The Jaguars won’t be available to answer questions until Thursday about the hiring of Tom Coughlin and promotion of Doug Marrone, so I’ll give it a shot:
1. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash will return. Surprised?
As soon as Marrone was promoted, I thought it was a good chance Wash would return.
Marrone was previously the offensive line coach and Wash previously the defensive line coach, so they spent hours together planning practices, and there is a mutual respect.
By keeping Wash, the Jaguars are likely to remain a 4-3 front. But keeping Wash doesn’t mean the Jaguars will continue to run Gus Bradley’s scheme. And Wash will get to hire a staff that matches his philosophies and teaching style.
Among the possible changes: More split safety downfield, which will allow the cornerbacks to play tighter coverage and produce pass breakups and interceptions? A strong-side linebacker who is off the ball? More early-down blitzes?
Expect the Jaguars to be more aggressive in coverage under Wash – their seven interceptions were last in the NFL this year. Wash ran Bradley’s system last year; this time around, Wash will get to run his plan.
In the front seven, Wash needs to scrap all of the acronyms – Otto, Lotto, Leo – and devise better ways to make impact plays. And he needs to get Myles Jack on the field more. A lot more.
2. What do Monday’s events mean for quarterback Blake Bortles?
As long as general manager Dave Caldwell is in the building, even though his power has diminished greatly, Bortles will be afforded a chance.
It didn’t take a genius to read the tea leaves during the final week of the season, when Marrone praised Bortles’ toughness – mental and physical – during a post-practice press conference, that Marrone knew No. 5 would be a part of the plan.
It would be surprising if the Jaguars don’t pick up Bortles’ fifth-year option (they have until a few days after the draft), which will protect them financially. If Bortles breaks out in 2017, they’ll get him at a bargain price in 2018; if he flames out, they can cut him and not have any dead money on the cap.
The Jaguars need to create a competitive environment for Bortles, though, and the best way to do that is a Day 2 or 3 draft pick (rounds 2-7). Draft a passer to push Bortles hoping he responds to the challenge and wins the job and isn’t handed the job.
3. What will a team built by Coughlin look like?
Coughlin benefited from two franchise quarterbacks – Mark Brunell in Jacksonville and Eli Manning with the Giants.
But expect Coughlin to prioritize the offensive and defensive lines and have teams who have the fortitude to win on the road. Check out the Giants’ two Super-Bowl winning seasons:
2007: Fifty-three sacks and allowed only 28 in the regular season. … Fourth in rushing offense. … Seventh in total defense. … Went a combined 9-2 on the road (6-3 regular season/3-0 playoffs).
2011: Forty-eight sacks and allowed only 28 in the regular season. … Last in rushing offense, but Manning had 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 20 games. … Went a combined 8-2 on the road (5-3 regular season/2-0 playoffs).
4. What does the history of interim coaches being promoted show in terms of future success?
Promoting an interim coach with such a small an audition is a rare move.
The most recently comparable is 2001, when Minnesota promoted Mike Tice the full-time post after he was the interim for one game. Tice lasted four full seasons with the Vikings.
Two other examples aren’t as kind. In 1990, Richard Williamson coached Tampa Bay’s last three games and got the full-time post but was fired after a 2-14 season. And in 2011, Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel coached the final three games but was also fired after a 2-14 season.
5. Who will be the voice of the franchise during the season?
The guess is Marrone.
During the 2013-15 seasons, Caldwell was semi-available during the regular season, feeling Bradley shouldn’t be taking all of the figurative bullets for the Jaguars’ struggles. But this year, Caldwell spoke on the record only once from Week 1-15 – a short phone interview with the Times-Union the night offensive coordinator Greg Olson was fired.
I don’t know how much Coughlin will be front and center because this is a new role for him and there aren’t any league requirements for how often a football operations chief should be available. It would be a smart move for Coughlin, though, to take a vocal approach during the offseason so fans and us media swine can get insight into his team-building philosophy instead of guessing.