JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 5: Interum head coach Mel Tucker of the Jacksonville Jaguars directs play against the San Diego Chargers in a Monday Night Football game December 5, 2011 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
There are a lot of crucial thing to come (signing restricted free agents, the draft, etc.) in the immediate future, but a huge step in deciding if this team will take the next step in the right direction is the staff Mike Mularkey surrounds himself with. It seemed that as a whole, there was some sub-par coaching this season. For me at least, I point the finger at former receivers coach Johnny Cox and used-to-be QB coach Mike Sheppard.
Yes, a lot of blame can be put squarely on the players-the coaches don't drop balls and run lazy routes, but to see little/no improvement at the receiver position and a questioning of long-term growth with Blaine Gabbert can be attributed to some awful coaching. Of course, Cox was axed immediately following Del Rio's firing, and Sheppard was moved from QB to WR coach. The more I watched the Jaguars this season, the more I saw some bad coaching, and bad communication within those coaches.
Watching Blaine Gabbert throughout the season, it almost seemed as if Sheppard/Koetter just told Gabbert to keep doing what he was doing. I can't say that's what took place, but from game to game, the lack of improvement seemed to be a coaching issue as well, not just a player problem. The last thing I want to see is that Del Rio-esque clapping from coaches on the sideline after the offense failed to convert a 3rd and short.
There were literally times throughout the season that once the offense had a bad play on 2nd down that led to a 3rd and long, before the 3rd down play even happened, defensive players already put their helmet on and were ready to come back onto the field. That has to change.
Many people expect there to be changes at the offensive coordinator position among others. At this point, my view is change is good. Obviously whatever the Jaguars had before wasn't working. The defensive staff should stay the same. That's not where this team is lacking.
The positive feedback on what Mularkey can bring to a team with a good defense, all-pro running back, and young quarterback is encouraging, but he can't do it all: he needs good assistants. The next couple months will be an exciting time for the Jaguars: the draft will hopefully yield some playmakers, and Khan's ownership will lead to maybe not more free agent signings, but more high profile signings with this new money. One thing's certain though: Mularkey may be the face of the coaching staff, but the others must step up and do their part.