for 336 yards in a 28-26 road loss to Tennessee. But the Browns have played so poorly the past two years – they went 1-15 and 0-16 – that Kessler can’t take all the blame for the losses.
Still, the Browns drafted DeShone Kizer on the second round last year, and he started 15 games while Kessler threw only 23 passes. Kizer was then traded to Green Bay.
Coughlin didn’t address the quarterback position in his first year on the job, sticking with Bortles and backup Chad Henne, who recently signed with Kansas City.
Coughlin showed his commitment to the running game back in 2016, when he passed up quarterback DeShaun Watson to take running back Leonard Fournette.
The Jaguars led the league in rushing and made it to the AFC title game, although their running game wasn’t as effective in the second half of the season.
So to improve the running game, Coughlin made Andrew Norwell the highest-paid guard in the league, even though guard isn’t considered a premium position.
He could have used the money he spent on Norwell to keep nickel back Aaron Colvin and still have money left over for other moves. Losing Colvin is probably a setback to their pass defense.
So this sets up an interesting season for the Jaguars. Can they rely on the running game and defense to make the AFC title game again or even win the Super Bowl?
Will Bortles improve or still be inconsistent the way he was at times last year? Bortles is working out again in the offseason with his passing guru in California, but he has admitted to network analysts he is not a natural thrower of the football.
Coughlin is betting he is right and the Jaguars can make the Super Bowl with Bortles featuring a play-action passing game and with Norwell blocking.
If he’s wrong and Bortles doesn’t get it done, Coughlin will be scrambling next year to find his quarterback of the future.