If the Jaguars' clown show doesn't end Sunday, they risk ruining Trevor Lawrence

Some Jacksonville Jaguars fans say they will dress up as clowns to attend Sunday’s season finale against Indianapolis. Yes, clowns. Hats. Silly noses. Big shoes. Makeup. Who knows what?

The move is designed to embarrass owner Shad Khan and serve as a protest of sorts for the team’s anemic performances of late, including its current 2-14, controversy-filled season.

Trevor Lawrence, the team’s rookie quarterback, won’t be among them, of course. You couldn’t blame him, however, if he were. He's the one who has been most adversely impacted by this circus.

“I wouldn’t do that, but you know, fans feel how they feel,” Lawrence said this week. “We wanted to win a lot more games; so I get the frustration. Obviously we haven’t had much success this season. That’s frustrating for us as well.”

From the outside this looks like a lost season for Lawrence, which is part of what the fans are concerned about. The 2021 No. 1 overall pick after a storied career at Clemson, he is the franchise’s most valuable asset. Losing is one thing. Watching a potential star struggle amid a sea of incompetence is another.

While no one thought Lawrence would lead the team to the Super Bowl, or even a winning record, no one thought it would get this bad. Even in the long annals of the NFL, who else has been forced to waste time answering questions about fans dressing up as clowns?

Lawrence has thrown just 10 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. ProFootballFocus grades him out as the 37th-best quarterbackin the league. His six yards per attempt rank 31st among qualified starters. His 58.9 completion percentage is 29th. He’s taken 31 sacks and fumbled five times. He’s second in the league in turnover-worthy plays, per PFF.

It goes on and on.

Yet at the same time, there are plenty of signs of potential. He’s 6-foot-6 with a big arm and a lot of athletic ability. He can make throws all over the field, complete passes while on the run and, of course, sometimes just tuck and run himself. Some of his plays can make heads spin.

He ranks a notable 16th in the league on what PFF calls “Big Time Throws” or “[passes] with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.”

There is little doubt that he has the talent that merited the top selection in the draft. Maybe that’s the most painful part. Trevor Lawrence isn’t a bust. But what if Jacksonville turns him into one?

A bad rookie season doesn't mean a quarterback is toast. But the Jaguars need to make sure the next head coaching hire is all about supporting Trevor Lawrence. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
A bad rookie season doesn't mean a quarterback is toast. But the Jaguars need to make sure the next head coaching hire is all about supporting Trevor Lawrence. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

If the Jags were trying to create the worst environment for rookie quarterback development, they probably wouldn’t have done anything different.

The hiring of Urban Meyer, who arrived with no NFL coaching experience, was an abject disaster. Meyer not only proved incapable as a coach, but the entire franchise was engulfed in the chaos that he consistently created — hiring and firing a controversial strength coach, getting caught out at a bar with a woman who wasn’t his wife, kicking a kicker at practice and a litany of duplicitous incidents and comments designed to shift the focus to everyone but himself for the team’s failures.

He was broomed in early December, effectively ending the season.

Among the bizarro moments was Meyer, earlier this season, blaming some questionable goal-line play-calling on the idea that Lawrence wasn’t comfortable running a simple quarterback sneak. A dumbfounded Lawrence refuted moments later.

“No, I feel comfortable,” Lawrence said.

It was that kind of year.

Lawrence, to his credit, has remained publicly upbeat, vowed to continue working and tried to wade through the dysfunction as best as he can. He’s been a good soldier and a positive presence. He even figures that such a strange season is good training for the future.

“I really do feel like I’ve been through more than a lot of people can say they’ve been through in their first season,” he said. “... It does give you confidence that whatever comes at me, I know I can handle it.”

That’s some serious glass-half-full work there.

For the Jags, the next coaching hire has to be about Lawrence. Presumably he learned and developed this season, even if it didn’t show much on the field. A bad rookie season predicts nothing. Peyton Manning threw 28 picks as a rookie. Matthew Stafford tossed 20. Terry Bradshaw had a 38 percent completion rate (albeit in a different era).

Even a rookie season defined by disarray can be overcome. Another one might not be though. We’ve seen promising talents get wrecked before.

The juxtaposition of last week’s game — facing fellow rookie Mac Jones who is thriving in the excellence and stability of New England — just brought it all home. Lawrence said this week he just wants to keep grinding.

“I’m going to keep being me every day and just keep being that same person,” Lawrence said. “I know there’s some really good days ahead, and I’m excited to experience that with whoever is part of those teams.”

Sunday is Clown Day in Jacksonville, the culmination of a clown-show season. It’s not just the win-loss record that is driving Jags fans to the brink; it’s knowing that they have something special, yet fragile, at quarterback.

They just need this franchise to get out of its own way.