The Jaguars coaching staff earned quite a bit of praise for their performance this season. The head coach Doug Marrone won the AFC Coach of the Year award from the NFL Committee of 101. His two coordinators have also received some high praise. And rightly so -- OC Nathaniel Hackett coached his side of the ball to a top six finish in total yards and had the number one rushing offense in football, while also helping QB Blake Bortles to his finest season as a pro. DC Todd Wash took a defense that was pretty good in 2016 and helped mold them into the best defense in the NFL this year.
But for all the good things that Todd Wash and Nathaniel Hackett did in 2017, were they ultimately the reason the Jaguars lost to the Patriots? Or perhaps Doug Marrone is to blame for the Jaguars going ultra conservative in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship when they were up 20-10 on the greatest dynasty in sports.
There is no question that the play calling was predictable and conservative for the Jaguars late in the game.
Warren Sharp, in what is a fantastic twitter thread, takes a deeper look at the play calling for the Jaguars in the fourth quarter.
You're telling me that the Jaguars decision makers on the offensive side of the ball didn't think Bill Belichick and rocket scientist defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, would figure out that you're running the ball from the gun on every first down? Of course the Jaguars had no success in doing so late in the game.
As if the Jaguars weren't being predictable enough on first downs, they decide to throw the ball deep on every second down late in the game. Here, Sapp makes a great point -- Why would you attempt to throw the ball deep on every second down play late in the game when leading? Shouldn't you just be trying to get 1st downs, not chunk plays? I get the idea of going for the jugular, but why attempt to do so in the same fashion on every single second down play in the fourth quarter? It made for unmanageable third down situations for Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense.
While there is no denying that Nathaniel Hackett had some marvelous performances this season and got more out of Blake Bortles than anyone expected, there's also no denying that his predictable play calling late in the game against the Patriots cost the Jaguars a chance to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
His defensive counterpart? Also predictably conservative late in the game. The Jaguars regularly ran prevent defenses at the end of games this season and it regularly almost bit them in the ass. In the playoffs, against the Steelers, this tactic nearly cost the Jaguars, but against the Patriots it finally caught up with Wash and his Jaguars defense. Instead of continuing to play man to man with the best cover secondary in football, or at the very least switching coverages up, the Jaguars ran much more deep zones late in the game, which allowed Brady to eat them up.
The Jaguars play callers had some astounding performances in 2017. Truly impressive. In the first half and in part of the third quarter against the Patriots they called a flawless game. But predictably conservative play calling late in games in unacceptable at this or any level of football. Wash and Hackett may not deserve to get the axe this season, but if these issues continue to rear their ugly head in 2018, these two coordinators could find themselves on the chopping block.
Stay tuned for more.
Follow Jordan de Lugo on Twitter.