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The Jaguars are retaining general manager Trent Baalke. He will be directly involved in hiring the next head coach with owner Shad Khan, a source familiar with the situation confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was the first to report that Baalke will be retained on Monday night.
Baalke will be working with Khan to help evaluate head coaching candidates. Though Khan and Baalke could begin interviewing candidates on Tuesday, none were conducted because they are still in the process of scheduling and making requests to teams for assistants they are interested in speaking to, according to league sources.
The Jaguars will conduct interviews with current NFL assistants virtually on Zoom. The Las Vegas Raiders are also in the process of lining up coaching candidates to interview for their vacant head coaching job.
This season, a new NFL rule allows teams with a head coaching vacancy to start the interviewing process during the final two weeks of the regular season. In previous seasons, teams could not begin to interview coaching candidates until the regular season ended.
Jaguars plan to interview Byron Leftwich
The Jaguars plan to interview between six to 10 candidates to fill the spot that became open on Dec. 16 when Urban Meyer was fired after 13 games into his first season. To finish out the season, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was named interim head coach.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is among the candidates the Jaguars will interview, including former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson and former Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Also on the Jaguars' list to be interviewed are Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Baalke, 57, was hired by the Jaguars in February 2020 to serve as director of player personnel to replace Chris Polian, who was fired after seven seasons with the Jaguars.
Baalke was named interim general manager after Dave Caldwell was fired in November 2020 before he was promoted to the job full time this past January.
It appears Baalke's job was never in jeopardy when Meyer was fired on Dec. 16. He worked behind the scenes to make sure Meyer essentially had what he wanted in regard to personnel. Now, Baalke will get his first opportunity to totally run the football operations department as he will continue reporting to Khan.
Jaguars fans not happy
But since Baalke's arrival, the Jaguars have lost 28 of 31 games. Once Meyer was fired, it appeared Khan would clean house to turn the page for a new start after 10 losing seasons in 11 years with both a new general manager and head coach.
In October, Baalke apparently did not have a problem with Meyer not returning with the team to Jacksonville after a 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals during Week 4. Meyer said he discussed his decision to not return with the team with Baalke, who signed off on it in advance.
Baalke also oversaw the team's 2021 free agency and draft picks. Despite having $73.8 million in available cap space, the Jaguars failed to make a big splash in free agency.
And only quarterback Trevor Lawrence and cornerback Tyson Campbell have made a significant impact the Jaguars' 2021 draft picks. The Jaguars traded up nine spots in the fourth round to select edge rusher Jordan Smith, who has yet to get his first NFL snap with only two games remaining in the regular season.
Baalke's possible return has not been received well by the Jaguars fan base. A significant amount of fans expressed frustration on Twitter Tuesday.
How in the world is he keeping his job?
— Brad Reynolds (@Brad_Reynoldss) December 28, 2021
Josh Listerine wrote, ''If you went back in time and told me how this year would go and Baalke would stay, I would still not be shocked. Khan will always do what is wrong when it comes to football."
Looks like we’re going back to blowing draft picks and having our season be all but over in October. 🤦♂️
— jason bellamy (@jmbellam) December 28, 2021
Jaguars fan Matthew Miller said in his response that he ''encourages all to spend 10 minutes researching the San Francisco 49ers' 2014 seasons of internal backstabbing and incessant leaks which ultimately led to former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's ouster. Baalke's consolidation and the promotion of a 2014 staffer to head coach. Lone constant in SF in 2014 and Jacksonville in 2021? Trent Baalke.''
Cooke placed on injured reserve; 3 more added to COVID list
The Jaguars placed punter Logan Cooke (knee) on injured reserve and tight end Jacob Hollister, defensive tackle Jay Tufele and linebacker Damien Wilson were added to the COVID-19 list. The Jaguars have 19 players on the virus list, 13 players have been put on the list since Tuesday. Jacksonville signed tight end Kahale Warring to active roster from the Buffalo Bills' practice squad. Defensive back Brandon Rusnak was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville Jaguars expected to retain GM Trent Baalke