Welcome to Big Cat Country’s weekly roundtable, where our staff previews each NFL game.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2023 season is fugahzi, fugazi. It’s a whazy, it’s a woozy, it’s fairy dust. It doesn’t exist. It’s never landed, it is no matter, it’s not on the elemental chart, it’s NOT F*****G REAL! But that’s not stopping us from talking ball and previewing the playoffs.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook for updated odds for each Wild Card Round matchup.
What’s your reaction to the Jaguars parting ways with 10 coaches, including defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell?
Dillon Appleman: Considering Doug Pederson’s confusing allegiance to Press Taylor, I personally felt like Mike Caldwell was always going to be the sacrificial lamb to satisfy fans who rightfully wanted change after a disappointing season. That makes it hard for me to not think of it as a bit of a deflection attempt for Taylor, but I understand the moves nonetheless. I’m excited about the prospect of getting a more experienced, proven defensive coordinator this go-round.
Caitlin Connor: Why stop there? I think more changes should have been made on the offensive side as well.
Travis Holmes: If during the 2023 bye week, you had told me the Jaguars would be replacing 10 coaches, I would have been ecstatic and full of a belief that material changes were coming for the team. With the current clarity of which 10 coaches will no longer be manning the sidelines, I do not have that hope. This feels like the equivalent of switching out conditioning coaches when your team’s main issue is at a coordinator spot. It may be beneficial overall, but it’s not what will materially move the needle (re: wins and losses) for the team. The offensive scheme, team personnel, and the general manager are the unaddressed albatross that hangs around Jacksonville’s neck.
Gus Logue: I was unsuprised by the Caldwell news. He isn’t entirely blameless, but it felt like more of a move to save face than save the franchise. I wrote more about Caldwell here. The good news for Jaguars fans is there are tons of high-quality defensive coaches on the market (ever heard of Bill Belichick? Just kidding -- I think).
Henry Zimmer: I feel like Mike Caldwell might have been a scapegoat in a lot of senses, but it makes sense. If the team— namely Doug Pederson— is not willing to fire Press Taylor, then someone else had to be fired. That guy ended up being Caldwell and the other ancillary coaches. Caldwell is probably a good coach. He also seems well liked and respected. But when you have a collapse like the Jags did, heads have to roll. Is the defense to blame? Maybe, especially late. But there are a wealth of other issues outside of not getting to the passer fast enough.
Who’s your first thought as the best candidate to replace Caldwell?
Dillon: If I’m making this decision, I’m putting a huge emphasis on experience after going the young up-and-comer route with Caldwell. That’s why Leslie Frazier would be my first call for the search. He’s one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL and has proven that he can get the most out of each and every player on his unit week in and week out. That expectation of consistency and accountability is something this unit desperately needs.
Caitlin: Andre Curtis or Leslie Frazier.
Travis: I think someone like Jerry Gray would be a great catch for the Jaguars. Currently the assistant head coach/defense in Atlanta, Gray has experience as a DC for both Buffalo (2001-2005) and Tennessee (2011-2013). The Bills ranked second in total defense in 2003 and 2004.
Gus: Ryan Nielsen coordinated Atlanta’s defense to top-8 finishes in EPA per play allowed and success rate allowed during his first season as a play caller. Assuming the Falcons’ new head coach cleans house and hires his own staff, Nielsen would be at the top of my list.
Henry: Bill Belichick could coach the defense in Caldwell’s place. Nick Saban also needs a job. Get those two grumps to Jax and let’s change the culture. Easy.
What’s your Super Bowl prediction?
Dillon: Philadelphia Eagles (5) vs. Baltimore Ravens (1)
Caitlin: Ravens vs 49ers
Travis: I may be alone on this ledge, but I have confidence in this current iteration of the Ken Dorsey-less Bills to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, over the Ravens. If the 49ers can stay healthy I predict they will be crowned champions, however. 49ers 27 - Bills 23.
Gus: Ravens over Rams. Baltimore has been my Super Bowl pick since before last year’s draft (ask Shipley) and Los Angeles is my favorite sleeper in the field.
Henry: The San Franciso Ben Bartchs win the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills, 35-28.
Here are our staff’s Tallysight picks for the full slate of games this weekend.
What are your Wild Card Round predictions, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!