Gus Bradley’s four seasons as Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars will go down as one of the worst coaching eras of all time. At the end of 2016, the futures of both Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash were in question, but new HC Doug Marrone ended up retaining each of them. I have seen solid arguments in favor of and against keeping them. In the end, the biggest credit to their side was that they had to work under Gus Bradley. The idea that they can improve under a new coach ultimately led to their withholding.
Ever since the franchise “reset” in 2013, the teams culture has run amuck with excuses. For three seasons, the excuse was that the team lacked talent, and that was mainly accurate. However, the 2016 offseason infused a surplus of talent into the team: Malik Jackson, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Prince Amukamara, Chris Ivory and more. It became clear very quickly that the problem stemmed from coaching. Suddenly, fans changed the problem narrative to leadership, which was again, accurate. The expulsion of Gus Bradley should open up new chances in Duval, and hopefully, the team can take advantage of them.
The team is now at an important crossroads. I would argue that the ultimate fate of Hackett, Wash, and Quarterback Blake Bortles is at stake this season. A year from now, we fans could be hoping that the team keeps all three, or we could end up rooting for their exodus.
For fans, we have the right to expect results. We also reached this conclusion last season, but now we can make it without Gus Bradley. The staff and players now have the opportunity to show their own merit, which can be a blessing and a curse.
Todd Wash has the opportunity to implant his own ideas apart from the stylings of Bradley. I hope that he abolishes the OTTO and LEO positions and moves towards a more standard 4-3 defense. Wash has all the opportunities possible for 2017. He will be working under an offensive minded Head Coach, which will allow him to lead the defensive game planning. He will keep the talent from the 2016 defense, and probably obtain more in the draft and free agency. Wash will also have a much more experienced set of positional coaches to help him. If he cannot succeed this year, he likely never will.
I was very split on Hackett remaining in Jax. The offense did slightly improve under him compared to Olson, but not as much as I would have liked. I am worried that his strong connections to Marrone may have led to some bias. On the other hand, he has also spent as much time with Blake Bortles as anyone. The offense blew up in 2015, but the 2016 campaign showed a noticeable regression, even though the team lost almost no one. However, the pieces still exist in Duval for Hackett to revive the dynamic threat that was the Jaguars offense in ‘15.
Finally, Bortles himself will be heavily evaluated in 2017. His two years of experience with Hackett, as QB Coach then OC, give him a fantastic chance. I really hope that Blake can straighten things out. This past season included a sloppy throwing motion, as well as a whole batch of embarrassing interceptions. Yet, you cannot ignore the simple fun that watching him play successfully brings, and he still might have the superstar quality in him. In the early part of 2017 General Manager Dave Caldwell will decide whether or not to pick up the fourth year option on Bortles’ contract. If he fails to improve, I could very easily see the team begin looking at QB options for the 2018 Draft.
This season could go a lot of ways. I would love to predict a winning 9-7 or 10-6 year, but I just can’t. But we most likely won’t end with 3 wins either, in fact, we will most likely end up somewhere in between. It all depends on whether or not the pieces of the team can pick themselves up and fill their roles. If not, then even more personnel will be let go after the season.
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