Jaguars Have Only Themselves to Blame for the Jalen Ramsey Situation

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 26, 2019

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 19: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars sits on the bench during the third quarter of a game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field on September 19, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Jalen Ramsey's medical condition is so serious that Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone started laughing when asked about it during his Wednesday press conference.

The Jaguars cornerback missed practice earlier in the week with an illness, missed practice again on Wednesday because he is "a little banged up" with lower back and hamstring injuries, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, and has apparently been under the weather for various reasons since the trade talks that would get him out of Jacksonville broke down last week.

Right. "Cough-cough. Ouch-ouch." (Holds thermometer over lightbulb until it reads 101). "Sorry, Coach, can't practice today."

Per Rapoport, Ramsey's agent said he had been receiving treatment for his aches and pains since last week. Fair enough: Half the NFL is getting treatment for something right now. As for Ramsey's inability to practice, Marrone has probably come to the same diagnosis as the rest of us. Ramsey's condition is called I-don't-want-to-play-for-this-team-anymore-itis, compounded by a chronic case of I-want-to-get-paid syndrome.

The Jaguars can cure Ramsey's condition at any time with a disgruntled-superstar-ectomy. They could also manage the condition with treat-your-players-like-professionals therapy, which is considered a controversial new-age alternative medicine in some old-school football circles, but which has been known to work.

They have chosen to do neither of these things, though, for the simple reason that they are a poorly run organization. Poorly run organizations are like old guys who won't cut down on the steak and scotch and start watching their cholesterol. Their stubbornness takes any bad situation and makes it worse.

The Jaguars and Ramsey began actively pursuing a trade early last week after the All-Pro cornerback got into a heated sideline confrontation with Marrone during a loss to the Texans over the way he is being used in the defense. But the contentious relationship between Ramsey and the team dates back almost to his arrival in Jacksonville.

Michael DiRocco of ESPN wrote a concise timeline of Ramsey's tenure with the Jaguars last week. Let's stick to the highlights here: Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft, openly criticized coaches at the end of his rookie year, then voiced his frustrations again after the AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots at the conclusion of the 2017 season. So complaints about defensive game plans are nothing new for him.

Ramsey was also suspended for "conduct unbecoming of a Jaguars football player" after a dustup with a sideline camera crew and the subsequent exchange of tweets with a reporter during 2018 training camp, and of course, his trash talk-laden 2018 GQ interview wasn't the sort of thing that makes NFL employers giddy with delight.

Ramsey trade speculation began last November, when he began referring to his Jaguars career as if it were already in the rearview mirror. "When I'm gone from here, y'all gone miss me," he posted on Twitter after a loss to the Colts. Both the Jaguars and Ramsey tamped down that speculation a few days later. But in April, when executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin indirectly criticized Ramsey and others for not attending voluntary offseason team activities, Ramsey responded via Twitter that the activities were, in fact, voluntary.

Ramsey then told NFL.com's Nate Burleson on a podcast last week that his trade request was not precipitated by the conflict with Marrone but had been brewing for a while and was brought to a head by "some disrespectful things" said to him by a team official. Odds are that official was Coughlin, who is the archetype against which all other old-school football guys are judged.

Trade talks heated up throughout last week, then fizzled amid multiple reports that the Jaguars are seeking a Khalil Mack-sized cornucopia of first-round picks. Ramsey responded with what appears to be a case of the blue flu. Marrone sees the humor in the situation, but Coughlin and others in the organization probably aren't laughing.

The Jaguars have a 1-2 record right now and are pinning their hopes on rookie quarterback sensation Gardner Minshew to keep them competitive until Nick Foles returns from a broken clavicle. It's hard to tell at this point whether Minshew is a legit prospect or just an internet meme come to life, but the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game two years ago with Blake Bortles: Anything is possible if their defense is playing up to its potential. For that to happen, they need a healthy, happy-to-be-there Ramsey, though. As for trading Ramsey for top picks and rebuilding, that would have made sense in the offseason, before they signed Foles and maxed out their salary-cap ledger for 2020.

The Jaguars don't seem to know if they are trying to be the Chicago Bears and clobber opponents with a devastating defense—in which case they need to learn to cope with mercurial mega-talents like Ramsey—or to build some sort of Coughlin-approved military-academy culture. By digging in their heels with Ramsey, they are doing neither, which only makes the whole situation worse.

If this all sounds familiar, it's because it is all taken from page one of the dysfunctional organization playbook: mishandle a temperamental or otherwise frustrated superstar until the conflict is irreparable, then procrastinate past all logical trade windows, then take whatever you can get when you finally stop grandstanding and start doing what's best for the franchise.

That's what the Texans did before trading Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks for a fraction of what they could have gotten if they had leveraged his franchise-tag status properly. It's what Washington is still doing with Trent Williams, who is holding out over issues with the team's medical procedures, not money. It's what the Steelers did with Antoni…OK, maybe nothing would have worked with Antonio Brown. But ignoring an escalating situation for months or years before trading the player on the cheap the way the Steelers did never had a chance of working.

There's no doubt Ramsey can be an organizational migraine. Players of his caliber often are. The Jaguars' potential suitors know he is, and any team that eventually trades for Ramsey will have one of the remedies the Jaguars refuse to swallow cooked up: a man-coverage scheme tailored to his gifts, or a coach/defensive coordinator with a "Go sic 'em, fellas" attitude, or a locker room full of stronger personalities.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 19: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars defends against Corey Davis #84 of the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter of a game at TIAA Bank Field on September 19, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jame
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Potential trade partners also know that Ramsey expects (and deserves) a market-setting contract extension that the Jaguars would be hard-pressed to fit under the cap even if they wanted to. And of course, teams will want Ramsey's services before the playoff race heats up. The longer the Jaguars wait, the weaker their position will get.

Ramsey is almost doing the team a favor by calling out sick and bringing this fever to a head. The organization can't pretend everything is fine when Ramsey is in Ferris Bueller mode, so they'll be motivated to finally make a deal they should have made long ago and then (maybe) start asking themselves serious questions about what kind of team they want to be.

In the meantime, Ramsey has an unassailable reason to miss some work. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday night that he's traveling to Nashville for the birth of his second child. Not even Coughlin can blame him for that.

Congratulations, Jalen. And, you know, get well soon (wink).

As for the Jaguars: Guys, you might want to get that cholesterol checked.

              

Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeTanier.

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