Jags break the mold hiring defensive coach

Jags break the mold hiring defensive coach

Published Jan. 17, 2013 3:51 p.m. ET

The NFL often has been called a copycat league.

If one team wins big with a new approach, other teams are sure to follow. That has been true for offensive formations/plays, defensive schemes,and coaching pedigrees.

But today, don’t label Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell a copycat.

Nine NFL teams needed to find a new head coach for 2013. Arizona continues to look, and seven others filled their opening with offensive coaches.

Caldwell went defense.

In choosing Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Caldwell threw many people a curve. San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who roomed with Caldwell in college, had been considered the favorite to replace fired Jags coach Mike Mularkey.

With San Francisco still alive in the playoffs, Roman was unavailable to be interviewed. Caldwell didn’t wait for him.

“It was just a matter of time before Gus Bradley became a head coach in the NFL and the (Jaguars) are extremely fortunate that Gus will be on our sidelines for many years to come,” Caldwell said in a statement. “Gus more than met every criteria we insisted on from our new head coach and his intangibles and leadership abilities are exceptional.

“Gus is who the Jaguars need now and in the future.”

In terms of choosing between an offensive- or defensive-minded coach, it’s hard to disagree with Caldwell no matter what he decided. Jacksonville finished 30th in total defense and 29th in total offense en route to a franchise-worst 2-14 record this season.

Clearly, the Jags need help in many areas. But with the NFL cracking down on vicious hits, and rules changes in recent years benefitting offenses, teams know they must score points to win games.

Indianapolis (18th) was the only playoff team to finish in the bottom half of the league in scoring this season.

That’s a big reason head coaches Andy Reid (Kansas City), Doug Marrone (Buffalo), Rob Chudzinski (Cleveland), Mike McCoy (San Diego), Marc Trestman (Chicago) and Chip Kelly (Philadelphia) have been hired in recent weeks. They’re all offensive guys.

That extreme offensive trend, however, is something new. In fact, current coaches hired since 2009 with defensive resumes include Ron Rivera (Carolina), John Fox (Denver), Jim Schwartz (Detroit), Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis), Leslie Frazier (Minnesota), Rex Ryan (NY Jets), Dennis Allen (Oakland), Jeff Fisher (St. Louis), Pete Carroll (Seattle) and Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay).

And don’t forget a former defensive coordinator named Belichick, who has done OK as a head coach, too.

“(Owner) Shad Khan and Dave Caldwell expect to win and that’s what I wanted to hear,” Bradley said in a statement. “That’s why I am coming to Jacksonville — to win a Super Bowl. I can’t wait to meet everyone in Jacksonville on Friday and get this going.”

Whoever runs an offense and calls the plays needs to be creative, whether or not that person is the head coach. It also helps to have a very talented quarterback.

Mike Shanahan, a winner when calling plays for John Elway in Denver, was 11-21 in his first two seasons with Washington. Then Robert Griffin III arrived on in DC and the Redskins go 10-6 and win the NFC East.

Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, took San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game last season. But when Colin Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith at QB, Harbaugh’s offense added a new dimension that has helped the Niners become a four-point road favorite at Atlanta in Sunday's NFC title game. 

Bradley and Caldwell now must hire an offensive coordinator and find a quarterback. If Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne isn’t the answer, then who? Caldwell already has shot down a Tim Tebow presence in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars own the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft. Unlike last year, there’s no Andrew Luck or RG III on the horizon.

Bradley is very familiar with Seattle’s Matt Flynn, who lost the Seahawks starting job to Russell Wilson. Might a Flynn-to-Jacksonville deal be possible?

Caldwell, hired from Atlanta, has followed the Falcons model by hiring a relatively little known defensive coach (Mike Smith in 2008) as head coach. Now, the GM needs to find the next Matt Ryan.

If Caldwell does find the next Ryan ... or the next Tom Brady, the next Aaron Rodgers or the next (add in the name of your favorite successful QB), being a copycat will be a good thing for the Jaguars and their fans.