AFC South: Dirk Koetter

David GarrardGary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Jacksonville Jaguars history. On Monday we featured Morten Andersen’s missed field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale that sent the Jaguars to the playoffs. On Tuesday we featured Mark Brunell’s touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith to clinch the 1996 AFC divisional playoff game over the Broncos.

Score: Jaguars 31, Steelers 29
Date: Jan. 5, 2008 Site: Heinz Field

The Jaguars have won just one playoff game since their run to the 1999 AFC Championship Game, and it came thanks to a gutsy play call, a couple of good blocks and a holding penalty that wasn’t called.

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Which is the most memorable play in Jaguars' history?

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    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 24,526)

The Jaguars appeared headed for an easy victory over Pittsburgh in a 2007 AFC wild-card game after beginning the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead and the Steelers facing a fourth-and-12 at the Jacksonville 37-yard line. But Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes hooked up for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh’s comeback got jump-started.

The Steelers eventually took a 29-28 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. After the teams traded possessions, the Jaguars drove into Pittsburgh territory but faced a critical fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 43 with 1:56 remaining.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t choose a pass play or a run by Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew. He called a quarterback draw out of the shotgun formation, putting the season on David Garrard’s feet.

Four players threw key blocks: Center Brad Meester sealed linebacker James Farrior on the inside, left guard Vince Manuwai drove defensive end Brett Keisel backward, right tackle Maurice Williams took down nose tackle Casey Hampton and tight end Marcedes Lewis turned safety Troy Polamalu outside.

That opened a huge hole for Garrard, who put a move on safety Tyrone Carter and ran by him at the 30 before Carter finally ran him down at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. That play set up Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining, and defensive end Bobby McCray sacked Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that defensive tackle Derek Landri recovered with 20 seconds to play to give the Jaguars a 31-29 victory.

Except it shouldn’t have happened.

Officials missed a pretty blatant hold by left tackle Khalif Barnes on linebacker James Harrison. Barnes got his feet crossed as Harrison went outside and then back inside and grabbed Harrison’s jersey by his shoulders. By the time Barnes let go, Garrard was already past the first-down marker.

Steelers players and fans were irate about the noncall. Their complaints were eventually validated when the NFL’s head of officiating admitted the following spring that the crew working that game missed the holding call.

There was obviously nothing the NFL could do about the outcome. That remains the last time the Steelers lost a playoff game at home.

Mailbag: See me get frustrated

October, 6, 2012
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Rick Shortt from Virginia Beach writes: Again I say, let’s quit jumping on the Texan bandwagon. It will not be long before they crash out at the bottom again. How long did it take them to get this far? GO COLTS.

Paul Kuharsky: I’m not on a bandwagon. I write about what’s going on.

What’s going on is the Texans are one of two undefeated teams left in the whole league. Would you like me to pretend they aren’t winning now because you think it’ll tail off?

Who should I act like is good instead? A team that got beat in it's last game by the marvelous Blaine Gabbert-Cecil Shorts tandem?




Mike W from Jacksonville Beach writes: In reference to your weekly what you think the Jags are thinking. This is what a 5 year Jag's season ticket holder is thinking: It could be argued the three most important positions for all 32 NFL teams are GM, Coach and QB. If you had their peers rank Gene Smith, Mike Mularkey, and Blaine Gabbert against others in the league, there is no way that anyone would rank them above a 27 or 28. Until any or all of these individuals are removed, you realistically cannot be successful. I've had (or heard) countless discussions with others, on sports radio, and from local media, but isn't that really their problem in a nutshell? Other comments are deflections and distractions from the root cause of why the Jags continue to lose.

Paul Kuharsky: I certainly understand your frustrations. But the guys that you’d rank in the top five at those spots were once nobodies who ranked 28th, don’t you think?

Maybe not at QB, but certainly with coaches and GMs.

Where did Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith of the Texans, for example, rank on your coaches and GMs lists three years ago? Where do they rank now? I’d suspect substantially higher. Their owner was patient with them and is now collecting dividends.

Also important: who are the guys you you want replacing Smith, who’s at least had some time, and Mularkey, who’s FOUR GAMES into his tenure with the Jaguars, and Gabbert, who’s played in all of 18 games?




Marcus in Winter Park, FL writes: I was the person who was annoyed with the lack of an upgrade at the CB spot during the Texans' off season, my username being eramthgin007. I just wanted to admit that I was wrong about Kareem Jackson's ability to improve. He impressed me long before he got that pick-6 against the Titans yesterday. I am now cautiously optimistic, for I am still not going to put all of my chips on KJ because Hasselbeck was the QB yesterday. I want him to do well against Rodgers and Flacco and Brady, then I will trust in his abilities more. But I admit to being wrong, and I look forward to seeing KJ improve even more. Oh, and I really enjoy your posts, especially your humor. Sarcasm is possibly the greatest thing to ever happen, ever. Not really but you get the point.

Paul Kuharsky: Wow. Score one for reader accountability. Rare. Dogs and cats living together.

I much appreciate the feedback.

Jackson is definitely better, but he’d still be the guy I’d go after based on how strong they are elsewhere.




Saeed Fakhruddin from Brentwood, TN writes: I am a season ticket and PSL holder of the Titans. Why does this team ignore glaring needs and go after players in the draft that don't address those needs. We ranked almost dead last in sacks last year and had almost no pass rush. We get Kendall Wright and pass on SEC defensive players in a year where there was a bumper crop of linebackers and defensive linemen. We once again have no pass rush and J.J. Watt’s has more sacks than the entire Titans defense. Mike Reinfeldt and Ruston Webster are always looking to outsmart the league. They are idiots. Why are they always trying to save Bud Adams’ money. We consistently pass on free agents that could fill holes and let go of good players who are leaders in the locker room while getting no draft picks in return. We were an elite team in the years we had a dominating pass rush with Albert Haynesworth. The Giants won the Super Bowl with a fearsome D-line. The blueprint is there but it appears the brilliant minds in the Titans front office had other ideas. They are stale and have almost no pressure to show results because the Nashville media is way too polite. Bud Adams has been out to lunch for a while. I won't even elaborate on the need to reinvigorate the O-line. Leroy Harris is a liability. David Castro would have been worth moving up in the draft. Thank you.

Paul Kuharsky: No, thank you. You’ve given me great fodder.

They’ve missed on a lot of players, for sure.

But they didn’t miss on leting Haynesworth walk -- did you see what he did after he got that giant contract? Would you somehow feel better if they’d wasted $40 million guaranteed on a guy who was going to mail it in from there just to prove to you a willingness to spend? And they got a third-round compensatory pick for losing him.

They didn’t do enough at defensive end, but didn’t do nothing. Kamerion Wimbley was an expensive free agency.

They passed on J.J. Watt because they had to have a quarterback. We won't know if they picked the right one for a while. But they were hardly alone in not jumping on Watt.

I don’t know what they would have had to do to draft David Castro, but they wouldn’t have had to move up for David DeCastro. They passed on him and he went four spots later. I would have liked to have seen them make that pick too. But of course if they took him, you’d be complaining about not having enough depth behind Kenny Britt at receiver or still ranting about defensive end. (The guy the Titans may really regret passing on is DE Chandler Jones.)

Drafting strictly for position of need has proven to be a bad strategy. You draft players, not positions. Last year were you bemoaning the selections of Jurrell Casey and Colin McCarthy and Karl Klug?

If you want to crush the Titans, crush them. They deserve it. I’ve been doing it. But how about you crush them accurately?




Rick in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL writes: Two questions: 1. Do you think Jack Del Rio kept a tight leash on Dirk Koetter's offense in Jacksonville? With David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars were (and still are) a 3-yards and a cloud of dust offense. Koetter goes to Atlanta and the Falcons light up the scoreboard. He has better offensive players in Atlanta, but still the Jags were so predictable. 2. Have you ever been to Roberts Western World on Broadway in Nashville? Do locals go there?

Paul Kuharsky: 1) Yes. Koetter didn’t have a lot of talent to work with and I don’t think Del Rio let Koetter do everything he would have liked.

2) Yes. Once at the end of a late night. Good spot. Mix of locals and tourists. But downtown is not where most of locals go. Try Midtown




LX from El Chuco, TX writes: Now that the Texan's are 4-0, the media/public praise almost make me forget the 10 previous seasons of inconsistency and frustration. Honestly, I expected them to win by less than a TD vs. the Titans and lose by 10+ to Peyton Manning's Broncos. Still the early success bothers me. Against Manning, as usual, the Texans folded in the fourth quarter; Peyton would have won if he had the level of familiarity with his WRs/TE in DEN as he did in IND. The Manning hex has not been lifted because the Texans have yet to win at IND; besides, they usually struggle with rookie QBs and Andrew Luck will be well experienced by Week 17. Speaking of insurmountable hurdles, the Texans have never beet two of the three teams they will face before the bye: NYJ and BAL!!! I know you love the Texans when they win, but their success remains unproven. I hope they DO lose at least one game in the next three weeks so that they can focus on reaching the SB and not fall into the Pursuit-of-Perfection BS that killed the Patriots when they went 18-1.

Paul Kuharsky: You write: “Still, the early success bothers me.” So after the 10 years you complain about, they are finally good, they are crushing people, and you are bothered by success? What do they need to do to make you happy?

Teams win all the time with some sort of statistical or personnel deficiencies. Trust me here, right now the Texans don’t have much of either. They gave up a big lead in the fourth quarter in Denver -- and still won. They beat Manning where and when they were scheduled to play him. Did you want them to petition to relocate the game to Indy?

Your team is playing great but your choice is to fret about their Week 17 matchup on the road against Andrew Luck?

I think you’re right. They probably will lose that game. Because it probably will mean nothing to them in terms of playoff positioning. How in the world will you deal with such a catatrophe?!?

I wouldn’t worry about a perfect record. They’ll lose more than one game. But if you like them, you don’t have to be compelled to root for it. Just let it happen.




Jake from Tennessee writes: How did your lover boy Matt Hasselback do for you Sunday? I bet you were devastated that he sucked and CJ performed. You might be the worst blogger, due to your always biased opinions, in ESPN history!

Paul Kuharsky: You are confused.

This will help you understand what you see as “bias.”

Did you think Chris Johnson was good in the first three games? Should I have raved about him?




Craig Adams from Lubbock, Texas writes: I've never done the fantasy thing before until this year. For some reason all your bad mouthing of MJD, who I've never really followed, stood out to me as the season approached. As of late I have looked for comments by you seeing if you had given him any kudos as of late but have not seen any? Do you have a pride issue?

Paul Kuharsky: Maurice Jones-Drew’s been everything we’ve come to expect of him. But I haven’t had any real cause to write about him. I said during his holdout that they could go 5-11 just as easily with him or without him. And they look to be on track to do it with him, again.

Also, I don’t believe I said he wouldn’t play well when he played. I never questioned his talent. He’s very talented. I said he didn’t deserve a new contact. What he’s done since he returned hasn’t really swayed my thinking on the contract or changed my reaction to how he handled things.




Romeo Hughes from Starkville, MS writes: When it comes to Tennessee Titans defense, is horrible coaching by Jerry Gray or are they just don't have the talent? They are missing way too many tackles, the safeties are lined up way too far deep, the line gets no pressure, and they don't use Akeem Ayers like they should. Thank you for your time and I enjoy reading your columns.

Paul Kuharsky: It’s a combination of both, plus a third ingredient: They’ve played four pretty good teams.

With weapons, Koetter can succeed

January, 15, 2012
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Mike Mularkey traded up, getting a top job with less talent as he went from offensive coordinator in Atlanta to coach in Jacksonville.

His replacement with the Falcons is Dirk Koetter, who was the Jaguars' offensive coordinator.

Koetter was a relatively hot prospect a year ago, interviewing for the Denver job that John Fox got, and coveted by St. Louis for an open offensive coordinator post. I was asked to assemble a staff out of all of the AFC South coaches, and with so many uncertain head coaches to choose from, I took Koetter as my top guy.

A miserable season later, his stock isn’t the same. But he’s not the one who put together a group that had one legitimate NFL receiver in Mike Thomas, or who gave a big contract to Marcedes Lewis, whose play dropped off considerably.

Calling plays for Matt Ryan throwing to Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez , Koetter will be in heaven. Given the rosters right now, no one would say Mularkey's coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, has a better gig than Koetter.

I think he’s a good coach who was in a bad situation. I just tried to settle some panic as a guest on an Atlanta radio station. I’m not sure who Falcons fans wanted, but they should give Koetter a chance.

He could well be great.

RTC: Breaking down sale of the Jaguars

December, 19, 2011
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

T.J. Yates’ mistakes might be understandable, but what about the rest of the Texans? A sloppy team saw a seven-game winning streak end, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Based on his observations during the national anthem, Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey judged the Texans to be unpatriotic, says McClain.

Turnovers and red zone busts are issues for the Texans, says McClain.

Lawrence Vickers made a contribution to the passing game, says the Chronicle crew.

It’s not a loss that will kill the Texans, says Jerome Solomon.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts got a win and made sure they won’t deal with the stigma of a winless season, says Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts spelled out what Peyton Manning’s done and said he will not play in the final two games, says Bob Kravitz. How much he’s throwing has been an issue and the divide between Manning and management is growing, the columnist writes.

Mike Chappell of the Star says a Dan Orlovsky block on Donald Brown’s big run amounted to a rent payment.

The Colts' defense ganged-up on Chris Johnson, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The sale of the Jaguars to Shahid Khan was a transaction executed in secrecy. Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union breaks down the ultimate trick play. Interesting details include the role of Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of NFL ventures.

Khan introduced himself to the team before practice on Saturday, says Ganguli.

Dirk Koetter is reportedly a leading candidate for the Hawaii job, says Tania Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

With so much to play for, the Titans lost to the previously winless Colts. Players were embarrassed and ticked off over the performance, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Mike Munchak deflected blame from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck after the loss, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

The Colts ran the ball better than the Titans expected they could, says Glennon.

Special-teams mistakes landed Tommie Campbell on the bench, say Wyatt and Glennon.

Gabbert slow with biggest adjustment

December, 13, 2011
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When the Jacksonville Jaguars hire their new coach, Blaine Gabbert will wind up with a new coordinator and position coach.

It’s no secret I think Dirk Koetter, who holds both those roles now, is a good football coach. But the offense and pass offense are last in the NFL, and the right thinking is that the team needs a complete revamp, including a new offense, tailored from the start for Gabbert, and new voices for him to listen to.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesBlaine Gabbert still has time to become a great quarterback, says Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
Still, Koetter's thoughts on Gabbert are of value. He talked today with the Jacksonville media about Gabbert’s progress. And he pointed out something significant, beyond the fact that guys like Steve Young and Troy Aikman hardly started out gangbusters when they got to the NFL.

“There’s even guys playing in the league right now that were anointed superstars that aren’t playing like superstars right now, that maybe started fast and then aren’t playing as well now,” Koetter said. “You can fill in your own blanks.

Let’s fill in those blanks: The two most obvious examples of guys who played well early and look very human right now are Sam Bradford on St. Louis and Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay. If they can go from "great" to not great, Koetter is suggesting, then someone like Gabbert can go from not great to "great."

“There are other circumstances besides just the guy playing quarterback,” Koetter continued. “How good is his protection? Who is he throwing to? How good a defense is he playing against? How much do they blitz him? Is he getting knocked around? Is he getting balls tipped? There’s just a lot of moving parts there and time will tell. All I can say is Blaine is making progress.”

Pocket presence is Gabbert’s biggest issue, which isn’t a big surprise considering the system he was in at Missouri.

“One of the toughest things for any quarterback is to stand in the heat of an NFL rush and know you are going to get hit, and stand in there and deliver,” Koetter said. “I think that’s a very difficult thing. And I think that’s one of the biggest transitions that quarterbacks coming from the spread type system in college to a pocket system in the NFL, I think that is going to be one of a guy’s biggest adjustments.

“Blaine is definitely working on that, I think he’s making improvement in that area but that’s an ongoing process. I know I use it a lot but I think experience will cure whatever ailments might be there.”

Is the progress he's made so far with it sufficient? It's super-easy to say no, but this team is hardly going to give up on this quarterback at this stage.

General manager Gene Smith will have a hand in hiring the new head coach. That coach and his staff, in concert with the front office, have to prioritize three things: getting Gabbert weapons, playing to his strengths and giving him protection he can be confident in.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In his first year calling plays for the Jacksonville defense, Mel Tucker’s had a solid season for the Jaguars.

He was given a huge upgrade in personnel out of free agency, and the team’s issues in a 3-8 season have been primarily on offense.

[+] EnlargeMel Tucker
AP Photo/Phil Coale, FileJaguars interim coach Mel Tucker makes his debut on Monday against San Diego.
Tonight, as he debuts as the team’s interim coach in a home "Monday Night Football" game against San Diego, Tucker will be without his three top outside cornerbacks.

Will Middleton has joined Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox on injured reserve.

While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled this season, he could be in line to make some connections at EverBank Field, where recent addition Ashton Youboty, undrafted Kevin Rutland and retread David Jones are in line to play in Jacksonville's secondary. Jones, who struggled mightily last season, was re-signed as Middleton went to IR.

Drew Coleman plays as the nickel corner and seems to be pigeonholed there, but whether Tucker likes him outside or not, the Jaguars might have to use him more.

I’m not sure what Tucker can do in the team’s remaining five games to hold on to the job. He’s respected and he’s expected by those who put him in place to do well. But after nearly nine seasons of Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars are a team in need of fresh air, and new owner Shahid Khan is likely to want to make a splash with an outsider who revamps the way the team plays.

Tucker has been assured of an interview, and many are mentioning him as a strong candidate for the post. At this stage I’d guess it’s more likely the new coach, hopefully an offensive mind, recognizes the Jags' productive defense and tries to get Tucker to return to the coordinator post.

ESPN’s Mike Tirico will do the play-by-play of tonight’s game. He watched Saturday’s practice and was part of a production meeting with Tucker.

“He’s very detailed, very organized,” Tirico said. “I think it’s definitely an approach that would be what I’d expect from a guy who’s learned from Nick Saban and Jim Tressel, among others. The practice was a crisp, well-paced practice.”

It’s been a whirlwind week. Tucker had no hint of what was coming when he reported to work Tuesday. Since then, he dismissed receivers coach Johnny Cox, shifted Mike Sheppard from quarterbacks to receivers coach and gave offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter full sway over the quarterbacks.

He’s overseen the construction and installation of a game plan. He’s dealt with Middleton’s injury.

And he’s very likely implemented some other unseen alterations to the operation.

“For that sort of fire drill for a guy who’s 39 and has never been a head coach, he’s seems pretty organized,” Tirico said.

At his first practice as the head man leading up to this game, Tucker arrived 30 minutes early. He talked of wanting to get some fresh air, but also confessed it gave him the vantage point he wanted as he began to watch everything.

The Jaguars know they’ve got new eyes on them.

What Tucker sees will be important. What Tucker shows will be more important.
Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter doesn’t believe people should have expectations of some great transformation in rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert based on the adjustment to the coaching staff this week.

After Jack Del Rio was fired and Mel Tucker got the interim job, he fired receivers coach Johnny Cox and moved Mike Sheppard from quarterback to receivers. That leaves Koetter with the quarterbacks on his own.

The change, he said, results in less exclusive time for him with Gabbert than has been portrayed.

“I don’t know if one guy going in a room and spending an extra hour and a half a day with the guy is going to make a noticeable difference over a short time period,” he told Jacksonville media Friday.
“...Me or any other guy that is around Blaine long-term is going to have an influence on him over a long period of time. There are just a lot of other circumstances involved. Who are the receivers? What kind of protection do you have? Who are you playing?

“Throw in all of the other circumstances of this week -- ‘Oh by the way the head coach is fired and they sold the team’ -- it’s just not that simple to say, ‘OK we’re putting a new guy in there.’ Now I love coaching quarterbacks, I love being around them, but we’re 11 weeks into a season that’s not going the way we want it to. There has been a lot of change in the air. This has been an uncomfortable week for everybody, players and coaches. We all have a job to do, we’re all professionals, we’ve got to do our job, but what are the results going to be? I don’t know.”

Koetter is an honest coach and these sentiments serve as important, realistic reminders.

The next coach who works with Gabbert will be most influential, and Koetter knows with a new owner and new head coach it won’t likely be him. He’ll work hard with Gabbert for the remainder of the season, then knows odds are good he’ll be coaching football somewhere else in the league or in the college ranks next year.

Tucker and Jaguars alter staff, roster

November, 30, 2011
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Two things buzzed around the Jaguars' offense as things fell apart this season, producing a 3-8 record that got Jack Del Rio fired.

The wide receivers were insufficiently coached by the inexperienced Johnny Cox.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Mel Tucker
AP Photo/Rick WilsonJaguars' interim coach Mel Tucker made several moves on Wednesday.
Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert wasn’t getting as much quality, hands on coaching from quarterback coach Mike Sheppard as he needed.

Mel Tucker’s staff move Wednesday suggests both sentiments were correct. The Jaguars’ interim coach let Cox go, and shifted Sheppard to receivers. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will take control of the quarterbacks.

Del Rio didn’t really have a lot of options in terms of staff. His assistants only had one year remaining on their contracts. Anyone he added would have had the same, and the best assistant coaches find more security than that.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Shula jumped to Carolina in the offseason, and Del Rio shifted one of his best teaching assistants, Todd Monken, from receivers to quarterbacks. Then Monken bolted for an assistant job at Oklahoma State, and Del Rio had to shuffle again.

Now, Tucker clearly sees the potential for addition by subtraction.

The team also made roster moves at receiver. Jason Hill, who’s been in the No. 2 role all season, was released. That makes room for more playing time for Jarett Dillard, rookie Cecil Shorts and Chastin West.

The Jaguars also signed running back DuJuan Harris from their practice squad, signed cornerback Morgan Trent and put safety Courtney Greene on IR.

Perhaps Harris will have a chance to earn touches in front of the struggling backup to Maurice Jones-Drew, Deji Karim.

Greene is the 18th Jaguars to go on the list, a league high.

In interim, Tucker should be inventive

November, 29, 2011
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Chris Mortensen reports defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will be elevated to interim head coach with Jack Del Rio out in Jacksonville.

Tucker is regarded as an up-and-comer and he’s done quality work in his first season calling the defense, though the infusion of personnel is the primary reason the Jacksonville defense has been good this year.

Unsolicited advice for Tucker: Be as different from Del Rio as possible.

The current staff of lame-duck coaches is likely to be spread all over the country next season with a new regime in place. They’ve got five games to make their case, for this job or for a good coordinator job elsewhere. They’ve got nothing to lose. Throw conservatism out the window, and don’t write game plans that are designed to keep games close or that might put the team in position to squeeze out a narrow win. Don’t be scared.

Be crazy. Be inventive. Tucker should tell the players to be the loosest they’ve ever been. There is no stress, let’s go have some fun. San Diego is coming to town Monday night, and they’ve got the weight of Norv Turner’s fate on their shoulders. The weight's been lifted off Jacksonville.

Open things up. Tell offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter while you can't give him any upgraded weapons, he’s got the freedom to do anything he wants with the offense and Blaine Gabbert.

The odds of Tucker getting the job beyond this year are super slim. He doesn't have much of a media presence, and he needs to loosen up in that department to make his mark. Coaches and players are writing résumés.

The best thing Tucker can do is change the vibe as they do so.

Here's a recent piece on the direction I think the Jaguars should ultimately take.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars very likely have a coaching change coming. Their GM isn’t under contract for next season. They pulled their rookie starting quarterback in the course of Sunday’s 20-13 loss to Houston that dropped their record to 3-8.

So how do they hold things together moving forward for five more games?

[+] EnlargePaul Posluszny
John Raoux/AP PhotoLinebacker Paul Posluszny says the Jags will still play hard throughout the remainder of the season.
“A lot of things are going against us right now, that’s for sure,” said veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose high-level play continued with seven tackles and a forced fumble. “But for this team, we’ve still got to be able to compete til the very end. We’re professionals, we’re going to act like it, we’re going to do our job to the best of our abilities regardless of the situation.”

Jack Del Rio pulled Blaine Gabbert in favor of Luke McCownwith roughly 7 minutes left in the game, searching for a spark. A coach who seemingly passed the buck to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter a week ago for poor play-calling and clock management at the end of last week’s loss in Cleveland said this move was all his.

The Jaguars pulled within a score, but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-2 at the Houston 40 with 1:16 left.

Del Rio indicated Gabbert is his starting quarterback until he says otherwise, but of course, he could say otherwise at any time.

“When he was called on, he went in there and gave us a spark,” Del Rio said of McCown.

Gabbert made some good throws and led a great second-quarter drive with consecutive passes of 31 yards to running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 25 yards to rookie receiver Cecil Shorts and 14 yards to Marcedes Lewis. But then from the 3, they couldn’t punch it in as Lewis dropped an easy touchdown.

Perhaps only on a subconscious level the Jaguars deflated after the resulting field goal that put them ahead 10-7, and the Texans got better.

Jacksonville didn’t have a drive longer than eight plays after that. Eight of their 10 subsequent possessions ended with a punt, a turnover or on downs.

“It’s a tough situation for him,” Posluszny said of Gabbert. “Blaine is our guy. He’s the quarterback. He’s the quarterback of the future for this team. Obviously he didn’t play as well as he wanted to, so they made a switch.”

Gabbert and McCown combined to be sacked seven times, with four coming from Texans outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who made it a tough day for right tackle Guy Whimper. Per ESPN Stats and Info, Jaguars' quarterbacks were under duress on 18 of 49 dropbacks (36.7 percent). That number was 25.9 percent for the season coming into the game. Duress is either forced to move from the pocket, throwing motion altered due to pressure or a defender had a clear path in the quarterback's line of sight.

Maurice Jones-Drew said he and everyone on offense took the quarterback change personally.

“When they pull your quarterback, they are saying something about you,” he said. “We have to continue to work to get better.”

Gabbert had a post-game demeanor befitting a guy who had a bad day and was benched. McCown said the 10th overall pick in the draft has a great willingness to work hard to get improve.

"He's growing, he's getting better," McCown said. "We've just got to hang with him."

That was conveyed to Gabbert.

“I think it’s why we are all here, I think it’s why we are all in the NFL,” he said. “We worked hard to get here and we’re working hard to stay here.”

Rapid Reaction: Texans 20, Jaguars 13

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thoughts on the Texans’ 20-13 win against the Jaguars at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Texans moved to 8-3 with the win and remain in complete control of the AFC South. But in his first game replacing Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart didn’t make it into the third quarter, suffering a left shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game and meant rookie T.J. Yates was operating the offense. Is Leinart out for an extended period of time? Are the Texans being run by a rookie? We have to see what they say when we talk to them in a bit.

What I liked: The Texans played with complete confidence that they were better than the Jaguars, which they are. But Leinart didn’t really throw anything of length and when Yates took over, the rest of the team simply stuck with the main ingredients. The run game was good enough, as was the defense, particularly after halftime.

What I didn’t like: Even as they strung together some big plays, the Jags simply couldn’t score. No, we shouldn’t put too much on one play. But after what might have been the Jaguars’ most effective drive of the season, with plays of 31, 25 and 14 yards, tight end Marcedes Lewis dropped an easy TD pass and the Jaguars only pulled ahead 10-7 early in the second quarter. Not exactly a confidence builder for the home team.

What I want to know: What was the Jaguars’ rationale for pulling Blaine Gabbert in favor of Luke McCown with the score at 20-10 with about 7 minutes left in the game? There have been plenty of moments when a quarterback change may have been an option for the Jaguars. Why did coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter pull the trigger this time?

What’s worthy of applause: Houston’s Andre Johnson just became the second-fastest player to reach 700 catches in NFL history. Marvin Harrison needed 114 games to reach the mark for Indianapolis, and Johnson needed 120.

What’s next: The Texans host Atlanta while the Jaguars welcome "Monday Night Football" for the second time this season, this time for San Diego.

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November, 22, 2011
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FALLING

1. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars coach: His damage control on Monday was better, but he had a terrible Sunday. When he says coordinator Dirk Koetter makes the play calls, he appears to be throwing the assistant under the bus. He also appears not to have a good feel for the job. Allowing coordinators to do their thing is important. But it’s not a violation of their freedom to do their jobs for a head coach to participate in a timeout discussion of what’s to come. To claim that Koetter has complete autonomy is to distance yourself from important decisions. That’s a weak strategy. Shouldn’t the buck stop here?

2. Tennessee Titans defensive ends: The Titans were excited about getting Derrick Morgan in the mix after losing him for his rookie year to a torn ACL, but he’s made minimal impact and hurt an ankle in Atlanta. They moved Jason Jones from tackle to end to help beef up the outside, and he has not been a big presence. Dave Ball is hurt again. William Hayes flashed a week ago but clearly is not a staff favorite and killed the Titans with a fourth-down offside penalty against the Falcons. Production from the group has been simply insufficient.

3. Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks: We probably will learn the team’s verdict on the starting quarterback for the Carolina game on Wednesday. But does it matter much? I think Curtis Painter is better than Dan Orlovsky and should be the choice, but it’s not much of a choice. The best-case scenario is that whoever is at quarterback makes a couple of big plays to Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne, then plays mistake-free. Even in that scenario, the Colts would need the sort of defensive effort to win that they don’t seem capable of.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJake Locker played well in relief of Matt Hasselbeck this past Sunday.
RISING

1. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans backup quarterback: He showed himself to be ready and able in relief work of Matt Hasselbeck. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer put him in favorable situations -- working out of shotgun, throwing on the move, in position to take off running. He sailed a few throws but overall earned an "A" for being prepared, confident and effective. That said, the right move is to return him to the bench behind Hasselbeck. It’s the kind of playing time and experience that’s really healthy for Locker at this stage.

2. The perception of the AFC South as super-weak: The Colts are winless. The Jaguars can’t beat the bad Browns. The Titans are average. The Texans are a good team, but they are moving forward without their quarterback. Hasselbeck is the division’s best quarterback now with Matt Schaub out, and although we need to see Matt Leinart, we know Painter and Blaine Gabbert are awful now. The AFC North and NFC South feel very good about drawing this division on their schedules this year.

3. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans receiver: He’s ready to return, and adding one of the game’s best receivers to the lineup should provide a jolt. Leinart must find him early and take advantage, too, of the attention the Jaguars are likely to devote to him, creating space and opportunity elsewhere. The Texans did great work with Johnson out of the lineup for six games with a hamstring injury. Getting him back for the first game without Schaub is a big, big deal. Someone asked me how long I thought it would take for Johnson to get back into the flow. I say three plays.
What I think they’re thinking (or should be) in the headquarters of the four AFC South teams this afternoon.

Houston Texans

Back to work. Can’t wait. It’s amazing how many people won’t allow for the possibility that Matt Leinart has grown up and improved. But there are an awful lot of quarterbacks whose second acts were better than their firsts. We need to make sure he gets the same production from the supporting cast that Matt Schaub was getting. That means we run block efficiently, springing Arian Foster and Ben Tate. It means we play defense befitting the No. 1 unit in the league -- and that shouldn’t be hard considering how bad the Jaguars are on offense. Jacksonville’s defense will be a big challenge, but we have reason to be confident we’ll be just fine overall.

Indianapolis Colts

More of this? How unfair. We guess we are obligated to trudge through six more games and suffer the consequences of a season without Peyton Manning and with a poorly planned and constructed secondary. There is no sympathy for us and we don’t deserve any. Most people around the league were sick of our success and are enjoying our failures. Manning’s got an important check-up in December, and December isn’t that far off, so there is something to look forward to. Cam Newton and the Panthers, meanwhile, are not something we’re looking forward to. The rookie quarterback has shredded defenses a lot better than ours.

Jacksonville Jaguars

We’ve got a good defense but an offense lacking talent and lacking an experienced quarterback. We got ourselves in a tightly contested game in Cleveland and we executed well enough to be in position to win at the end. In a spot like that, we need to be well-positioned by our coaches to maximize our chances to win. They failed us. They botched the timing of our final timeout, which cost us a chance at one extra play. And they out-thought themselves by not calling for a Maurice Jones-Drew carry at the goal line on what was certain to be the game’s final play. Jack Del Rio defended the timeout strategy but complained about the pace of the play that slowed things down. He’s the guy who’s in charge of having us ready to execute in a hurry. JDR also passed the buck to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for the play selection. We understand he doesn’t want to meddle, and we guess that’s admirable on some level. But he has to take the heat here, because he has the power to click the headset at any time and say something like, “run Maurice here.” It’s no one’s fault but his own if he fails to use his override power.

Tennessee Titans

It’s becoming easier and easier to think we don’t have the people we need to stand toe-to-toe with a team like the Falcons. Their offensive firepower is more than we could handle, and we made stupid mistakes, especially in the penalty department. Jake Locker provided a nice boost, but we shouldn’t need an injury at quarterback to show life and we’re expecting Matt Hasselbeck to be back in the huddle as we host Tampa Bay Sunday. The Bucs are up against it like we are. While we’ve struggled against good teams, we are still in position to be in position to make a bid for a wild-card berth. But time is running out for us to start the kind of little streak we’ll need to make it happen.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The Texans are ready to move forward without Matt Schaub, who’s out of the lineup for the first time since 2008, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “[Matt] Leinart, who hasn’t started a game since 2009 when he still played for Arizona, inherits a team with a 7-3 record, a four-game winning streak and a two-game lead in the AFC South. They also are tied for the best record in the AFC going into Sunday’s game at Jacksonville.”

On the remaining schedule, the Texans could face four rookie quarterbacks, says McClain. That lines up nicely for the NFL’s No. 1 defense.

Indianapolis Colts

Pat McAfee’s been one of the Colts’ few bright spots. The punter and kickoff man refined a lot of techniques working with his personal kicking coach during the lockout, writes Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star.

Rebuilding doesn’t take long in the NFL, and it’s all about the quarterback, says Nate Dunleavy of 18to88.com.

Jim Irsay tweeted about the quarterbacks at the top of the 2012 draft class.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert let his big moment flutter away, says Gene Frenette of the Times-Union. “Quarterbacks young and old are judged mostly on one thing: Did they make plays to win with games on the line? Gabbert is still learning how to do that.” I can appreciate trying to get Gabbert his moment. But I still feel Maurice Jones-Drew has to get the ball on the last play of the game.

The game story from Vito Stellino of the T-U includes comments from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter on the play selection on the final series.

The Browns gained too many yards, says Tania Ganguli of the T-U. Jack Del Rio said the tackling and execution was not as crisp as it needed to be.

Frenette’s report card.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker provided a spark in the loss in Atlanta, but the Titans will be sticking with Matt Hasselbeck provided his elbow is OK, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. I think it's too soon to make a change, and Hasselbeck has earned the job security the Titans are giving him.

The Titans needed one stop at the end to get a chance to win it, but like most of the game, they just couldn’t get it writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Mike Munchak isn’t changing quarterbacks, but David Climer of The Tennessean wonders if it wouldn’t be the right move to change course at 5-5.

The receivers liked what they saw from Locker, but hardly endorsed a controversy, says Glennon.

A week after a big game, Chris Johnson was back to being a non-factor, says Wyatt.

Wyatt’s report card.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

With Blaine Gabbert coming to town, it’s time to note Gary Kubiak’s Texans have lost five of seven games they’ve played against rookie quarterbacks. Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle takes a look.

Andre Johnson isn’t pleased with his slow progress as he recovers from a hamstring injury, says Jeffrey Martin of the Chronicle. They’re calling it a game-time decision, but I do not expect him to play. Fullback James Casey looks like he will be back.

Indianapolis Colts

Bob Kravitz’s proposals for the Colts: Draft Andrew Luck if you can and tank the last two weeks if you need to since you tanked them when you could have gone 16-0; dive into free agency to supplement the draft; prioritize retaining defensive end Robert Mathis; give receiver Anthony Gonzalez a shot; find out if Peyton Manning believes he can win a Super Bowl with Jim Caldwell as coach.

The Colts have a big presence on Don Banks’ team of underachievers.

Among the things to watch from Sunday: The running back who’s avoiding contact (Chris Johnson) against Colts defenders who’ve also been avoiding contact. Nate Dunlevy’s weekly piece at 18to88.com.

I spent some time with Dan Dakich on the radio Thursday.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars-Texans will feature a battle of determined running backs with Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster, says Tania Ganguli of the Times-Union.

After some steady progress, Blaine Gabbert regressed in the win over Baltimore according to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Jaguars are looking for him for him to be more fundamentally sound, says Ganguli.

It’s too easy, and not accurate, to conclude the Jaguars played more man coverage against the Ravens. Ganguli investigated and says it was more about how they played than what they played.

Tennessee Titans

Analyst Brian Baldinger thinks the Titans' run-game problems are mostly on Johnson, who’s not doing what made him great and is showing a lack of confidence, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Lavelle Hawkins knows he needs to do more, say Glennon and Jim Wyatt. The Titans have been incredibly patient with Hawkins and he’s due to stop looking confused on the field.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is seeking consistency, says Wyatt.

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