Over the last few seasons the Jacksonville Jaguars have done little to earn the trust of the fan base, but with a new regime comes hope and new reasons to put faith back in the Jags.
Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett, Todd Wash, and, most importantly, Tom Coughlin round out the new Jacksonville Jaguars regime. It may not be a complete departure from the Gus Bradley era but it is fresh enough that it represents a new beginning. The Bradley era is behind us and the new Coughlin-led team has a level of credibility that wasn’t generated by a first-time head coach and general manager four years ago.
That isn’t to say that the collective experience of the new regime is the sole reason for trust. The assembled staff has many qualities that go beyond simply having done the job before. Here we are going to break it down to a handful of reasons that the new Jags regime is worth putting your faith back in the team.
Nov 14, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants former head coach Tom Coughlin walks off the field after being interviewed before a game between the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium. The Giants will induct Coughlin into their Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1) Tom Coughlin brings stability and responsibility back to the franchise
This has been reiterated before, but it is important to bring up again. With Tom Coughlin back on the Jacksonville Jaguars staff the team has somebody with the collective experience worth trust. More importantly, he has the credibility and discipline that matters in the NFL.
Going from a head coach that was not demanding of his players and only sought to “get better” to Coughlin who demands winning everything (even lunch) is a big departure. Coughlin has been one of the most successful head coaches of the last two decades and he has successfully navigated the management of franchises beyond simply coaching.
With a reputation as someone who backs up his stern talk, there is no question that Coughlin will hold his team accountable. For the Jaguars this is crucial There hasn’t been a personality like that in the building since, well, Coughlin.
The ultimate responsibility rests with him and he will be held accountable by his own high standards and, like any organization, by the owner, Shad Khan. Knowing Coughlin, he won’t need to be told what to do by an owner with limited experience managing a football team. If he isn’t doing the job right, he’ll rectify it by bringing in the right people to shift in a way that makes it right.
For general manager Dave Caldwell it is incredibly important to have Coughlin in charge. Caldwell worked well with the Atlanta Falcons under Thomas Dimitroff and could likely have his better ideas enhanced and his bad ideas abandoned by having Coughlin acting in an oversight capacity. Same goes for head coach Doug Marrone who has already had to curb his ideas some in order to compromise with Coughlin’s vision.
All of that is a good thing for a team that has often looked like a chicken with its head cut off in recent years.
2) The struggles may have stemmed from Gus Bradley at the top, not necessarily trouble permeating the whole team
There was no question that coaching was holding the team back in 2016. After significant increases in roster talent the team simply couldn’t compete. It was the offensive system under Greg Olson, the game management under Gus Bradley, and the culture.
Deep down, though, the bones of the team are good. This is a roster that can compete and it had some people in place worth keeping.
That isn’t just a perspective coming from this writer, but something confirmed by executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and the search firm put in charge of the coaching search. Plenty of people were interviewed, but it ultimately came right back to the guys already on staff.
The Jags didn’t settle for Doug Marrone, they picked him. The offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator are no longer married to systems that were in place when they assumed duties in 2016. There is room for growth all around and these same people that were not particularly great under Bradley will get a chance to shine.
This goes further, though. It also goes down to the roster. Coughlin sees some of what Caldwell saw in assembling a roster rich in young talent. There is room to improve (and the money to do it) but the core pieces are in place to be competitive. This was confirmed with the most controversial position – quarterback – being supported by Coughlin early on. “Blake Bortles is our quarterback” and the Jags are committed to molding his raw talent into something serviceable.
The 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t rotten to the core. Some trimming will need to be done for the health of the team but the overarching narrative created in the rounds of hiring and statements said are that the team is healthy on the whole. A culture change may bring about exactly what the Jags need.
3) Progress has already been made under the new coaches
The miserable 3-13 record of 2016 obscured the progress being made during the season. From the offense to the defense, the Jacksonville Jaguars were improving.
The biggest difference was on defense. After ditching yes-man Bob Babich as defensive coordinator and allowing Todd Wash to tweak the scheme a little bit, the Jags defense took off in 2016. Following historically bad seasons from 2013 to 2015, the 2016 Jags defense finally became formidable, finishing sixth in the NFL in yards allowed.
Wash showed he could tweak a flawed scheme and make it serviceable. Given more freedom to implement his own scheme, the Jags defense may reach even greater heights in 2017 and beyond. There’s room to grow (especially in forcing turnovers) but there’s reason to believe Wash can get there.
The jaguars improved their rankings under Hackett this past season in several categories including: time of possession (30th to 13th), goal-to-go efficiency (15th to fourth) and red-zone efficiency (16th to fifth). The Jaguars rushing attack also improved under Hackett from 30th in yards (72.6) to fifth (124.8) in rushing yards per game, 26th (3.79) to 13th (4.35) in yards per rush and from 32nd (38) to first (112) in rushes of four-plus yards.
Also taking over a flawed system, Hackett assumed offensive coordinator duties from Greg Olson mid-season. The results speak for themselves. The Jags rediscovered the running game and the offense became more efficient and could sustain longer drives. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but there was marked improvement.
In light of the progress displayed by Hackett and Wash, Doug Marrone almost becomes an afterthought. The former Buffalo Bills head coach was elevated from assistant head coach/offensive line coach to interim head coach for just two games. The lack of an extended tryout was irksome but Marrone made the best of it in just two games, winning one and losing one.
Marrone immediately began to focus on winning and the team responded. The team looked more focused, more crisp, and was moving with a sense of urgency. ESPN Stats and Info made the best note in a tweet:
Jaguars ran 129 offensive plays with the lead in 14 games under Gus Bradley.
They ran 105 plays with the lead in 2 games under Doug Marrone
There is a lot of reason for hope in 2017. On the surface it may look like the Jags didn’t make many shifts, but the change was already happening in 2016 and is being cemented into a solid foundation heading into the offseason. It may look subtle from outside but the main body of the organization is healthy and ready to compete.