FOXBORO -- They just weren't at the same level.
After a series of training camp practices between the Jaguars and Patriots, that was the takeaway new Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone underscored. The Patriots were the Patriots. And the Jaguars . . . well, they had work to do.
"I viewed that as we really had a lot of work ahead of us," Marrone said on a conference call Wednesday, just days before the teams met at Gillette Stadium once again for the AFC title game.
"I think that's the one thing that I learned from practicing up there for those three days. How much stuff that we were behind on, and how much ground we needed to make up in a short period of time. Obviously we were all new, and I just thought that they were much further ahead than we were. I think it was good for me to point out to our players how much further we had to go. How long we had to go. And how much work we had to put in."
Since then, with some help from Marrone's hard coaching, the Jaguars went 10-6 to win the AFC South, and they recorded one of the best defensive seasons for any team in recent memory. They finished the year as the league's top passing defense and its second-ranked defense in terms of points allowed, yards allowed and sacks.
The defensive talent in Jacksonville is top-tier, no doubt. And president Tom Coughlin seems to have made a sizable impact on the identity of the club. But Marrone, an old-school coach by all accounts, deserves some credit for helping his team embrace its punch-you-in-the-mouth mentality.
The question is, is it possible that Jaguars fans may have Bill Belichick to thank, in part, for the Jaguars landing Marrone in the first place? Earlier on Wednesday, The MMQB's Albert Breer tweeted that Marrone received a "glowing recommendation" from Belichick when Marrone was being considered for his current gig.
Interesting nugget I picked up: Patriots coach Bill Belichick was consulted during Jaguars’ search last year, and gave Doug Marrone a glowing recommendation. Went a long way with Jax. A year later, he’ll face him for the AFC title.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 17, 2018
Asked about his relationship with Belichick on Wednesday, and what a recommendation like that meant to him, Marrone was eager to throw praise Belichick's way.
"I think if you're a coach, I don't care what level you're at -- you're at high school, college, NFL -- you look at the success of Coach Belichick, and I was always the type of guy that would try to learn as much as I can from people that've been successful, so that maybe I wouldn't make a mistake, or maybe that person made a mistake while they were coming up.
"Obviously, Coach is an outstanding person. And we all know what kind of coach he is, but he's an outstanding person. It's just been difficult obviously to draw that information out of him so I try to get around him as much as I can to try to learn. That's the truth.
"I have an unbelievable amountt of respect for what he's done. It's really . . . You look back and just being able to compete against him, with the challenges it presents, is what you thrive on from a competitive standpoint. I can't say enough good things about him, really."