NFL

Be it Mike Smith or Josh McDaniels, experience is key for the next Jaguars coach

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It seems that, finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars are ready to eject Gus Bradley from the driver’s seat of their franchise. Mind you, this is after four years of steering that car into a ditch repeatedly, made worse for the fact that it was a pretty nice car.

Still, better late than never.

While it’s a bit early (Bradley hasn’t joined Jeff Fisher on the unemployment line quite yet), Pro Football Weekly has already reported that the Jaguars might have their man already: Mike Smith.

Sources have told us that Smith might believe the Jaguars job is his if he wants it, and that he has already begun reaching out to candidates to put a staff of assistants together.

PFW was very careful in their piece to say they aren’t trying to get Bradley fired, but as they also point out, a 14-47 record through three seasons and 13 games is a bad resume.

Smith is currently the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.  During his seven years in Atlanta, Smith compiled a 66-46 record, though after three straight playoff years the Falcons had a 10-22 record the two seasons before Smith was fired.

There’s always a healthy discussion when it comes to hiring a new head coach. Should a team go with a guy who has experience, even if his last job ended badly? Or should franchises be looking for new blood, someone who is a coordinator and can bring a fresh perspective to the NFL?

Of course, each situation and team is different and requires different things. The mistake the NFL tends to make—or anyone, really—is to assume because something works once, it will work always. Or, flipping the coin, that if something didn’t work before, it won’t ever work.

There’s no automatic coaching panacea, no one answer.

That said, teams tend to lean towards experience and that’s a good thing, especially for a team like the Jaguars who are not necessarily in need of a complete teardown. The pieces are there on both sides of the ball, the team just needs someone to put them together.

That’s where a Smith or Josh McDaniels (another hot name in coaching circles right now) come in. Having experienced coaching before, and knowing where the pitfalls are, they can more smoothly work on getting the most out of the players they have.

A guy like Smith knows how to handle the balance between older veterans and young players. Generally speaking, (and again, there is no one size fits all situation), they should know how to manage both to get the best out of them.

Smith and McDaniels had both success and failure in their earlier tenures as head coach, but that—especially the failure—should again serve to give them an edge over an inexperienced coach in terms of managing the team.

Looking at a first-time coach like the New York Jets’ Todd Bowles—now at the end of a disastrous second year as a head coach, though PFW reports he is safe— it’s easy to see where a first-time head coach might be a bad idea for a team with a lot of veteran talent.

While he had a successful first year, a lot of that was a cake schedule. Bowles struggled at time in big games last year, and we saw that again in 2016. Further, the veteran players seemed to quit on him. Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson, and Mo Wilkerson were no-shows for chunks of the season.  We also saw him make the rookie move of committing to a quarterback as a starter before that player was even under contract.

If you want to blame someone for the Ryan Fitzpatrick distraction this offseason, you can start with Bowles after last season.

This is not to say Bowles can’t be a good head coach or even a great one. However, just like a rookie player, he is going to continue to make mistakes and learn from them. In the case of the Jets, a team with significant talent in or at the end of their prime, that became a bad match.

For a team like the Jaguars—with significant amounts of talent—a brand-new head coach learning the ropes would also be a bad fit.

Learning on the job is fine if you’re the Cleveland Browns and have to blow the whole thing up. If you are the Jaguars, you have enough talent to be winning now.

Experience should be a significant feature they look for in a head coach this offseason.


About Andrew Garda

Andrew Garda is a freelance writer primarily covering NFL football, with frequent side trips to everything else. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he is a contributing writer for Sports on Earth and Pro Football Weekly. He also covers fantasy for Footballguys.com. Garda is the host of the At the Whistle podcast and has been credentialed for many NFL drafts, Senior Bowls, pro days and various NFL events.