It has been a week of upheaval already in Jacksonville, as offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was fired on Monday after the Jaguars seventh consecutive loss. Then, later in the day quarterback Blake Bortles was benched in favor of backup Cody Kessler. You compound those two things with the fact that Leonard Fournette was suspended Monday by the NFL for the Colts game Sunday and lost his appeal, and there’s plenty of reason to doubt the Jags chances this week.
However, new interim offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich isn’t backing down. The man who’s been the quarterback coach himself for the last couple of years in Jacksonville is ready to put his stamp and decision-making on the offense starting with this week.
Milanovich met with the Jacksonville media prior to practice on Thursday, and he had some interesting responses to questions about the timing of this move, and how he will handle taking over guiding the offense this week.
In particular, the line from our headline “I’ve got to call the game my way,” stood out.
While it’s a rather obvious point, that Milanovich will gameplan and then, run the plays that he believes will work best, perhaps this is something the Jacksonville has been needing/missing leading up to this point.
In fact, we can almost hear Jacksonville sportsradio callers in the distance screaming, “GOOD. Someone has needed to call it differently.”
That’s because, it has seemed for the last year-and-a-half that coach Doug Marrone and Hackett had almost been trying to protect and hide Blake Bortles deficiencies at quarterback.
Unfortunately, while that worked a year ago with a lot of success, it was a dismal failure through the first 11 games of this season. Time and again, Bortles was called on to make key throws down-field and keep drives alive, etc. And, time and again he failed.
How much of that failure lies at the feet of the quarterback? Most of it should.
However, some of it is the position you’re being put in with personnel around you and of course, play calls.
It hasn’t helped that Fournette missed 7 out of 8 games with his hamstring, but it’s also undeniable that even with Fournette back over the last three games, Bortles struggled repeatedly.
So now, Milankovich is charged with helping “clean up the mess,” and at the same time auditioning for the permanent job of offensive coordinator. That’s the same thing Hackett did at the end of the 2016 season. That’s when Jags GM Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley decided to fire offensive coordinator Greg Olsen and elevate Hackett from QB coach to offensive coordinator.
Eventually, Marrone, the assistant head coach at the time, replaced Bradley for the last couple of games. And, because he and Hackett had worked together in Buffalo, they were kept intact for 2017.
Back to Milanovich, he’s a former head coach and Grey Cup winner with the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL, and also played briefly in the NFL, primarily as a backup. His biggest challenge will be to get Kessler up to speed and ready to go to lead the offense.
However, one more factor to consider with these these two moves: the firing of Hackett and the benching of Bortles should have pretty well shaken-up the rest of the offensive players that there is nothing sacred or secure right now, for any of them at the end of 2018.
And, it’s fair to say with a fresh guy calling the plays, and a new guy trying to execute them at the QB position, the Jags may very well be energized Sunday against their AFC South opponent.
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