New England Patriots

Doug Marrone sounds fairly defeated when talking about his Jaguars’ chances of beating the Patriots. Despite earning a spot in the AFC Championship Game on his team’s own merit, the Jaguars head coach sounds curiously resigned to his fate.

Speaking to both Jaguars and Patriots reporters in conference calls on Wednesday, Marrone essentially said that Gronkowski will get his catches and nobody can truly stop him. He has a point; in all but four games this season, Gronkowski recorded at least five catches, 74 yards, or a touchdown. Games in which he’s legitimately shut down are exceedingly rare.

But it’s still a bit striking that, when asked how to guard Gronk, Marrone put it this way:

“Hope they do not throw him the football. Hope he drops it. There is no secret formula. I’d like to watch a game where someone has been able to do it. He is going to make his plays and you hope those plays don’t end up killing you.”

Doug Marrone: Not Particularly Confident

Doug Marrone doesn't sound confident in the Jaguars' ability to cover Rob Gronkowski. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots reacts after catching a touchdown pass against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 24, 2017. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Marrone’s comments are a bit reminiscent of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. When asked how to stop the Golden State Warriors, he flippantly responded, “Pray.” And he’s not the first to say such a thing. In so many more words, Marrone essentially said the Jags don’t have much of a prayer of stopping Gronkowski.

That’s peculiar, considering that the Jags on paper look like one of the only defenses with the personnel to actually do it. Linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerback Jalen Ramsey could have the size and athleticism to keep up with him. You’d think they could have some success against Gronk in the same way that the Chiefs did with safety Eric Berry in Week 1 (two catches, 33 yards) or the Falcons in Week 7 (three catches, 51 yards) with linebacker De’Vondre Campbell.

Marrone could just be playing possum with his defense, which led the league in opposing passer rating (68.9) in the regular season. But he certainly doesn’t need to do that when talking about Gronkowski or the Patriots. They aren’t taking the Jags as lightly as some in the media or among the fans are.

What Else Did Doug Marrone Say?

Marrone’s less-than-confident rhetoric didn’t limit itself to just Gronk comments. Here’s a sampling of some other things he said about the mighty Patriots in his Wednesday press availability…

On whether the Jags’ linebackers can present problems for the Patriots’ running backs:

“I don’t know if you present a lot of issues for them. I think it’s going to be such a great challenge for us because it’s not like they list a person you have to stop. There is literally everyone across the board, literally every one of their skill players are all good enough to win them a championship no matter of man [coverage] or where they match up when going through the progressions. You can’t say, ‘hey listen, if we take this person out, they will throw the ball.’”

On whether he feels the need to show something Tom Brady hasn’t seen:

“I don’t know. I’ve seen people do a lot of different things and not have a lot of success. You have to put yourself into what you feel is the best position. This team, outside of the New York Yankees, probably the best dynasty you have seen. They are an outstanding football team. I don’t think I can come in here and give you guys any ‘if you do this then you have a chance.’ You have to go and you have to execute. You’re talking about a team that is the best execution team, performance-wise, on Sunday since 2001. It’s going to come down to how we play on Sunday and we’re going to have to play extremely well. It’s going to be an unbelievable challenge for us.”

On whether he’s happy to be the underdog:

“When you play against New England, who has not been an underdog? Everybody should. They’re the team you have to beat.”

On anything from his Bills and Jets experience that helped him in preparation for the Patriots:

“The Bills and the Jets too. I was with the Jets for all those years, for four years, and playing them twice. I think the one thing that I probably have learned is that they can beat you in so many ways. They’re such a well-coached team with Coach [Bill] Belichick and Josh [McDaniels] and Matt [Patricia] and Joe Judge now that Scotty [Scott O’Brien] is not there. They’re such a well-coached team that they can beat you in so many different ways.

“Like I said before, it’s funny, people always would ask me, ‘What’s the toughest place you’ve ever played?’ I’d always say Gillette Stadium and people would always be like, ‘No, what do you mean? Seattle. This.’ They’d start throwing out all these stadiums. I’m like, ‘Guys, look at the record. Look at the atmosphere when you go up there.’ Unless you’re a team that’s been up there, and I’ve been up there quite a bit, it’s a very difficult place to play against a very, very well-coached team.”

Perhaps it’s unfair to Marrone to truly malign him for showing this level of adulation for the Patriots. But at the same time, his comments just have too much of a whiff of “happy to be here” to them. It’s just a little strange considering he has a defense that presumably would be equipped to give Brady and the Patriots serious trouble.

But apparently, he knows for sure that Gronkowski will be giving him trouble.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.