The Jacksonville Jaguars have promoted former Toronto Argonauts Grey Cup-winning head coach Scott Milanovich to offensive coordinator.
The Jags relieved Nathaniel Hackett of play-calling duties on Monday. Head coach Doug Marrone fired Hackett and benched starting quarterback Blake Bortles, making sweeping changes to one of the league’s worst offences and seventh straight loss. Milanovich spent five seasons (2012-16) as bench boss for the Argonauts before landing in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville was one win away from going to the Super Bowl last season.
Marrone believes Milanovich and backup quarterback Cody Kessler will energize a lacklustre offence Sunday when the Jaguars (3-8) host Indianapolis. Kessler lost all eight starts for Cleveland in 2016.
“Hopefully he can stay healthy and win some games for us,” Marrone said.
Bortles failed to reach 150 yards passing in four of the last six games. Marrone already yanked Bortles once this year, only to give him the job back a day later. Now, the biggest question is whether Bortles is done in Jacksonville. The fifth-year starter signed a three-year, $54 million contract in February and is due to count $21 million against the salary cap. Cutting Bortles still would cost Jacksonville $16.5 million against the cap.
Hackett ended up being the first scapegoat in Jacksonville’s ultra-disappointing season. He failed to get Bortles and the offence to play anywhere close to the way they did early in the season or even in 2017. Injuries have been the biggest issue, but not enough to save Hackett’s job.
“Obviously, you feel terrible, especially as an offensive player,” centre Tyler Shatley said. “I feel like a lot of that’s on us. He had great game plans and stuff; we just have to execute better.”
The Jaguars rank 22nd in the NFL in total offence, averaging 346.5 yards a game, but have been on a steady decline the last two months. They rank 29th in points, averaging a paltry 17.9 a game.
Bortles’ lack of production has been the primary problem. The fifth-year starter has 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions this season, failing to put the offence on his shoulders and unable to do much when things go wrong around him.
He also has been hamstrung for a variety of reasons, most notably a lack of playmakers and numerous injuries. Jacksonville is without three left tackles, two tight ends, the team’s leading receiver from 2017, the team’s starting centre and played six games without offensive centrepiece Leonard Fournette. Adding to the woes, left guard Andrew Norwell was placed on injured reserve Monday with an injured left ankle.
“It sucks that somebody had to get let go,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “I thought he was doing a wonderful job. But it’s the nature of the business. We need to start winning or we all need to look in the mirror about who can let go. It sucks.”
Still, many would argue the offence is hardly the team’s only concern.
The defence has looked little like its 2017 form and was gouged on the ground Sunday by rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who ran 101 yards and a touchdown before taking two knees at the end of the game. Special teams also have been a non-factor all season.
But Marrone opted to make a change on offence. It was clear Hackett’s job was in jeopardy Sunday when Marrone moved him from the sideline to the coaches’ booth for the game against the Bills, an indication he felt Hackett needed a new vantage point to call games with more efficiency.
– with AP files