Jaguars To Compete For A Head Coach

Since there is a “Win Now” philosophy among most NFL owners, what’s become known as “Black Monday” in the league has become a very intriguing and fluid day. What was true an hour ago might have flipped the other way by now.

What’s different in 2016 than in other years is the number of “hot” candidates will have their choice of jobs so the Jaguars will be in competition with other teams for the top candidates. Any head-coaching job in the NFL is an elite spot but coaching candidates will look at the rosters and the team ownership and figure out where they can win quickly and sustain that.

There are several reasons the Jaguars head-coaching job is attractive, not the least is the patience Owner Shad Khan has shown since buying the team five years ago. He wasn’t happy with the advice he got in 2012 so he quickly changed the team’s management and committed to a complete rebuild. It’s that kind of patience that will be attractive to a lot of coaches although doubtful Khan will wait four more years for a winner.

With just 15 wins in the past four seasons, Khan isn’t happy with where the Jaguars are now, but is the type of owner who will listen to the candidates to get their ideas on why the Jaguars aren’t winning. Personnel? Coaching? Discipline? Quarterback? All of those played a part in the Jaguars disappointing 3-13 finish. Khan has “charged” General Manager Dave Caldwell with finding a new coach but the owner will be part of the process.

Looking at the criteria, Caldwell has said head coaching experience will be helpful but not necessary for the next leader of the Jaguars. Someone who can create a “winning culture” is how the Jaguars GM termed it two weeks ago. And somebody who can either fix or move on from Blake Bortles will be part of the equation. Caldwell has said he’s open to all kinds of opinions about the Jaguars quarterback. Former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin checks a lot of those boxes but apparently last week Coughlin and the Jaguars couldn’t find enough common ground to have him join the organization so both parties have moved on.

The Other Candidates:

1) Josh McDaniels, Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots. McDaniels has done wonders in New England but his quarterback, Tom Brady, is among those in the discussion for greatest of all time. McDaniels would be interested in the Jaguars if he thinks Blake Bortles is the answer or if there’s a quarterback either as a veteran free agent signing or in the upcoming draft that can make the Jaguars offense go. He wouldn’t have to worry about the defense, especially if he brings in a coordinator he trusts. His tenure at Denver as the head coach ended unceremoniously and his personality rubbed the entire organization the wrong way. He drafted Tim Tebow so he thinks he can fix flaws in any quarterback.

2) Harold Goodwin, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals. Goodwin has been the Coordinator for the Cardinals since 2013 and has also been a coach for the Bears, Steeler and Colts. Not having head coaching experience could work against him but his offense in Arizona with Bruce Arians as the head coach and Carson Palmer at quarterback has been potent during his tenure. He also fulfills the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” of interviewing minority candidates for head coaching vacancies.

3) Mike Smith, Defensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Bucs. Smith was very successful in Atlanta but was fired by one of Caldwell’s mentors, Thomas Dimitrioff. Perhaps a change of scenery was needed in Atlanta as they are the #2 seed in the NFL in 2016 but Smith was there for the initial development of Matt Ryan. As a former defensive coordinator for the Jaguars under Jack Del Rio, Smith is familiar with Jacksonville and was a very popular figure while he was here. If he thinks Bortles is fixable and perhaps current Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is on the right path, he would be an easy fit, even keeping most of the current staff. They’re all still under contract for 2017.

There will be other names bandied about including Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He reportedly has an interview with the Jaguars among other teams this week. His most natural landing spot is in Denver where his father coached, he knows John Elway and Gary Kubiak just resigned. Anthony Lynn will also get consideration but he’s most likely to stay in Buffalo and reportedly would like Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator with the Bills.

Hackett Stays As Jaguars OC

With all of the experience Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone have in the NFL and coaching in college, their reach and relationships with other coaches is far and wide. Coaching is a fraternity and some of those relationships have shaped the new staff under Marrone, with Coughlin’s input.

It’s not too big of a surprise that the Jaguars have decided to keep Nathaniel Hackett as their offensive coordinator. His success in the short term and his relationship with Blake Bortles no doubt played a part but his resume includes coaching with Marrone at both Syracuse and in Buffalo as the offensive coordinator.

“We are excited to announce Nathaniel Hackett as our offensive coordinator and he will immediately be tasked with installing and implementing our offense this offseason,” said Marrone. “I have had the pleasure of working with Nathaniel for seven consecutive seasons and know firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate he is about winning.”

“After taking over as the play-caller in 2016, the offensive unit made a significant jump under the direction of Nathaniel Hackett,” Coughlin added. “Nathaniel comes from a coaching family and is truly ardent about the game of football, which is contagious to his players and the assistants. He has a long history of working alongside Coach Marrone and we are fortunate to have him on our coaching staff.”

In 2015, Hackett helped Blake Bortles set single-season franchise records in passing touchdowns (35), passing yards (4,428), completions (355), and attempts (606). He also broke franchise marks with 72 completions of 20-plus yards and passing TDs in 15 consecutive games (Weeks 1 – 16). Bortles became the youngest of only three NFL players to record 4,000-plus passing yards, 35-plus passing touchdowns and 300-plus rushing yards (310). Although he took a step back in 2016, the Jaguars, including Coughlin, Marrone, Hackett and General Manager Dave Caldwell are sticking with him.

“Blake Bortles is our quarterback,” Coughlin said at his introductory press conference.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars have dipped into the college ranks and hired Clemson’s Marion Hobby as their defensive line coach.

“Marion Hobby is an excellent coach that breeds success and comes from a winning culture,” Coughlin said. “In recent years, Marion has overseen the development of top-tier players who are currently experiencing success at the highest level in the National Football League. His coaching prowess and ability to maximize his players’ abilities will bode very well for our organization.”

Hobby, 50, has 22 years of coaching experience, including the last six seasons at Clemson University where he served as the co-defensive coordinator/defensive ends coach for the 2017 College Football Playoff National Champions under Head Coach Dabo Swinney.

“Marion Hobby is coming off a national championship-winning season and over the past six years, has helped establish Clemson as one of the premier defenses in college football,” said Marrone. “I had the pleasure of coaching with Marion for two seasons in New Orleans and have personally observed his ability to get the most out of his players. Our team’s ability to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks and to stop the run will be key factors in our success moving forward and I feel that under the leadership and direction of Coach Hobby, those goals will be accomplished at a high level.”

Coughlin, “Winning Is What It’s All About”

While the fire is still there, the approach is a little different for Tom Coughlin.

“The way to great leadership starts with service to others,” the former Jaguars and Giants Head Coach and now Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations said when he was introduced. That’s a departure from his former self where “top down” management was his hallmark.

Not to say Coughlin won’t still set the top and make the decisions, but his “modern day” philosophy of motivation and leadership is updated from his first stint here.

“Tom Coughlin will be the dominant personality in the building, long-time Jaguars reporter Cole Pepper said. “But he’s updated his leadership style a bit. It’ll be interesting to see how he works with the other two (Doug Marrone and Dave Caldwell).

Quoting Pablo Casals, Coughlin said he wanted to follow the great cellist’s example of “getting better each day.”

Marrone might have a different style but carries the same philosophy when it comes to leadership. “I try to win every day. You have to earn the right to win every day,” he said, which coincidentally is the title of Coughlin’s’ second book.

“He’s my mentor,” Marrone said after the press conference. “It’ll be great to have him right down the hall, only feet away to pick his brain when I need to.”

It became apparent to Owner Shad Khan after talking to Coughlin about a role with the team that Marrone was a serious candidate. “Tom gave me two names that he could work with, that he thought were good coaches, and Doug was one of them,” he said. “I didn’t know how close their connection was until I talked to Doug about working with Tom and he said, ‘That’d be fantastic.’

“I have a vested interest in the success of the Jaguars in Florida,” said Coughlin. “When people come together as a team only then do you have a chance to win” he said in his opening statement. But it wasn’t until the questioning started that Tom’s fire started to blaze.

When asked if the focus would shift to winning, Marrone started to talk about that being the goal and that’s what they were trying to do.

“If we’re not here to win, what the hell are we here for!” Coughlin said, interrupting and causing a big laugh from the assembled media and guests.

Quick to point out that in his two years here he had “felt the pain” Jaguars fans have felt with losing football, Marrone sent a message to his players.

“Our players should be working right now.”

“This is the role I anticipated and wanted at this point in my career.” And although he had said in the past he wanted to coach again, Coughlin said that this role, with input across the organization, is what he anticipated at this point in his career. But he was clear about the path the Jaguars will be taking.

“There’s no easy way to success,” he said. “Mr. Khan’s story is the great American dream. I’m thrilled to be back. Team above all else.”

Marrone Starts To Change The Staff

In any coaching change, the first order of business is for the new coach to assemble his staff. For new Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone, Tuesday was a busy day virtually cleaning house of the coaching staff.

Despite having a year left on their contracts, Marrone dismissed Jerry Sullivan (receivers), Tony Sorrentino (assistant receivers), Chris O’Hara (offensive assistant), DeWayne Walker (defensive backs), Robert Saleh (linebackers), Scottie Hazelton (assistant linebackers), Aaron Whitecotton (assistant defensive line) and Daniel Bullocks (assistant defensive backs).

Any coach wants his own “guys” on his staff so it’s not unusual for a new head coach to bring a variety of changes to his staff. What is unusual for Marrone is having worked along side these coaches for the last two years as the Jaguars Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach. Saleh was thought to be one of the coaches Marrone might retain but the real puzzler is Sullivan.

A 44-year veteran of coaching with 23 in the NFL, he’s credited with the development of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee as young Jaguars receivers in the NFL. All three credit Sullivan with their progress but will now have a new position coach in 2017. Jerry told Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union that he still thought he had plenty to offer and in the right situation would coach again but if not, he plans on staying in Jacksonville. “Football saved me from the streets. Football helped me have a better life. This is a hard day,” he told the T-U.

He hasn’t said if they’d remain coordinators on his staff but Marrone kept Nathaniel Hackett, last season’s offensive coordinator and Todd Wash, the 2016 defensive coordinator. Defensive assistant Mike Rutenberg will also remain on the staff.

Marrone, Coughlin, Caldwell Try To “Fix” Jaguars

It’s no surprise that the Jaguars are restructuring the top of their football operation after five years of Shad Khan’s ownership. Khan is a good listener and makes moves that will enhance his organizations (businesses) and their opportunities to be successful. After his first year of ownership, Khan had spend $60 million on three free agents and asked rhetorically, “What did I get for that? Two wins.” So he made a move, away from his “football people” Gene Smith and Mike Mularkey, and started anew. Khan likes to hire “the best” as he has said repeatedly, so adding Tom Coughlin to the Jaguars mix on the football side is no surprise.

Two weeks ago Coughlin talked with Khan and others at the top of the Jaguars organization about the head-coaching job but didn’t find enough common ground to make that move. But Coughlin has said for the past year that he’d be interested in being a part of the Jaguars, “maybe in another role.” Now, he’ll have a lot to say about the success of the Jaguars as their Vice President of Football Operations. It’s a new job for the Jaguars but not uncommon in the league.

What the Jaguars haven’t confirmed is how Coughlin, General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone will work together. Reports are that both Marrone and Caldwell will report to Coughlin, but how much the decision-making ends with any of those jobs has yet to be announced. Knowing Coughlin, he’ll have plenty of input and probably the final say.

Which means that Caldwell needed to sign off on Coughlin joining the team and getting a two-year extension through 2019 mollified his acceptance. Marrone also had so sign off on being the head coach with a strong personality like Coughlin in the building, weighing in on his performance.

When I originally heard that the Jaguars had offered Doug Marrone the head-coaching job last Saturday night I said I had been impressed with Marrone, more than I expected to be, in his performance as the interim head coach of the Jaguars. He was a steady hand for the team and still a loyal lieutenant to the deposed Gus Bradley. He changed “a few things that I’m comfortable with” as the head coach, like meeting times and his availability, but he gave plenty of credit to Bradley when the Jaguars beat Tennessee on Christmas Eve.

Not knowing whether he’d even be a candidate for the head coaching job in Jacksonville, Marrone gave us a hint in his post game remarks after the loss in Indianapolis about what he thinks needs to be fixed with the current Jaguars roster.

“With this team the players will have to understand the pressure we need to put on them as coaches in practice during the week,” Marrone said after reviewing the game. “We have to force them as coaches to be accountable for that so they have the ability to go out here on Sunday and win games.”

He was also realistic about what happened in Indy as a microcosm of the entire season.

“You can’t make the mistakes that we made today and expect to go out there and win the game.”

And another glimpse into his thought process was the comment,

“I told the players at halftime, (when the Jaguars were winning 17-3) you either are either going to be the hunter or the hunted. You’ve got to learn how to hunt.” The Jaguars have said the formal announcement of the new management structure and the introduction of Coughlin and Marrone will happen on Thursday at 10 AM.

Boselli Makes Hall Of Fame Final 15

Of the hurdles players have to overcome for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, perhaps none is bigger than the jump from “semi-finalist” to “finalist.” And that’s where former Jaguars Tackle Tony Boselli finds himself for the first time in 2017. In his 11th year of eligibility, Boselli is one of 15 finalists for the Hall.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Boselli said when I told him of his move to the final fifteen.

It’s a difficult process to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the beginning of our annual meeting, the President of the Hall charges us (the selection committee, of which I’m a member) with the gravity of our decision-making. “When we leave here today,” he seriously intones, “You will have changed some men’s lives forever.”

In a bit of a rarity, nine of the 15 finalists on this year’s ballot are there for the first time. Which means the selection committee, made up of representatives of each team, at- large members and two members of the Hall of Fame, will hear the case for induction for a majority of the finalists for the first time.

Out of a list of around 100 former players who are eligible, the selection committee, by vote, cuts that number down to twenty-five “semi-finalists.” From there, the committee votes for the final fifteen. The 15 finalists are then discussed, one by one, during our annual meeting on Saturday of Super Bowl weekend. Two “contributors” (this year Paul Tagliabue and Jerry Jones) and one senior candidate (Kenny Easley) will also be discussed, individually.

Jacksonville native Safety Brian Dawkins is also among the first-time finalists on this year’s ballot. Dawkins played at Raines and at Clemson before spending 13 years in the NFL with the Eagles and Denver Broncos.

As the Jacksonville representative, I’ll be asked to make the case for Tony, outlining his career statistics and presenting testimonial evidence from his teammates, opponents and coaches. As an at-large selector, Vito Stellino, of the Times-Union and in the Hall himself, will probably also be asked to help present Tony’s case.

You could call the time Boselli played in the league as the “Golden Age of Left Tackles.” Walter Jones, Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden along with Tony were dominant and fixtures for their teams. Among those four, only Boselli is not in the Hall. And only for one reason: the brevity of his career.

Because of injury, Tony played in 91 games in the NFL over seven seasons. Three times he played in all 16 games and once 15. He played 13 games his rookie year, starting twelve. Jones played in 180 games. Pace 169 and Ogden 177.

When he was drafted, Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin called Boselli “A corner stone for the franchise for the next ten years.” Once he stepped on the field for good, he was a dominating force, a leader on offense and a commanding presence in the locker room. He was as good a player as you could be at his position. His domination of Jason Taylor, a fellow first time finalist, on national television is legendary. Bruce Smith, a member of the Hall of Fame, was a non-factor in the games when he faced Tony.

There will be a lot of numbers tossed around as the finalists are compared to each other and to current members of the Hall of Fame. To compare Boselli’s 91 games, another Hall of Fame finalist, Terrell Davis, played in 78. Short careers haven’t kept Gayle Sayers (68 games), Dwight Stephenson (87 games) or Lynn Swann (116 games) out of the Hall.

More than anything though, Tony passes the “eye” test. You can talk all the numbers you want, but when you saw Boselli play, you knew he was among the greats. He was a Hall of Fame player.

What are his chances? As a first time finalist, the committee will hear his credentials for the first time whereas we’ll talk about Morten Andersen, Don Coryell and John Lynch for the forth year in a row. The committee will hear the case for Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis for the third time. Terrell Owens, Alan Faneca and Joe Jacoby were finalists last year. Once you make it “into the room” your chances of eventually being selected for the Hall of Fame are around 88 percent. So for Boselli, an eventual spot in the Hall could be in his future. There are no “slam dunk” first time eligible players in 2017 so it’ll be interesting to see what the committee thinks of Boselli in Houston this year.

Here’s the thumbnail from the Hall of Fame of Boselli’s career:

Tackle … 6-7, 324 … Southern California … 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars … Seven seasons, 91 games … Selected by expansion Jaguars as second player overall in 1995 NFL Draft … Quickly became face of the franchise … Sat out rookie training camp with knee injury, saw first action in Week 4 … First career start came following week in franchise’s first victory … Earned All-Rookie honors … Regarded as an elite tackle in the NFL during career … Noted for superb foot speed and agility … Persevered through numerous injuries … Leader of team that led expansion Jaguars to AFC championship game by second season … Anchored offensive line that helped team to four straight playoff appearances with records of 9-7, 11-5, 11-5 and 14-2 from 1996-99 … Picked as team’s Most Valuable Player in 1998 after helping Jaguars to team’s first division title … Voted to five straight Pro Bowls (1997-2001) … Named first-team All-Pro three consecutive seasons … Selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s despite only playing in half of decade … Suffered severe shoulder injury that ultimately ended career and placed on injured reserve after three games, 2001 … Houston Texans’ first pick of 2002 expansion draft but injury prevented him from playing again … Born April 17, 1972 in Modesto, California.

And here’s the Hall’s summary of Dawkins career:

Safety … 5-11, 200 … Clemson … 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos … 16 seasons, 224 games … Drafted in second round (61st overall) by Philadelphia in 1996 draft … Named Eagles’ Defensive MVP five times … Helped Eagles to eight playoff appearances … Started in four NFC championship games, one Super Bowl … First-team All-Pro five seasons (2001, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009) … Earned first of nine Pro Bowl nods after 1999 season … First player in NFL history to record a sack, interception, fumble recovery and touchdown catch in same game (vs. Houston Texans, Sept. 29, 2002) … Set Eagles record for most games played … Voted to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s … Intercepted pass in 15 straight seasons … Led Eagles in interceptions back-to-back seasons, 1997-98 … Recorded 37 career interceptions returned for 513 yards and 2 touchdowns … Recorded multiple interceptions in a season 11 times … Pick sixes included 64-yard return vs. Giants, 1997 and 67-yard score vs. Dolphins, 1999 … Averaged nearly 100 tackles per season throughout career … Registered 26 career sacks … Also had 49-yard fumble return for TD, 2001 … Recorded 3 sacks in final season with Broncos to help Denver to division title, 2011 … Born October 13, 1973 in Jacksonville, Florida.