While much of the criticism fell on second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden feels it falls on him as the team’s play caller, noting that a quarterback typically gets too much blame when things go wrong, and too much praise when things go right, such is life as an NFL quarterback.
“But from my standpoint, I take a lot of the criticism,” said Gruden on Wednesday.
“I didn’t call a good enough game for Gardner to have success, so that’s on me. I have to give him a better opportunity to make some plays, get the ball out of his hands, timing more quicker-type drops, get the ball out of his hands where he’s not holding the ball waiting for deeper-type routes to develop against known passing situations.”
The Jaguars never had a lead in their game against the Dolphins on Thursday. Instead, the team fell behind early, at one point losing the contest 21-7. While Minshew was on target (completing 30 out of 42 (71.5%) of his passes), he and the offense failed to convert crucial third downs on the day, unable to score many points.
Gruden says Miami’s defense “fooled” the team a little. In the first two games of the season, the Dolphins ran more man coverage, while against the Jaguars the team played a lot more zone. This led to more failed third downs than the team was used to, going 3 of 10. In the two games prior, the Jaguars were one of the better third-down teams in the league at ~60.5% on the year.
Against Miami, the Jaguars attempted to run a crack toss on third-and-five with less than two minutes remaining on the first half of the game. Down 21-7, Gruden says the team knew it was going to go for it on fourth down and they wanted to get a first down with a run, but the Dolphins weren’t having it.
“They [Miami] played a defense that was not very good for that look, [we] should’ve got out of the play,” he said. “Then on fourth down, we ran a scat protection, they covered zero-ed us and we blew the protection a little bit so [we] didn’t give our offense a chance to really make some plays on third down.”
Ultimately, the Jaguars and Gruden didn’t call their best game, effectively out-coached by the Dolphins on the day.
“[I] called max protection against max drop zone, called empty protection against max blitzes, so [it] was just a poor play calling third down experience by myself,” said Gruden when speaking about some of the issues he had calling the game.
“I have to do a better job giving him [QB Gardner Minshew II] better outs, better alternatives to cover zeroes, to cover ones, to drop eights, zones, and it was a poor job by me.”
While Gruden takes accountability for the team’s poor performance on offense, and likely did have a hand in what went wrong on Thursday, he should be equally praised for how he called the team’s games during the first two weeks of the season.
Heading into week three, the Jaguars were averaging 27.5 points per game and mounted two comebacks in the second half of games that weren’t achievable just a year ago. The team, including Minshew, had played well prior to week three and Gruden looks to get back to that.
The team will have a golden opportunity to do just that against Gruden’s former team this weekend in the Cincinnati Bengals, getting off to a fast start is pivotal.
“We have to be able to play with a lead. We have to be able to play without a lead. So it’s a good learning experience for our guys, but we do have to do a better job starting fast.”