Jaguars hire Fisch to run offense
New Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley turned to former colleagues for his first two hires.
Bradley hired Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to the same position Saturday, charging him with remodeling one of the league's worst offenses. And Bradley hired longtime Chicago Bears assistant Bob Babich as defensive coordinator.
The 37-year-old Fisch could be Bradley's most important addition.
The Jaguars ranked 29th in the league in total offense this season, slightly better than their last-place finish in 2011.
Fisch spent the past two years as Miami's play-caller and quarterbacks coach, and his pro-style offense was consistently one of the most efficient in the country. The Hurricanes made significant progress in his second season, gaining 63.3 yards more a game and improving their scoring average by nearly a touchdown.
His biggest task in Jacksonville will be getting better quarterback play.
The Jaguars won just seven games the past two seasons with Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and Luke McCown taking snaps.
Former general manager Gene Smith traded up to draft Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2010, but the former Missouri standout has made little progress during 24 starts.
Gabbert completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,662 yards in 2012, with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, before getting benched and ending the season on injured reserve. Gabbert is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
Henne started the final six games, finishing with 2,084 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Both quarterbacks played behind a shaky offensive line — they were sacked a combined 40 times — and didn't have the benefit of having star running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) for the entire season.
Nonetheless, it was clear that neither would be a long-term solution at an all-important position.
New general manager Dave Caldwell said last week that he has "others in mind" to compete for the starting job.
Fisch has nine years of NFL experience, including working alongside Bradley in Seattle in 2010. He also has worked under Mike Shanahan, Brian Billick and Steve Spurrier.
Babich, meanwhile, has 29 years of coaching experience, including 10 in the NFL and six as a college head coach. With Bradley coming from a defensive background, he's likely to take a hands-on approach with a unit that ranked 30th in the league last season and last in sacks.
Babich spent the past nine seasons (2004-12) in Chicago, six years as linebackers coach and three as defensive coordinator. He also served as linebackers coach for St. Louis in 2003.
Prior to his NFL tenure, Babich spent six seasons as head coach at North Dakota State (1997-2002), where Bradley served as assistant.
Babich also spent time as an assistant at Tulsa (1984-87, 1990), Wisconsin (1988-89), Bowling Green State (1991), East Carolina (1992-93) and Pittsburgh (1994-96).