5 takeaways from Trent Baalke’s 2022 NFL Combine press conference

Jags GM Trent Baalke spoke at the combine for about 15 minutes yesterday about the needs on the Jags’ roster, and like everyone, he wants to get better around Trevor Lawrence.

Tuesday kicked off the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and several general managers and coaches were able to meet with the media to discuss the outlook of their respective teams. That included Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke and coach Doug Pederson, who were officially paired together early last month.

Pederson will be new to the organization, but Baalke will be entering his third season with the team and second as their general manager. In his first season as general manager, things couldn’t have gone worse after the Jags registered the NFL’s worst record a second consecutive time, but somehow he was given the nod to return in 2022.

Needless to say, there is a lot of work for Baalke to do if the Jags are to improve, and he knows as well as anyone that it won’t be easy. He spoke with the media for a second time this offseason in Indianapolis to give them a rundown of the Jags’ outlook, and here are five key takeaways we garnered from his time at the podium:

Jags put search for an EVP on hold, but will continue search for front office help

The search for an EVP for the Jags organization has been pretty quiet, and we now know why.

The biggest question on the minds of Jacksonville Jaguars fans this offseason has been finding out what the team would do about an executive vice president. Of course, this curiosity came when team owner Shad Khan said the organization filed to make the position potentially available within the organization during Doug Pederson’s first press conference.

However, since then, they’ve been mostly quiet (aside from interviewing Rick Spielman before Pederson’s addition) on the search, but with the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine starting today, we now have an update. That update came through NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who says the search for an EVP has been put on hold due to Doug Pederson’s impressive presence. 

As previously stated, the combine is now here, which means free agency is coming up soon, and the draft will follow in April. Simply put, that means it’s a little late in the process to add an EVP, and if it was going to get done, it should’ve been done with Pederson’s hiring or a few days afterward at the least.

Mark Long of the Associated Press added that he was told that Khan had been present at the Jags’ facility often as of late and has been impressed with the professionalism, culture, and chemistry that he’s witnessed with Pederson and Baalke working together. Long also said the Jags would continue to look for pieces under Baalke, which was also mentioned in Pederson’s first presser. 

When considering what the Jags moved on from last year in Urban Meyer, it isn’t a shocker that the culture is headed in a different direction early in the process as Pederson is an experienced and accomplished NFL head coach. However, Pederson and Baalke have yet to make any free agent signings or draft selections together, which is when coach-to-general manager relationships get tested. They also have yet to go through a regular season together, which sometimes leads to finger-pointing in the end, too.

With Khan being a busy man, there will be times when he isn’t going to be able to monitor things in the building in person. That said, when he has to spend weeks or even months away, it will be worth monitoring how well things are going.

As for the EVP search and whether it will continue, only time will provide that answer. A hiring there could happen after the draft, but at this point, it wouldn’t be shocking if Khan held off the search for the rest of the year to see how well the duo of Baalke and Pederson mesh.

Cris Carter says Urban Meyer wanted to add him to his support staff, Trent Baalke killed it

Carter said he would not have let Meyer stay in Ohio after Week 4 loss to the Bengals.

Jacksonville’s coaching search finally came to an end on Thursday night as the team announced the hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who won Super Bowl LII.

But even with a hire in place, it’s hard to ignore the disastrous process. Much of the blame for that is placed on general manager Trent Baalke, who has become a popular punching bag around the league.

Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter got in on the action, saying that Urban Meyer approached him before the start of the 2021 season asking him to be a part of his support staff.

“Urban Meyer coached me at Ohio State,” Carter said. “1986. He was my wide receiver coach. So last year he gets the Jacksonville job. Me and Urban have extensive conversations. We have a conversation about me joining his support staff.”

Carter said he spoke to a friend in a similar role with the Detroit Lions to come up with a plan for the job to present with Meyer. The coach liked the plan and wanted Carter to come to Jacksonville to meet with Baalke. But things quickly changed.

“Urban called me back two days later and said ‘Trent Baalke killed it. He didn’t see the skillset, he didn’t see the value that you bring to the organization,'” Carter said. “I said, ‘Well, Urban, I don’t know what you and Trent Baalke have been doing since 1987, but for the last five decades, I’ve been associated with the National Football League…’ I said ‘Urban I can be your eyes and your ears.'”

According to Carter, his hiring would have prevented one of the early signs of collapse from the Meyer regime. After a loss to the Bengals on Thursday night in Week 4, Meyer stayed in Ohio instead of flying back with the team and was caught on video inappropriately touching an unknown woman at a bar.

“One example, there’s no way we lose to Cincinnati and Urban Meyer is not on that plane going back to Jacksonville,” Carter said. “One thing right there, Cris Carter would have been like ‘We’re going back to Jacksonville, we’ll get on the (private jet) Friday morning and then go back up to Ohio, which we’re both from.'”

It’s hard to say in hindsight whether Carter would have been enough to prevent that outcome, but it’s fair to say the presence of someone who understands how you have to carry yourself to make it in the league could have made an impact on Meyer’s decision-making.

Regardless, it didn’t happen, and if what Carter says is true, the Jags may have Baalke at least partially to thank for that — especially considering Baalke reportedly gave Meyer the OK to not fly back with the team.

Report: Shad Khan asked a candidate if they would work with Trent Baalke while he was in the room

According to Mike Garofolo, at least one candidate didn’t feel comfortable answering questions about Baalke directly and honestly.

Jacksonville’s coaching search continues to take wild turn after wild turn. In an interview with 1010XL, NFL insider Mike Garofolo shed some light on the situation, but based on what he’s heard, it doesn’t make the Jaguars — and owner Shad Khan, in particular, look very good.

There’s been a lot of discussion this cycle about candidates being unwilling to work with general manager Trent Baalke. That was rumored to be a major hangup with Byron Leftwich, and now as Doug Pederson returns for a second interview, the team has also interviewed former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman for a high-level front-office position.

Garofolo addressed these rumors, and he stated that he’s heard from some Jags’ sources that the reticence to work with Baalke hasn’t been directly stated in interviews. However, the next bomb Garofolo dropped was truly stunning.

Apparently, according to at least one candidate, Khan is asking interviewees if they would work with Baalke while the embattled general manager is in the room.

“I know I’ve gotten this from one candidate,” Garofolo said. “I know I’ve gotten it. The question about Baalke and his role and all that stuff, that candidate did not answer directly and honestly because Baalke was in the interview room. It’s up to Shad Khan now to either conduct that communication separately or just open up his ears to the rest of the league and the rest of the fanbase and see that there’s uncomfortability there.

“At some point, if that’s really the case — and I have reason to believe it is for at least a couple of guys — why are you dying on this hill? This is not a guy that’s been with your organization for 10-15 years that you feel strongly about, it’s a guy that you were recently introduced to.”

You can see the full interview here.

If this report is true, it’s more damning information about the way the Jaguars have conducted this process. It’s one thing to stick with Baalke in spite of uproar from the fanbase and around the league, but to base that off interview answers that may have been given under duress is just another level of incompetence.

This process has been a disaster so far, and while the Jags could still end up with a great coach out of this whole ordeal, the way Khan has gone about the search continues to embarrass the franchise at each turn.

Jaguars fan uses lunch break to protest Trent Baalke in clown garb

Jaguars fan Kevin Wyatt is not letting the #KhlownOut movement die.

It’s no secret that much of the Jacksonville fan base is fed up. When the team fired coach Urban Meyer in December after just 13 games, many wanted to see general manager Trent Baalke out the door with him. Baalke doesn’t hold a very strong reputation in the league after the way things played out when he was at the helm in San Francisco, and his association with the Meyer era was enough for many fans to want him gone.

They responded by protesting Baalke’s retention with mustachioed clown profile pictures, which basically are a representation of how poorly the organization has been ran. For the season finale against Indianapolis at home, many showed up wearing full-on clown costumes.

Though the season is over and there is no sign that Baalke’s termination is imminent, the fans aren’t done being heard. And one in particular is taking the #KhlownOut movement very seriously.

Jags fan Kevin Wyatt is using his lunch break at work to keep the protest alive, going to the stadium dressed as a clown.

Even with a clown occupying TIAA Bank Field, it seems unlikely that Khan will change his mind at this point without some outside pressure, such as no coach being willing to take the job. But it goes to show that the fans aren’t happy, and they will continue to voice their displeasure with the direction of the franchise until it changes.

Super Bowl champion Michael Robinson eviscerates Trent Baalke on NFL Network

Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke is certainly not the most popular guy in the league.

Current NFL Network analyst and former fullback Michael Robinson’s playing career is perhaps best remembered for his time with the Seattle Seahawks, where he won Super Bowl XLVIII. But he began his career with the San Francisco 49ers, who he played for from 2006-09. During that time, Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke, who would eventually hold the same role for the 49ers, was the director of player personnel.

Robinson recounted his negative experience working with Baalke on Saturday on “Good Morning Football.”

“Now guys, I’ve got to preface my comments by saying Trent Baalke is the guy who cut me in San Francisco,” Robinson said. “I remember walking up to his office… Trent Baalke looking at me in my face and saying ‘You aren’t good enough to play in the National Football League. You’re a fourth-string running back and, at best, you’re a third-string fullback. Maybe you should go into scouting, you want to have a job?’ I was a 26, 27-year-old young man. Young in the National Football League, and I was p****d off.

“I went to a Pro Bowl, a Super Bowl. From a talent evaluator perspective — you can say what you want about my comments because he cut me — say what you want about Trent Baalke, but I just don’t think he’s a great talent evaluator. That’s just my personal opinion.”

As Robinson suggests, we should take his words with a grain of salt considering his issues with Baalke seem to extend into the personal realm. But at the same time, the way you treat players matters, and this seems to play into Baalke’s prior reputation and helps explain why he appears to be so disliked around the league.

Jacksonville’s head coaching search has apparently been held back by reticence to work with Baalke, and the Jaguars could be forced to make a change to hire their first choice of coach, which is apparently Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

Baalke’s fate is to be determined, but public comments like this certainly don’t paint him in the most sympathetic light.

49ers safety Jimmie Ward recalls an interesting postgame conversation he once had with Trent Baalke

Jimmie Ward got a little something off his chest this week when asked about former 49ers GM Trent Baalke.

When the Jacksonville Jaguars take the field Sunday, there will be several personnel members and players who a very familiar with the organization on the opposite side in the San Francisco 49ers. The most notable, of course, will be current general manager Trent Baalke, who once held the same title for the Niners.

While he hasn’t been with the organization since 2016, there are still starters in the organization who Baalke drafted. Safety Jimmie Ward is one of them as he was selected with the No. 30 overall pick in 2014 and is currently the longest-tenured Niner on the team.

Earlier this week, Ward was asked about his relationship with Baalke and told the media that he was thankful that the former Niners headman brought him into the organization. However, he added that his most memorable encounter with Baalke was a postgame conversation with him where Baalke questioned his knowledge of the cover-3 concept.

“I still think about the day that, I think it was after the [New York] Giants game, playing cover-3,” Ward said this week, according to NBC Sports. “He came up to me and was like, ‘Jimmie, you don’t know how to play cover-3?’ I’m like ‘I’m the buzz player. I’m doing the right thing. You need to look at your other guys. Who ever is in the hook be pushing the hook on the slant.’ That’s something I’ll never forget.

“I couldn’t say that back then. I can say it now, because the players aren’t here, and Trent isn’t here. [I thought] ‘I know I’m a rookie so you’re going to pin it on me but I can’t play the hook and the buzz.’ All right, but shout out to Trent. I wanted to get that off my chest. I’ve been waiting for eight years to get that off my chest.”

Talk about an interesting encounter.

Whether Ward was in the right or wrong during that particular snap, he’s obviously been pretty solid for the Niners as he’s still with them. Ward has especially come on strong the last three seasons, acquiring overall grades of 76.6, 73.5, and 76.7, respectively, on Pro Football Focus dating back from 2019 to now. He’s also registered 66 starts while racking up 362 combined tackles and four picks throughout his eight seasons in San Francisco.

As for Baalke, fans have been on record for saying they hope he’s learned some valuable lessons from how his tenure with the Niners went. His encounter with Ward is definitely a situation that would fit that bill, as front office members trying to play the role of a coach never goes well and can rub players the wrong way. After all, we’ve seen that before with the last regime, and it led to memories that are still fresh in the minds of Jags fans.

New episode of ‘The Hunt’ explains why Trevor Lawrence pick took so long

We now know the reason why it took so long for the Jaguars to make their selection of quarterback Trevor Lawrence official on draft night.

There was very little mystery surrounding the first overall pick during the pre-draft process. Though the Jacksonville Jaguars tried (in vain) to shroud their decision-making, all signs pointed to the team taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Coach Urban Meyer helping Lawrence organize his early pro-day dispelled any remaining questions about the team’s intentions.

But Jags fans who were anxious to hear Lawrence’s name called on draft night may remember that the team took quite a bit of time before announcing the pick. Many may have just assumed that the team was trying to make the selection more dramatic, but as it turns out, the actual explanation is much more practical (and hilarious).

According to “The Hunt,” the documentary series released by the team recapping the draft, phone issues made it difficult for the team to get in touch with Lawrence.

“When the league called, they said you have to wait seven minutes to turn in the card, so we didn’t pick up the phone to call him,” general manager Trent Baalke said. “He’s sitting on his end wondering why we haven’t called him.”

Apparently, the team tried to call Lawrence several times and received an automated voicemail message.

“After about three tries, we’re getting nervous,” owner Shad Khan said. “And Urban said, ‘I’m getting on my cell phone right now.'”

The third time was the charm, and Lawrence answered the call from Meyer. Clearly, the concern as the clock ticked away was felt on both ends.

“I’m anxious,” Lawrence said as he answered the call.

But that anxiety was unnecessary. With connectivity issues sorted out, the Jaguars could finally go through the formality of turning in their card for Lawrence. Though the timing was a little too close for comfort, the Jaguars avoided what would have been one of the most embarrassing moments in NFL history.

It seems even cell service can’t stop what Meyer and Co. are building in Jacksonville.

Jags’ rookie Jordan Smith ready to be part of next Urban Meyer dynasty

The Jaguars traded up nine spots to take Jordan Smith in the 2021 NFL draft. Here’s how he sees himself fitting in with the team.

Jacksonville’s new head coach Urban Meyer may have no experience at the NFL level, but at all of his previous stops at the college level, he’s achieved greatness. In his first job at Bowling Green State, he inherited a team that went 2-9 in 2000 and put together a 17-6 record in two years. At Utah, he went undefeated and won a BCS bowl in 2004. Between Florida and Ohio State, he won three national championships and had seven seasons end with one loss or fewer.

Jordan Smith, who Jacksonville traded up nine spots to draft in the fourth round with the 121st pick, said he’s excited to be a part of Meyer’s next dynasty with the Jaguars.

“I feel like Urban Meyer has did this continuously in the past,” Smith said after he was drafted. “so I feel like it’s an honor to be a part of another dynasty he’s about to create.”

The edge rusher from Alabama Birmingham was a First Team All-Conference USA selection in 2020 despite his sack numbers dropping from 10 to 4.5. That’s because Smith, the first Blazers’ draft pick since the team’s hiatus from football, constantly drew double teams after his junior performance. He has said he took that as a sign of respect.

“I feel like I was the best pass-rusher in this draft,” Smith said. “I’ve shown multiple different moves that I’ve used effectively. Where other pass-rushers have less moves, two or three moves, I have a big arsenal of moves. I use my mind, I use my mental game to help me excel in the game, so I feel like I bring a lot to the table.”

Meyer says the team hopes to develop Smith into a backup for Josh Allen, but based on his comments, it sounds like he may be more of a project player.

“(He’s a) very raw, talented guy that can rush the passer,” Meyer said. “Very raw. He’s got a long way to go.”

But patience is something Smith knows very well. He originally began his college career with Meyer’s former team, the Florida Gators. However, he was dismissed from the team for his role in a credit card fraud scheme that implicated a number of UF players. Smith later pled no contest to third-degree felony charges and transferred to UAB after a JUCO stint with Butler Community College.

Smith said he had to develop a mental toughness to continue his football career after that setback, and he’s laser-focused on succeeding both on and off the field.

“What I learned about myself is that I’m very mentally strong,” he said. “I feel like if that was any other player in this draft who had to go through what I went through they probably wouldn’t have made it back to this point, so I just know I have a great mental. I give everything to God. I keep everything spiritual, and I just make sure I do everything I need to to make sure I don’t go back down those roads again and make sure I can just go up from here and excel.”

Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke had to like Smith a lot, as it was a surprisingly costly deal to move up nine spots to take him. In addition to pick No. 130, they gave up picks No. 170 and 249, getting the 209th pick in return. But if he develops into a capable edge rusher that can spell Allen, it was almost certainly worth it.

Trent Baalke explains how big Urban Meyer’s recruiting expertise was for Jags during NFL Draft

Urban Meyer knew a lot of the players in this class as recruits, and Trent Baalke said this prior knowledge helped during the draft.

Heading into the first offseason with Urban Meyer as the head coach, a lot of the narrative has been centered around what the first-time NFL coach has to learn in his new position. Meyer has even framed that narrative a bit himself, saying that he “learned a lot” and “asked a lot of questions” during this year’s process.

But Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said that Meyer’s experience as a college recruiter actually helped the team quite a bit during the draft. Most of the players in this draft were recruits in either the 2017 or 2018 recruiting classes. Meyer was the head coach at Ohio State at that time, and because of that, he had at least some familiarity with a number of players in this class, not just former Buckeyes.

“It helped a lot,” Baalke said. “When you look at what [Seahawks Head Coach] Coach Carroll was able to do when he first went to Seattle, his understanding of that group of young men that he had heavily been involved with in their recruiting process. I think you get to know them at a different level, especially in the situation we’re currently in with COVID and the inability to get in front of these guys. Having all that previous knowledge of these guys as they came through high school made a huge difference.”

This can be illustrated by Meyer’s comments about second-round pick cornerback Tyson Campbell, a five-star recruit in the 2018 class who eventually signed with Georgia. Meyer said that one of the main reasons the team decided to select him was the versatility he demonstrated in high school by playing both corner and safety, and he indicated that the team will look to play him at the nickel spot.

“The thing Tyson Campbell gave is flexibility at something other — he was a safety in high school and he’s a very physical player, great blitzer,” Meyer said. “Those are all qualities of the nickel. They’re very hard to find.”

Of course, it remains to be seen if Meyer’s insights during this draft lead to positive outcomes on the field, but it seems that while Meyer has had to tackle a bit of learning curve with the draft process, he was able to contribute significantly with his own area of expertise.