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Friday, January 30, 2009
And the Jaguars' best assistant coach is ...

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

We asked for your input earlier this week on who you think the Jaguars' best assistant coach is.

Here's a sampling of replies in the comments to the post and in my mailbag:

Charles in Jax: In response to your question, I think Tice is the best assistant on Del Rio's staff. Before the offseason I would've said Joe DeCamillis, but sadly the Jags were not able/willing to renew his contract. Tice brings a wealth of knowledge from experience as a former player, a former position coach, and a former head coach. Although he may be thought of as a TE coach, he spends a great deal of his time assisting Andy Heck with the o-line. Tice also has Del Rio's trust since they've been friends since their playing days in Minnesota. Given the constant turnover in his staff, this is an important and oft overlooked quality. Sorry for the long response.

Dan in Rochester, NY: As far as best assistant for the jags, I would agree Kennedy Pola is a great coach and should win because of his work with Fred and Maurice, but I'd have to give an honorable mention to linebackers coach Mark Duffner. He's done a good job in the development of Daryl Smith and Daryl looks ready to take over the middle linebacker position for good next year, as well as helping Clint Ingram bounce back last year after an underwhelming second season. Linebacker Justin Durant should have a great year next year, and offers the most potential out of the bunch. He is a really fun player to watch.

Jeremy: My vote would go for QB coach Mike Shula. I know any Alabama fans out there are suppressing a gag reflex, but he helped turn David Garrard from backup to Pro-Bowler. Before Shula worked with Garrard, especially on his footwork, David was an interception machine. After Shula, Garrard has greatly improved his accuracy, and rarely turns the ball over.

Anthony in La Jolla: I think the best Jags assistant is coach Pola. The Jags running backs have all produced from Fred and MoJo to Toefield (when he was there) and Chauncey Washington.

Alex in Charleston, SC: Kennedy Pola is the best assistant coach the Jags have. Not only has Pola helped resurrect Fred Taylor's career and groom MJD into the young star he is, but behind the scenes Pola is working extensively with two rising stars in Montell Owens and Chauncey Washington. Pola has also helped Greg Jones become an allstar fullback that balances physicality with finesse. On the other hand Andy Heck, the offensive line coach, must be credited for his recent successes with the front five. Even after losing three starters in the first game and Richard Collier before the 2008 season, Heck built a decent patchwork line that provided sufficient protection. In 2006 and 2007 the Jaguars rushed for the two highest single-season rushing totals in Jags history. Pola and Heck are easily the two best assistants the Jaguars have

GoJags4362seats: The best assistant coach is, in my opinion, Kennedy Pola. But the most IMPORTANT assistant coach this off-season & into next year is Andy Heck, the offensive line coach.

To two of the big mentions: I thought the Jaguars linebackers were a huge disappointment in 2008, so while Duffner may be a good coach, I'm not handing out the title to an assistant who will have guys ready in 2009, but to someone who did well in 2008. This is based more on current standing, though that's hard to garner in a 5-11 season. The same thing goes for Shula. Garrard turned the ball over plenty last season, with 13 interceptions, 10 more than the season before.

Your comments pointed most often to Pola, and I think he's deserving. Yes, he's been given a lot to work with, but he's a coach who's helped groom or maintain productive players, he's said to be in Jack Del Rio's inner circle, and a few years ago Jeff Fisher tried to lure him away when the Titans had an open running back coach spot -- a big compliment.