Transcript: Jaguars Owner Shad Khan, GM Trent Baalke, HC Urban Meyer (1-21-21)

JAGUARS GENERAL MANAGER TRENT BAALKE, HEAD COACH URBAN MEYER AND OWNER SHAD KHAN

THURSDAY, JAN. 21, 2021

SHAD KHAN: (Opening statement) “So, just about a year ago, we introduced Trent Baalke as our director of player personnel. And if you just took one look at Trent’s background, you knew, it was so evident, that we’d welcome him to the Jaguars. And in late November, I announced that Trent would be serving as our interim GM [general manager] through the balance of the season. And today, it’s my honor to share the news that the interim tag is no more and that Trent is now officially the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars. So that’s a lot of announcements in less than a year, but it speaks to the quality of Trent Baalke. Again, I mean, you can Google him, you can see what Trent has done in football and especially his track record as a GM in the NFL. I know that we have the right man to work directly with our head coach, Urban Meyer, and our mission to win in Jacksonville. So with that, I’m pleased to introduce the new general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Trent Baalke.”

TRENT BAALKE: (Opening statement) “First of all, Shad, I’d like to thank Shad and Tony [Khan] for this opportunity. It’s an opportunity that I never knew would come again. Not many people get a second chance. But more importantly, the opportunity to work with somebody that I’ve really grown to respect and trust over the past couple of weeks, and we’ll build on from there. And Coach Meyer, it’s a blessing, it’s a blessing to be here. I know there’s a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, but I’m also extremely confident that we can build an organization together that the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville faithful will be proud of for years to come.”

Khan: (On working with Trent Baalke from Nov. 29 and takeaways from the relationship) “Well, you know, Hays, I think the experience and his insight on, really, what we thought we were doing and really what we had accomplished. So it was a fresh set of eyes with a huge amount of experience, obviously, in the NFL.”

Baalke: (On what he learned from his tenure in San Francisco) “I think you learn everywhere you—at every stop. I think you learn from the mistakes you make. You learn more from the mistakes you’ve made over your career, than you do the positive things. But I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about dealing and working with coaches, a lot about dealing and working with players, a lot about team building and what it takes. And spending a lot of time with Coach Meyer in the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned a tremendous amount. And I think life is a journey, I think learning is a journey, and I think every day you wake up—if you’re not waking up with the mentality that you’re going to learn something, you’re missing something. So I’m just looking forward to where we’re currently at and where I know we can go.”

URBAN MEYER: (On the importance of GM Trent Baalke’s input from him being familiar with the roster) “Well, I didn’t really look at that. I looked at as we move forward. Obviously I didn’t know Trent, we met years ago, so I knew him but I didn’t know him. I’ve been very fortunate, my entire head coaching career, I’ve always looked at everything that I’ve done is a partnership. Whether it be athletic directors, whether it be just people we work with. And as Trent said, I can’t imagine spending more time with someone in the last few days, really the last week or so. With Trent, we’ve been really impressed and alignment is going to be a big word that our owner, Shad, is going to use, and Trent and myself. It’s going to be a partnership and we’re going to be aligned.”

Baalke: (On whether he was antsy to get back into the NFL personnel business or whether he was just waiting for the right opportunity to come along) “Gene, that’s a good question. I’ve never forced my way into any position, in terms of thinking I had to do this or I had to do that. I was very comfortable in what I was doing. So I wasn’t chasing just any opportunity. When Jacksonville called, I had a very good relationship with Dave Caldwell. We started as area scouts on the west coast years and years ago, that’s where we first met. He presented the opportunity, along with ownership, to come down and be a part of this organization. And it was the right opportunity at the right time for me. Again, you’re always looking for the right fit. I’ve been in this business for a long time and I think the fit is the critical aspect; it’s something that has to be there for you to have any success. In this league there are 32 teams and I honestly believe 26 to 28 of them beat themselves before they ever even hit the field, for various reasons, and I’ve been a part of them. I know this: we share a vision here, between ownership, between the head coach, myself, that I think we’re very focused in on and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Baalke: (On whether former San Francisco 49ers Assistant General Manager Tom Gamble will be reuniting with him in Jacksonville) “Absolutely. Tom is already down here, on staff and working. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, we’ve got free agency, we’ve got a draft, we’ve got a situation in the NFL that’s going to be historic, with the cap going down for the first time. There’s a lot of things we need to work through and I’m confident in the group we have, and we’re going to push forward with that group.

Baalke: (On what Tom Gamble’s position/title will be) “Right now, he’s just within the department. The title thing, I’ve never been a big title guy, we’ll figure all of that out. I think the key is the value he brings to this organization, the value he brings to myself in knowing Tom and working alongside him for as long as I have. I trust him, I respect him and I’m just looking forward to working with him again.”

Baalke: (On how he’s different as a GM from when he was in San Francisco) “That’s a loaded question, I’m not sure how to answer that. Different, I think I’ve grown, I’ve grown in a lot of ways. When you’re out of the business, you get to look at the business through a different less. When you’re in it, you don’t have that luxury. Things are happening a lot quicker, you’ve got to make a lot of quicker decisions. This business is a difficult business, you’re not always going to be right, you’re not always going to be popular, which I’m totally comfortable with. But again, I think you grow with every experience. And I grew, I think, more from being outside of this business looking in, than I ever grew inside of this business.”

Baalke: (On the benefits of being here for the past year) “I think it certainly helps, but at the same time—and I think Coach said it and Shad certainly said it—it’s a partnership. So, if you’re not aligned and you don’t think the same, and you don’t have the same vision, I think regardless of whether you’ve been here or not been here, you’re going to run into problems. The thing that I am very confident in is Coach Meyer and the vision he brings to this organization, as well as ownership. And I think the results will speak for themselves, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Baalke: (On the transition from working in college football to the NFL and helping Head Coach Urban Meyer with that transition) “Well, first of all, I think Coach Meyer is very aware of things—the differences between the two games. But at the same time, working with them and understanding how they came into the league and the things that they struggled with. I’m a resource for coach, that’s the way I look at it. I provide a service where he can come in, he can bounce things off of me, because there’s going to be a lot of questions, there’s going to be a lot of things that are going to be first time for him. But in the short time I’ve been with him, the one thing I’ve realized, he’s a quick study. It’s not going to take him long to figure the rules out and everything that goes with it. And he certainly, as a coach, he knows his way around the practice field very well.”

Meyer: (On knowledge of GM Trent Baalke previously or any previous relationship) “Yeah, I’ve talked to some people that have worked with Trent before and I met him first many, many years ago when Alex [Smith] was drafted to the 49ers. But really, my experience with Trent has been of recent. And I’m a fairly good judge of—I like blue collar people, I like people that—. Our conversations, obviously, we’ve gotten to know each other, about our families and other important things. But we’re right to work. We’ve got a job to do for a great owner and it’s a big job. It’s a job that’s going to take a lot of manpower. And so, our working relationship, I can’t imagine it being better than what we’ve gone through over the last [week or so]. Because we’re knee deep in hiring a coaching staff and Trent has been—I mean, we’re right there, going at it. So it’s been fantastic so far. And I know, obviously, you take over 1-15, the work ahead of us is a tall task, but it’s certainly one you can’t do by yourself. So, it’s been great.”

Baalke: (On what he determined during the first year on the job that needs to change moving forward) “Well, again, we’re still in the process of evaluating that. Whenever you have a changeover, the first thing is to get the new staff in place. The new staff will come in, we’ll sit down, we have a process that we’ll go through, we’ll evaluate our roster, we’ll evaluate those that are free agents on our roster, and we’ll make decisions from there. So right now, we’re just in the building process. [Once we] get everybody in place, we’ll start to go to work on the roster and start looking forward to free agency, the draft and all the other ways you can acquire talent. Because let’s face it, this is a talent acquisition business. And regardless of whether it’s players, or coaches, or anybody else in the building, your goal is to acquire the best talent. And that’s where we’re at right now and we’ll take it from there.”

Meyer: (On the status of the remaining members of the coaching staff) “Yeah, next week I’d like to—we’ll give a deep dive into what’s taken place because there’s been no finality to where were at as a coaching staff. So I’d like to hold on that until next week, because there’s been nothing set in stone yet.”

Baalke: (On whether having the number one draft pick makes the draft evaluation process easier) “Easy? I don’t know that that word exists in the National Football League. So it certainly puts you in the driver’s seat, but there are no easy decisions in the National Football League. You work through the process, you do the best job you can, and then you make the decision based on the knowledge that you’ve acquired.”

Meyer: (On whether he and GM Trent Baalke have had discussions about the choice for the number one draft pick) “No, we’ve talked. That’s a three-month, two-month—I think we all know there’s a couple incredible players out there, but my focus has been on the staff. But to say we haven’t talked about it, of course we have, and that’s going to be a deep, deep dive.”

Baalke: (On building the roster through free agency versus the draft) “I think the focus is always on the draft and building your team through the draft. I think you use the other avenues to supplement your roster, whether that’s in big name free agents, mid-tier free agents, or low-end free agents. I think you’re always searching to build your roster whether it’s from the top down or the bottom up or somewhere in the middle. Your goal is to get the best 53 players you possibly can and go to work. Once that 53’s set, you’re still working, you’re still grinding. You’re always trying to improve and that’s the philosophy we’ll take. We’ll do everything we can within the rules to build the best roster we possibly can.”

Baalke: (On his approach to the draft and balancing the best available option with the positional needs of the team) “Well first of all, I think the draft is a collaborative effort between everybody in the organization: coaches, personnel staff, ownership. Everybody has to be aligned, so that’s number one. Then once you have the shared vision and you know exactly what you’re looking for positionally, whether it be offense, defense, special teams, then it’s the philosophy of the head coach and the coaching staff on how you’re going to build that out. Then you go into a room and you grind through the tape and you set the board, whether it’s free agency or the draft. We’re always going to look at the value of a player and value matters. It matters in their value as to where you draft them, how much you pay them, how much you pay them in free agency, need. We’re a value-based team, not a needs-based. You always have needs regardless of when you set the 53, so the best player available is usually the direction you want to go, but yet you have to keep in mind the needs of the organization as well and the team.”

Meyer: (On which positions have priority in terms of investing in star players) “I apologize, I’m not equipped to get in that conversation. At some point we will. It’s [his focus has] been straight on this coaching staff. I want the guys in place by next week and then we’ll have incredible conversation. I’m just not prepared right now to talk about that.”

Baalke: (On Head Coach Urban Meyer’s statement of the number one pick being one of the most important decisions of his lifetime) “[It] couldn’t have been better said. Anytime you have the first pick in the draft and you’re making a decision that’s this impactful to the organization, there’s challenges with that. So it’s an extremely important decision and I’m looking forward to going through the process with Coach and ownership to make that decision.”

Meyer: (On the importance of finding a general manager that would be his partner in the front office) “I think the answer’s very obvious, but the chance of success doesn’t exist unless you have a partner that’s completely aligned. [There’s] just no chance. I don’t want to equate college to pro because it is a lot different, but I’ve always looked at a partnership with [Ohio State Athletic Director] Gene Smith, with [former University of Florida Athletic Director] Jeremy Foley. It’s obviously much different issues you have to deal with. And I’ve been lucky, I’ve never had an alignment issue in my coaching career, and I don’t see that happening here.”

Khan: (On the contracts of Head Coach Urban Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke) “They are aligned contractually. How long that might be, I’m not ready to say, but it’s a long time. I think this was really very, very important to me and we’ve spent a lot of time obviously on that because, [I] don’t want to overstate it, it’s a defining moment for the franchise.”

Meyer: (On the ultimate decision maker in terms of the draft if differences in opinion were to arise) “I guess I can answer that and say that alignment [is key]. Shad has a huge say in this as well, so any decision like this I do look at it as a partnership, and alignment’s going to be the key. How you do that debate is healthy, debate is strong. I encourage debate, whether it’s when you’re game planning or you’re putting your roster [together], recruiting, whatever it may be. I know Shad and I have had great conversation and so Trent, so who will actually have it? I’m not that worried about that. I know that we are tied at the hip and alignment’s going to be the key.”

Khan: (On the ultimate decision maker in terms of the draft if differences in opinions arise) “I think to add to that, there is transparency, talk and communication well before the draft. You just can’t be talking when you are on the clock. That is a little too late and that is a key lesson for me. The earlier you have them and you know where everybody [stands], that’s how you get the right decision for the organization.”

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