I had been waiting to write this piece until after the Redskins game because I felt that we would have a lot more resolution on the job status of the Jaguars coaching staff based on the result, mainly the head coach. Before the game, I felt like a loss to a team with fourth-string offensive guards and a quarterback signed off the couch two weeks ago would be devastating for Doug Marrone, and while I’m not positive he will be relieved of his duties after the season, his team’s lackluster performance on Sunday certainly didn’t help his cause.
The truth is - the Jaguars went from being one of the final four teams standing in the NFL last season to being one of the first four eliminated from playoff contention in 2018. While this ceiling-to-cellar malaise is enough to warrant Marrone’s seat being a little toasty, it’s the lack of discipline and player apathy seeping into the fibers of the team that could ultimately dial it up to a blistering heat.
We all know about the league-leading personal foul penalties, player suspensions, and overseas arrests. While it’s not a good look, it’s certainly not a nail in the coffin for a coach that has earned the good will of being ten minutes away from a Super Bowl.
This inside look into the Jaguars locker rooms following Sunday’s home loss, however, is pretty alarming and should be a cause for concern.
Kind of an odd feeling in #Jaguars post game locker room. Some defensive players (including starters) were laughing and joking. Some quiet and despondent.— Tyler Devitte (@1010XLTyler) December 16, 2018
I know media comes in after a cooldown period but some of these guys don’t seem bothered by taking Ls any more in 2018
Whatever. As Jalen Ramsey said following the game, neither you nor I have any control whether or not Doug Marrone returns next season.
At this point in time, however, it seems almost certain that Tom Coughlin will get an opportunity to rectify the roster moving forward - for better or for worse. With a season as disappointing as 2018’s, you better believe that Coughlin will only be digging his fingers deeper into every single nook and cranny of this team, and that includes the coaching staff.
So who are some names we could likely expect to see on the interview list?
Only one name under the head coach category? There’s a reason.
Call me crazy, but I just don’t see a ton of quality candidates being enthralled by the idea of being a marionette with coaching strings pulled by Coughlin. You think Mike McCarthy would be interested in this set up? John Harbaugh? No chance. Rhule is one of the few realistic candidates that would maybe entertain taking the Jaguars head coaching job for a couple of reasons.
Coughlin gave Rhule his first NFL job as Giants assistant offensive line coach in 2012 where Rhule coached Coughlin’s son-in-law and current Jaguars college scout Chris Snee. Rhule has publicly gushed about Coughlin being the one person who has had the longest-standing impact on his coaching style and philosophy. His respect for Coughlin runs deep, and he would have to figure that this would be his best opportunity for landing an NFL head coaching job after unsuccessfully interviewing for the Colts job last year.
But that doesn’t mean that Rhule is in an inferior candidate – quite the opposite in fact.
After coaching with the Giants, Rhule had tremendous success as the head coach at Temple University, where he routinely took one and two star players and developed them into future NFL prospects. Haason Reddick was a first round pick for the Arizona Cardinals after being a walk on with zero college offers (he didn’t even have a Rivals page he was such an afterthought), Dion Dawkins (two-star recruit) is a starting NFL left tackle for the Buffalo Bills after being selected in the second round, and Tavon Young (two-star recruit) is one of the better NFL nickel corners with the Ravens. A handful of players that he recruited such as RB Ryquell Armstead, WRs Isaiah Wright and Ventell Bryant, and SS Delvon Randall are all looking like NFL draft picks for the upcoming 2019 class. Rhule’s success at Temple earned him the Baylor job in 2017, and in just two years, he has pulled a Bears program out of the muck of scandal and back into national and Big 12 prominence, gaining bowl eligibility in just his second season after a 1-11 record in 2017. Rhule has experience transitioning meddling programs into contenders, changing the external perception and internal culture with haste.
A former linebacker at Penn State, Rhule’s teams have a reputation for discipline and toughness. Rhule is also revered as one of the better developers of talent in the college landscape. Listening to Pete Prisco ask Tony Boselli which players got better this year on Jaguars Happy Hour this past Monday emphasized just how important it is to have the next guy in charge be able to cultivate and glean the best out of his players. After the kind of year and reputation the Jaguars have earned, it sounds like the above tenets are exactly what the doctor ordered. Another added benefit of a college coach like Rhule being elevated to the NFL in this instance is he would likely have to lean on Coughlin to build and assemble his staff, and Rhule already has familiarity with a lot of the guys either already on staff or recommended by Coughlin thanks to his one-year stint in New York in 2012.
Although I mentioned there’s only one name that really makes sense for head coach because of the Coughlin factor, that statement would get turned on its head if owner Shad Khan decided to clean house.
If the Jaguars went with a blank slate moving forward, this might just be the most attractive job for potential GM and head coach candidates in the NFL.
Even after trimming some of the salary fat, new team decision-makers would slide into a situation with a top five defense and selection of the young franchise quarterback of their choosing in the draft. It doesn’t sound like this is the direction they will go in, but it is interesting how the perception of the Jacksonville Jaguars as a landing spot changes so drastically based on just one person.
Currently working as the quarterbacks coach with the Texans, Ryan has been yearning for an opportunity to be a play caller in the NFL, most recently interviewing with the Browns in January 2018 before the job went to Todd Haley. Ryan got his NFL start as an offensive quality control coach for Tom Coughlin’s Giants in 2007 and flopped between wide receivers and quarterbacks coach from 2010-2015. I had the privilege of watching Sean Ryan at the Senior Bowl practices this past January and his juice and energy had me ready to run on the field. The 46-year-old Ryan is my personal top choice for the job based on what he’s done with Deshaun Watson in his first two seasons in the NFL. Since the Jaguars are likely looking to pick their next franchise quarterback in the draft this year, that type of experience working with a young quarterback potentially makes him a really good fit. If Marrone is still here next year, it’s very likely that Ryan will get a glowing recommendation from his best friend Bill O’Brien. An added bonus – it never hurts taking a good coach from a division rival. Just ask Mike Vrabel and the Titans.
You may have seen the connection between Coughlin and DeFilippo mentioned already, but it is a legitimate one. Similar to Rhule, Coughlin gave DeFilippo his first NFL gig as an offensive quality control coach with the Giants from 2005-2006 and it was reported by Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot that then-Browns OC John DeFilippo was Coughlin’s choice as offensive coordinator for potential jobs with the 49ers and Eagles after he was fired with the Giants.
DeFilippo had been in the mix for head coaching jobs prior to his firing, but after seeing how new Vikings coordinator Kevin Stefanski hung up 40 points the week after DeFilippo was dismissed, it seems like his head coaching star has dimmed. DeFilippo may need to take another coordinator position to rehab his stock, and what better opportunity to do that the fastest than having a good year with a rookie quarterback?
This may already be McAdoo’s job to lose if you follow Uncle Chaps on Twitter.
Ben Mcadoo was just spotted in the Jacksonville airport. pic.twitter.com/hx7Qqa7YSa— chaps (@UncleChaps) November 26, 2018
Seriously though, I have no idea if McAdoo was in town interviewing for a future position on staff or what, but he could be an intriguing option for the Jaguars. There are coaches that are meant to be coordinators and others that are meant to be head coach “CEOs” of a football team, and it was obviously in his stint with the Giants that McAdoo was better suited as a coordinator. McAdoo had a tendency of rubbing his players the wrong way (if he were hired, he and Ereck Flowers would likely have to bury the hatchet), but his quarterbacks have generally gushed about him as a play caller, going back to his time in Green Bay working with Aaron Rodgers. In a shallow coaching pool, McAdoo may not be an awful choice for offensive coordinator, and could be an even bigger coup if he can be convinced to take a QB coach position on staff.
Currently working as the Broncos quarterbacks coach, Sullivan will likely be a free agent in two weeks time if Vance Joseph and staff get shown the door. Sullivan worked as Tom Coughlin’s wide receivers coach with the Giants from 2004-2010 and then moved over to quarterbacks coach from 2010-2011. Jaguars fans may remember him from his two years as defensive quality control coach (2002) and offensive assistant (2003). Sullivan’s experience working as a wide receivers coach could help him find a position on staff as an assistant in that capacity if any of the above names get the offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach gig.
Pettine will likely be on the outs in Green Bay after the conclusion of the season, and this hiring would be purely contingent on whether or not Doug Marrone is the head coach in 2019. Pettine worked as Marrone’s defensive coordinator with the Bills in 2013 and his defense was so dominant that it earned him a head coaching job after just one year in Buffalo. Pettine is mainly considered a 3-4 scheme guy, but he did spend some time in Seattle during his two-year sabbatical after his unsuccessful stint as head coach with the Cleveland Browns to study and learn concepts from the Seahawks philosophy that the Jaguars defensive roster was built on. Could we see a hybrid scheme where pressure is disguised making it more difficult for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks to game plan against? That does sound nice, especially for a guy like Tashaun Gipson who had a Pro Bowl year and finished second in the NFL with six interceptions under Pettine in Cleveland in 2014. The Jaguars already have a lot of capable personnel to switch to more 3-4 looks with Calais Campbell and Taven Bryan capable of playing ends and Yannick as a stand up edge rusher, so this would at least be something worth tuning into.
Schwartz is another ex-Marrone defensive coordinator who had a staunch unit in Buffalo, finishing fourth in the NFL in points and yards per game in 2014. Schwartz has been mentioned as a guy who could get some looks for head coaching gigs in this cycle, but with the league starting to trend towards avoiding retreads and getting the young, flashy bright mind, Schwartz likely remains as a play caller. Schwartz is technically under contract for one more year with the Eagles and the Jaguars would need permission to interview him for a lateral move so this is a long shot, but it’s worth mentioning due to his relationship and proven success with Marrone.
The most likely choice if the team decides to move on from Marrone, Spagnuolo was Coughlin’s defensive coordinator during their 2007-2008 Super Bowl run with the Giants and then re-joined the Giants in the same capacity in Coughlin’s final year in 2015. Known as an aggressive 4-3 guy, you’d probably see a return of more traditional defensive ends and a slow shift away from the “big end” philosophy with a lot more blitzes from “Spags.” Spagnuolo also has NFL head coaching experience with the Rams from 2009-2011 and would be a welcome new voice for a defense that has gotten stale and has failed to produce turnovers and get home for sacks in 2018.
Fewell also has defensive coordinator experience under Coughlin (2010-2014), but this likely isn’t a “sexy” enough solution to appease Jaguars fans and would be yet another half measure that has failed to move the needle for the Jags. Fewell had some good years as a coordinator, but also had some mediocre ones and there’s a reason he’s a position coach currently. If Fewell did get the promotion, former defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo could be a candidate to fill in as the secondary coach.
Smith’s stock is pretty low right now after being the first coordinator fire of 2018 with the Bucs, but he was a head coaching candidate that was interviewed with the Jaguars prior to the hiring of Marrone, with some even speculating that Smith along with Marrone were the final two candidates for consideration. While this isn’t the route I would go based on how bad a Bucs defense with Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Lavonte David looked, it certainly warrants listing, especially with Smith’s relative success in his first stint with Jacksonville.
Ben McAdoo/John DeFilippo/Mike Sullivan/Bobby Petrino (QB)
Tony Sparano Jr./Mike Sullivan (TE)
Robert Nunn (DL),
Antonio Pierce (LB)
Carnell Lake (DB – Safeties)
If the Jaguars are going to continue with their half measured approach and refrain from totally clean house with the position coaches, the names above are guys that should get a ton of consideration as potential replacements.
Honestly, the position groups that really need a change are the QB coach (Scott Milanovich), TE coach (Ron Middleton), and LB coach (Mark Collins). Milanovich was an intriguing hire from the CFL but the quarterbacks in Jacksonville haven’t performed to acceptable standards and Bortles has continued to deteriorate mechanically. Middleton was a holdover from the Gus Bradley regime and the tight ends have had little to no productive contribution since he’s been on the staff. Collins is the biggest culprit, as the linebackers have not only regressed immensely in a year that Myles Jack was supposed to take a huge step, but have constantly been caught out of position and out of their gaps.
Since Sean Ryan wouldn’t leave the Texans for a lateral move, it really leaves one of McAdoo, DeFilippo, or Sullivan as potential candidates for the QB coach job. A likely solution is the “loser” of the offensive coordinator interview gets handed the QB coach position along with the title of “pass game coordinator” to act as sort of a co-offensive coordinator that doesn’t call plays. This is becoming more en vogue around the NFL (McVay has QB coach Zac Taylor (PGC) and TE coach Shane Waldron (RGC) split those duties, Shanahan leans on Mike McDaniel as his RGC) and could provide an added element of preparation for building a game plan for the play caller based on the opponent. By parsing the responsibilities down, the offense becomes more comprehensive in the analysis of defensive tendencies with a clearer sense of accountability if one side of the offense is underperforming. Petrino is another dark horse for the job with his recent firing at Lousiville and of course, OG Jags fans will know all about Petrino from his first stint with the team from 1999-2001. If only they took a certain Louisville quarterback to re-unite him with…. But I digress.
As far as the tight ends, assistant offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. could get that promotion. Sparano Jr. was the tight ends coach from 2015-2016 for the Buffalo Bills, so it wouldn’t be his first time holding the position. Another option would be Mike Sullivan, if he were open to it, and offer him the run game coordinator title with it similar to Waldron in LA. Sullivan has coached mainly quarterbacks and wide receivers in his NFL career, and doesn’t have any tight end coach experience, but it’s not like the production from the tight end group can be much worse than what it has been in recent years.
When it comes to the defensive line, I’m not trying to oust Marion Hobby. I think overall the group has played well and we are starting to see the young players Dawuane Smoot and Taven Bryan turn it on as of late. With that said, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to hire Robert Nunn as assistant defensive line coach and have an insurance policy in case Hobby wanted to leave for a different opportunity. Nunn is currently the defensive line coach for the New York Jets and figures to be a free agent once Todd Bowles and his staff gets let go at the conclusion of the season. Nunn was Coughlin’s defensive line coach with the New York Giants from 2010-2015 and was a big reason why the Giants and that fearsome defensive line with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Chris Canty won their second Super Bowl against the Patriots.
As mentioned, the linebacker unit is the one position group that is in most need of a voice change. Antonio Pierce was a nine-year starter at middle linebacker for the Redskins and Giants and was a crucial player for Tom Coughlin as a team captain and chief communicator in his defensive units from 2005-2009. This isn’t just a random stab at a former Coughlin player, either. Pierce has recently gotten into coaching and is currently the linebacker coach for Herm Edwards at Arizona State. I’ve watched several Arizona State games this season and Pierce had that linebacker corps humming in 2018, and he’s the type of former player and intense in-your-face guy this group needs. Sick of seeing Telvin celebrating a tackle like he won the lottery while getting blown out and allowing a 200-yard rusher on national TV? Pierce would take care of that. If you’re thinking “well why don’t we get Coughlin’s Giants linebacker coach like everyone else on this list?” – yes that would have been nice, but Jim Hermann is currently busy coaching up the Colts’ LBs and making Darius Leonard the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Lastly, and this is minor, but I would consider hiring another former Jaguar Carnell Lake under Tom Coughlin to help coach up the safeties, a position currently held by Joe Danna on staff. There have been too many broken coverages this year and if Fewell could focus on continuing to develop Jalen Ramsey and the impressive stable of young cornerbacks, Lake could be a huge help for Ronnie Harrison and the other safeties. Lake has coached the Steelers defensive backs from 2011-2017.
Fred Taylor (RB), Tony Boselli (OT), Paul Posluszny (LB)
Call them coaching consultants, interns, specialists, whatever. These former Jaguars greats don’t necessarily need to be “official” members of the staff, but could contribute in a mentorship role for specific players on the roster. Taylor would be a tremendous resource in spending time with Leonard Fournette to learn better ways of taking care of his body mitigating injury risks and also help with some film review. If there’s anyone in the city that knows how to do that or could relate to Fournette on the injury front and how to get through that, it’s Fred. Same goes for Tony Boselli, who could serve as a “left tackle specialist” of sorts and work strictly with Cam Robinson to unlock his massive potential that he’s only scratching the surface of. This could include technique, footwork, mental processing, etc. with a extra session of film review or one on one work, sort of like a tutor. Lastly, we all know the impact Paul Posluszny left on this team, specifically, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. It’s unclear if coaching is the route Posluszny would even want to pursue, but if it was, I would absolutely offer him the defensive assistant/defensive quality control job currently held by Mike Rutenberg and assist with the LB development. If former Penn State coach and linebacker Matt Rhule got the head coaching job, you have to think he would be all over bringing in Poz.
So what do you think? Are there any realistic names not mentioned you’d like to see get an interview? What would your 2019 coaching staff look like? Let us know in the comments below.