Gene Frenette: Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence has maturity level to overcome awful rookie season

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Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence throws a pass. The rookie has endured a disastrous season, but he has the maturity level to overcome a dreadful start and still have a promising career.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence throws a pass. The rookie has endured a disastrous season, but he has the maturity level to overcome a dreadful start and still have a promising career.

Whoever ends up as the Jaguars’ next head coach, two priorities are paramount: building an organization and team-oriented culture that makes consistent winning more attainable, plus accelerating the development of quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

On that latter point, the Jaguars threatening to finish the season with a franchise-low scoring output (14.0 points per game) is a reflection on both Lawrence and his surrounding cast. Lawrence can’t be held blameless, no matter how many balls his receivers have dropped (29) or spotty his offensive line protection.

Having only one TD pass in his last seven games and just a 58.3 percent completion percentage is enough to be concerned about Lawrence’s confidence factor. But when you compare Trevor with current NFL rookies he faced last week or in the next two games, plus past Jaguars’ QBs in their first season, his sobering numbers are hard to dismiss.

Lawrence has 9 TD passes, 14 interceptions, 504 attempts, 5.8 yards per attempt and a QB rating of 69.3. Here are the others from their respective rookie seasons:

Gardner Minshew (2019) -- 21 TDs; 6 interceptions; 470 attempts; 7.0 YPA; 91.2 rating;

Blake Bortles (2014) -- 11 TDs; 17 interceptions; 475 attempts; 6.1 YPA; 69.5 rating;

Blaine Gabbert (2011) -- 12 TDs; 11 interceptions; 413 attempts; 5.4 YPA; 65.4 rating;

Zach Wilson (New York Jets) -- 6 TDs; 11 interceptions; 308 attempts; 6.2 YPA; 66.4 rating;

Mac Jones, the No. 15 draft pick from The Bolles School (New England Patriots) -- 18 TDs; 10 interceptions; 429 attempts; 7.4 YPA; 94.6 rating;

Davis Mills (Houston Texans) -- 10 TDs; 9 interceptions; 302 attempts; 6.4 YPA; 82.2 rating.

This isn’t to suggest Lawrence can’t have a bounce-back season in 2022, or even flourish with the right head coach and play-caller. But the Jaguars better hope this rookie-year disaster is a career outlier and doesn’t leave any lingering scar tissue.

The good news is Lawrence’s poise and maturity in handling all the adversity this year isn’t going away. That should calm whatever fears Jaguars fans have about this season or the future.

Lawrence’s NFL career can still be special, providing owner Shad Khan does the proper housecleaning and hires the right people to run the organization. . . .

What a terrible break for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, losing Texas A&M to an outbreak with COVID-19 and putting their Dec. 31 game in jeopardy unless they can find a last-minute replacement. The choices for Gator Bowl president Greg McGarity were limited due to the Christmas holiday break and a football program trying to make hurried travel arrangements on short notice.

Rutgers, which had first priority with an NCAA Football Oversight Committee because the Scarlet Knights had the highest APR (Academic Progress Rate) among the seven Power 5 teams with 5-7 records, agreed Thursday to serve as Wake Forest's opponent. Jaguars' owner Shad Khan made a push behind the scenes for alma mater Illinois to be ready to come to Jacksonville, and coach Brett Bielema was on board, but Rutgers opted to take the bowl trip.

McGarity, who wanted to have an opponent locked in for Wake Forest no later than noon Thursday, did a remarkable job to pull this off in his first year. The Gator Bowl appointing the former Georgia athletic director to that position paid dividends because of his relationships in the college football world. . . ..

It’s an uncertain future for Jaguars’ general manager Trent Baalke, who was hired by former GM Dave Caldwell before the 2020 season. But considering the Jaguars are 3-27 since Baalke’s arrival, Khan is better off hitting the reset button with the front office and coaching staff, which he hasn’t done since 2013. Another big concern about retaining Baalke as GM is he doesn’t have a good track record of hiring coaches.

When he was with the 49ers, Baalke got off to a great start in 2011 by hiring Jim Harbaugh, who took the 49ers to three straight NFC title games and one Super Bowl, but that relationship soured and Harbaugh high-tailed it for Michigan. Subsequent hires of promoting Jim Tomsula, then bringing aboard Chip Kelly, both ended badly.

Regardless of how Khan chooses to structure the organization or distribute the power, there are too many other highly-qualified GM candidates out there for Khan to stick with the status quo. Clearly, Baalke and fired head coach Urban Meyer were not an ideal tag team. . . .

It’s understandable Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson being friends with Meyer, his former Fox television colleague, that he wants to come across as supporting him. But to publicly say Meyer was somehow a victim of “backstabbing” in his dismissal by the Jaguars wasn’t a smart play. While Meyer might want the public to believe that, it doesn’t automatically make it so, especially since he has established a clear pattern of not telling the whole truth on so many things.

Meyer telling NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that he ordered the benching of running back James Robinson after a fumble — contradicting what he said in a postgame news conference following the Atlanta Falcons game when he suggested asking position coach Bernie Parmalee — was essentially an admission that he himself is willing to be a backstabber.

The more time has passed since the Jaguars pink-slipped Meyer, the more his credibility gets diminished. . . .

Jaguars pass-rusher Josh Allen has gone a career-high six consecutive games without a sack, the last time being near the end of the first half on November 7 when he took Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen to the ground. He also had a fumble recovery and interception in that game against the Bills.

Since then, the Jaguars’ Allen has gone without a sack in the last 211 drop backs by opposing quarterbacks, and he was on the field for 74 percent (274 of 371) of his team’s defensive snaps during that six-game stretch. . . .

For only the second time in six years under coach Leonard Hamilton, the Florida State basketball team recently dropped three consecutive games to Purdue, Syracuse and South Carolina, blowing a 16-point lead against the Gamecocks. While FSU recovered to blow out Lipscomb on a career-high 25 points from Anthony Polite, the ACC schedule-makers haven’t done Hamilton’s young team any favors.

Starting on Wednesday, the Seminoles have three road games – Boston College, North Carolina State and Wake Forest – in a span of six days. And they’ll play coming off a two-week layoff due to games against UCF and University of North Florida being cancelled or postponed over the Seminoles’ COVID-19 issues. . .

Incidentally, UNF lost $95,000 in one day when FSU ($70,000) canceled its men's basketball home game for COVID issues with the Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes’ women did the same ($25,000) with its home matchup against the Lady Ospreys. But athletic director Nick Morrow and men's hoops coach Matthew Driscoll made a nice recovery, signing up for a December 29 road game against Kansas State with a $90,000 guarantee. That higher figure is due to the expense of the Ospreys making last-minute flight arrangements. A December 30 home game with Florida National was also canceled because of COVID issues with that team. . . .

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers. Enjoy the gift of only 17 days left until the Jaguars’ miserable season comes to a close. . . .

Pigskin forecast: New York Jets over Jaguars by 7 (No. 1 draft position locks); Buffalo Bills over New England Patriots by 1 (cold dish of revenge); Kansas City Chiefs over Pittsburgh Steelers by 4 (torch passings); Alabama over Cincinnati by 13 (Power 5 muscle flexes); Georgia over Michigan by 3 (quarterback quandaries). Last week: 2 right, 2 Antonio Brown enablers, 1 Gasparilla Bowl TBD.

gfrenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence has maturity level to overcome awful rookie season

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