The 2012 season for the Jags really started Nov 29th, 2011 when one single day brought the firing of Jack Del Rio and the announcement of a new owner in Shad Khan.
Previous owner Wayne Weaver was an honorable man doing his best, but the new ownership brought a new spark to the franchise. Khan paid cash for the team, and vowed to do whatever it took to make Jacksonville a premier franchise. With his wavy black hair and prominent moustache, he has become one of the faces of the franchise, a role Weaver was reluctant to assume.
From the first day he talked to the media, he said he wanted to increase the Jags exposure and make them an international brand. We've seen the steps towards this recently. When Hard Knocks was looking for a team, Khan stepped up and publicly volunteereed. When the NFL was looking for a new "Home Team" in London, the Jags signed on for 4 years. This week Khan was at practice with the 60 minutes crew filming him for a piece that will run this fall.
Already, Khan has spent 3 million to upgrade the Jags locker room, so much so that it may be the best Locker room in the NFL now
Check it out:
The Stadium also got a new $2 million dollar sound system for this year as part of a 7.5 million dollar sprucing up. New Video screens are coming next year.
So lets talk about what went wrong for the Jags last year and how things stand this year:
Problem 1. Coaching: If anyone recalls my recaps of last years games before he got fired, we threw away a lot of chances to win games with bad coaching decisions (clock mangagement, etc.) and and chaotic play that was indicative of bad coaching.
It wasn't till after Del Rio got fired, and in training camp this year when reporters started talking about what a train wreck the last Del Rio coaching season had been. Del Rio had fired 19 assistant coaches in his tenure, and nobody wanted to work for him based on that, and the fact he was considered to be a lame duck.
Example: QB Coach Mike Shula leaves for another organization after 2010 season. Jags hire Todd Monken as new QB coach. A few weeks later Monken gets a better offer so he also departs. Del Rio moves the WR Coach Sheppard to be QB coach, and names the Quality Control Coach to be WR coach.
On his first day as interim head coach, Defensive Coordintor Mel Tucker fired recievers coach JOhnny Cox, moved the QB Coach to WR coach where he belonged and had Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter do double duty as QB Coach.
With Shad Kahn talking about spending whatever it took, some local people speculated on big name coaches such as Bill Cowher, Jeff Fischer or John Gruden coming to town, so intially there was a little disapointment with the hiring of Mike Mularkey who had a 2 year previous gig as Buffalo's head coach from 2004-2005. He took Buffalo to a wining record in 2004, their first in 5 years. The interesting thing about his tenure was that he wasn't fired. He resigned. Nobody resigns from being a head coach. Retire, sure.... but just resign? Seems that management had been making the key decisions for him in 2005 and he wouldn't work under those conditions. Buffalo has had a losing record every year since.
It also seemed that Mularkey's decision to resign had kind of blackballed him. He got plenty of other jobs but no other head jobs. The Jags did talk to Cowher, but the call was initiated by Cowher and lasted for 90 minutes, and it consisted of Cowher selling the Jags on Mularkey.
And once you start listening to Mularkey, and getting a feel for the guy, you get a sense that this may be a real good hire. A guy that leaves no stone unturned. The first thing he did was reach out to Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker who had been interim coach, and who had interviewed for the head job, and had an offer to be DC elsewhere, and convince him to stay. The two men hit it off, and when a reporter asked if it might be an uncomfortable relationship, Tucker said .."Whoever thought that doesn't understand me. I'm all in". And that's now the Jagsuars slogan for the season.
And the respect shown by Cowher for Mularkey was shown by others also. Besides Tucker turning down another DC gig, Bob Bratkowski followed Mularkey here from Atlanta to become OC. Jerry Sullivan was a wide recievers coach with 40 years of experience. He retired after 2010 season but kept his hand in the game doing indivuidual tutoring with players like Laurent Robinson and Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald tried to lure Sullivan to Arizona but Sullivan declined.
But when Mularkey was named Heach coach, he texted Mularkey and said he'd love to unretire and coach the Wide Recievers. And he now is.
Greg Olson a guy with a ton of experience is now the QB Coach.
Jacksonville Jaguars - All In - Featuring Head Coach Mike Mularkey - YouTube
Problem 2: Blaine Gabbert
It's hard to argue that Gabbert wasn't the worst starting QB in the league last year. His completion percent was barely 50% and his 65.4 QB rating was the worst in the league. Other rookies such as Dalton and Newton were way more successful. So it's easy to say the Jags have a big hole at QB. (In fact many are saying that. Some pundits were saying that FA pickup Henne would be the QB by week 6.).
But let's keep in mind a few things in mind:
a) Gabbert was the youngest QB in NFL History to have started 14 games.
b) He never had a dedicated QB coach. His first QB coach was actually a Wide Reciever guy, and his second was also the OC.
c) The Jag receivers were terrible.
d) The Jags had some problems on the O-Line.
e) He had no off-season workouts or OTA's and was the 3rd string guy getting few reps until named the starter in Week 3.
So, the question was with A new head coach, a dedicated QB coach, a full off-season, better recievers, etc, etc. Would he be better? So far he looks WAY, WAY better. In 2 preseason games he is: 18/26 3 TD's O picks, and a QB rating of 126.1
Jaguars ALL IN: Blaine Gabbert - YouTube
Problem 3: Wide Recievers
Jacksonville had a terrible recieving crew in 2011. And little coaching. So, a new respected WR Coach was hired, and in Free Agency they Jags signed Laurent Robinson from the Cowboys. Robinson exploded from obscurity to prominence last year pulling in 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 TD's. Robinson was one of the people that Sullivan tutored in the lockout.
In addition, the Jags moved up in the draft and grabbed the consensus top Wide Reciever in the draft in Justin Blackmon out of OK State.
These moves allowed former top Jags receiever Mike Thomas to move to a slot receiever role where everyone agrees he is more well suited.
Problem 4: Pass rush.
The Jags have been increasing their pass rush since 2009 when they had just 14 sacks the entire season. They then went from 22 to 26 to 31 last year, but thet felt they needed more, and spent their #2 draft choice on DE Andre Branch out of Clemson. He has looked very good so far in camp
Don't assume the Jags are going to be bad this year. Every year a couple teams surprise and the Jags could be one this year. They were 8-8 before all the coaching choas, and more guys on injured reserve than any other team.
They had the 6th ranked defense, and added a big DE.
They have a vastly better coaching staff
They should have much better QB play