One of the darkest periods in Jacksonville Jaguars history was when the news broke of All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey wanting a trade from the organization. A former Top-5 selection from the 2016 NFL Draft, Ramsey was probably as big of a defensive star as a small market team could have, and much of that was because he backed it up on the field.
However, during the Jags’ second regular-season game of the 2019 season, it all hit the fan after Ramsey got into a verbal altercation with former Jags head coach Doug Marrone. As heated as that argument looked, though, it wasn’t the issue that led to Ramsey leaving — instead, it was a confrontational meeting with management after the game that left him feeling disrespected.
In an interview with Aqib Talib on the “Catching Fades” podcast, Ramsey shared new details about how the post-game conversation went down. After Week 2’s game of 2019 (against Houston) the All-Pro corner says he was approached by son of Shad Khan, Tony Khan, (both of whom he said he respects), who asked Ramsey if he’d be willing to chat with them privately. However, when Ramsey came to the meeting, he was shocked to see that two others were standing alongside the ownership duo.
Of course, as confirmed in 2019, one of those people was front-office leader Tom Coughlin. The other, according to Ramsey, was former general manager Dave Caldwell, who didn’t initially speak as Shad Khan started the conversation.
“I get in the office and it’s Tony, Shad, Tom Coughlin, and Dave Caldwell,” said Ramsey. “It’s four of them in there and then it’s just me and they were like…standing like in a semi-circle just all looking at me. So I’m hot now […] first of all, you told me it was just you and pops and now I’m in here [with more than ownership].
“[…] I want to say Shad started to speak first and was very respectful. You know ‘Jalen we got a lot of respect for your game’ this, that whoop-de-woo… ‘Are you and Doug going to be good? We don’t want anything going on between a key player and our head coach.’ I’m like ‘We good. It is what it is and that’s just part of the game.'”
Ramsey said that after Shad Khan spoke, Tony Khan chimed in with many of the same sentiments and suggested that Ramsey at least consider apologizing.
“Tony said something, too, and was real respectful, again,” Ramsey said. “Basically repeated what his dad said and kind of kept it moving like ‘Man we really think y’all should talk before anybody talks to the media. Y’all two should talk just to make sure y’all good and maybe you need to apologize to him.’
“And then I told him […] ‘Respectfully, I’m not about to apologize to him.’ I said, ‘That’s a part of the game. Emotions get high and we might get into it. It ain’t no beef, ain’t nothing going on between us. Me and coach good. We’ve always been good.'”
Back when this was originally reported in 2019, Coughlin was widely speculated to be the one who Ramsey was referring to when he said he was disrespected. However, in this particular meeting, Ramsey says it was Caldwell who angered him in a confrontation that Ramsey claims was explosive.
“So then, Dave Caldwell, who was the GM…he took the total opposite — I guess they were in there playing good cop, bad cop. He took the total opposite approach. He started cussing and started trying to cuss me out, like ‘You need to go [expletive] apologize.’ […] I said ‘No, that ain’t happening.’
“And then he said something else, but I forgot what he said. You know how when you’re in shock sometimes, you give like that little laugh, like ‘He’s crazy.’ So, I gave him a little grin and he’s like ‘Oh, is this funny to you?’ And I just started shaking my head, and then he was like, ‘Well, just get the [expletive] out!’ And he opened the door, and I just walked out like laughing a little bit, and he slammed the door behind me.”
Ramsey said that’s when he called his agent, David Mulugheta, and informed him that he wanted a trade as the team seemed content with losing and didn’t handle business well. Many fans would agree after the team overpaid the wrong people (Blake Bortles and Nick Foles) and seemingly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by letting homegrown talent escape their clutches (like Allen Robinson, Yannick Ngakoue, Ramsey).
Another issue presented by Ramsey’s retelling is that, if it’s an accurate summary of events, Coughlin and Caldwell had an unusually high level of involvement in the conflict. As front-office members, player-to-coach situations aren’t for them to handle. The issue might have been best left to those involved and ownership, if necessary.
Of course, as owner and the man who hired Caldwell and Coughlin, Shad Khan shares some accountability here. But after allegedly witnessing this situation with Caldwell, the team’s friction with Coughlin, and its dysfunction in general, it appears ownership was taking notes.
If Ramsey’s explanation of that fateful meeting is accurate, it’s clear why Khan moved to a coach-centric approach with Urban Meyer, where the coach’s vision takes priority over others in the organization.