JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars turned in three of the worst defensive seasons in franchise history under co-ordinator Bob Babich.
So firing Babich was the obvious move.
Coach Gus Bradley parted ways with Babich on Tuesday after three disappointing seasons during which the Jaguars ranked 29th in the NFL in total defence and 31st in scoring defence.
The Jaguars made the announcement after Bradley met with his assistants. It was unclear whether Babich was the only assistant let go.
Bradley made similar wholesale changes on the offensive side last year, firing co-ordinator Jedd Fisch and reassigning quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo.
Bradley hired Greg Olson as offensive co-ordinator, Nathaniel Hackett as quarterbacks coach and Doug Marrone as offensive line coach, and the Jaguars made significant strides on that side of the ball.
Finding replacements might not be as easy this time around considering Bradley is entering the final year of a four-year contract, which might make some assistants leery of being in a potential one-and-done situation.
Instead of hiring someone from the outside, Bradley could take over the play-calling duties and return to the role that got him noticed as Seattle’s defensive co-ordinator.
He also could promote defensive line coach Todd Wash, who was on staff with Bradley in Tampa Bay and Seattle and knows the scheme as well as anyone.
"I trust Gus," general manager Dave Caldwell said Tuesday before the firing was announced. "I would endorse what he feels to do is right. … If he was to step in and (call plays), if he felt that was the best thing to do, I would trust him if he thinks he can do it. … Or if he thinks that there’s somebody else that he needs to bring in, I would trust him to make that decision."
Regardless of what Bradley does, firing Babich had to be one of his toughest coaching moves because Babich gave Bradley his big coaching break.
Babich was the head coach at North Dakota State in 1997 when he hired Bradley as defensive co-ordinator. Bradley had success there and eventually landed an NFL job with the Buccaneers.
When Bradley got his first head coaching job, he returned the favour by bringing in Babich as his defensive co-ordinator. Babich had just been fired along with Lovie Smith’s staff in Chicago.
But Babich entered a significant rebuilding project, and making it even tougher, the Jaguars decided to fill needs on the offensive side of the ball before addressing the defence.
Still, they expected the defence to be better in 2015, and when it wasn’t, Babich became a main focus of criticism for a unit that faltered in close games, couldn’t generate consistent pressure on quarterbacks and struggled to get off the field on third downs.
"I think it’s easier in this league to fix a defence than it is an offence," Caldwell said. "It took us three years to get where we need to be offensively. It’s not like we don’t have any pieces on defence.
"We do have some good players. We have a mountain of cap space and eight draft picks, coupled with players that we felt like had good years on defence. … Now, we have to supplement them. We get (defensive end) Dante Fowler coming back, we have (defensive tackle) Sen’Derrick (Marks) back and we’ll see where we’re at."