JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone took Wednesday seriously.
That was true of the past two weeks, too – and the Jaguars’ head coach made that clear Wednesday when announcing major changes and additions to the coaching staff.
“You’re only as good as your entire staff,” Marrone said. “Every successful team that I was a part of as an assistant – be it college or the NFL – we had a hell of a staff.”
So, while offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was the Jaguars’ most high-profile coaching announcement Wednesday, Marrone during a mid-afternoon press conference detailed a slew of hires/promotions made during what he called “an exciting, challenging process.”
“Everyone is crucial,” Marrone said. “One person is not going to drive the whole thing when you’re putting people together on offense and putting people together on defense.”
DeFilippo, offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2015 and the Minnesota Vikings through much of the 2018 season, was one of four offensive staff changes announced Wednesday.
The Jaguars also announced the hiring of Buffalo Bills wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie (running backs), Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line coach George Warhop (offensive line) and the promotion of offensive assistant John Donovan (assistant running backs). Scott Milanovich, Jaguars quarterbacks coach in 2017-2018 and play-caller in the final five games of 2018, will return as quarterbacks coach. Wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, tight ends coach Ron Middleton and assistant offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. also will return.
Defensively, the Jaguars on Wednesday announced the promotion of Jason Rebrovich from assistant defensive line coach to defensive line coach and the hiring of Arizona Cardinals defensive backs coach David Merritt as assistant defensive line coach. In addition the team announced the hiring of New York Giants defensive backs coach Tim Walton as secondary/cornerbacks coach and promotion of Joe Danna from assistant secondary coach to secondary/safeties coach. Todd Wash will return as defensive coordinator, with Mark Collins returning as linebackers coach and Mike Rutenberg returning as assistant linebackers coach.
Marrone emphasized “familiarity” as a major part of the hiring process.
“My process has always been to go with people I’ve coached with, people that I’ve coached with or who have coached with the other coaches,” Marrone said. “It’s very difficult for me to try to hire someone I don’t have any type of relationship with at all – or at least someone I know and trust.
“There’s a lot of misinformation in this league that’s out there. You’ve got to try to get to the truth. That’s what I’ve done for the past 16 days. It’s been a process.”
Marrone called the coordinator hire “probably the toughest one for me.”
“It’s the first time in a long time I’ve done it,” he said.
Nathaniel Hackett served as Marrone’s offensive coordinator first when Marrone was the head coach at Syracuse and later with Buffalo (2015-2016) and Jacksonville (2017-2018). The Jaguars dismissed Hackett with five games remaining in the 2018 season, and he is now the offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers.
Marrone said when hiring a coordinator he first “sat down and wrote down criteria I was looking for, then basically I was wide open.”
He said it was important for the coordinator to have enough in his system that “made sense to me so I could look at it, contribute and be a part of it.”
DeFilippo, 40, spent 2016 and 2017 as the quarterbacks coach of the Philadelphia Eagles before joining Minnesota. He worked with then-rookie Carson Wentz and also worked with Nick Foles during the 2017 season when Foles replaced an injured Wentz and was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.
“John came in, he did an outstanding job both on the board and in presentation,” Marrone said.
While many project Foles could become a free agent in the coming weeks – and while observers have speculated that the Jaguars could pursue Foles – Marrone said he didn’t discuss that with DeFilippo during the interview process.
Marrone, who said he tries to interview at least three people for every open assistant position, called DeFilippo a “tough football coach” with “high energy on the field.”
“Obviously, I’m excited to have him,” Marrone said.
DeFilippo worked with the Vikings through Week 14 this season before being dismissed.
“We talked about that,” Marrone said. “There’s a lot of things that go on. Sometimes things don’t work out, and sometimes things come out there that are just out there. I was very comfortable in the research that I did. I feel good about that. It’s an opportunity to move and go forward and I’m excited about him being here.”
The Jaguars, after ranking No. 5 in the NFL in points and No. 6 in total yards in 2017, ranked 31st in points and 27th in total yards in 2018. After ranking first in the NFL in rushing at 141.1 yards per game in 2017 they were 19th this past season at 107.7 yards per game.
The Jaguars in addition to the coaching staff could undergo significant offensive personal change in the offseason. Blake Bortles started at quarterback from 2014 before being benched late in the 2018 season, and observers have speculated the team could move on from Bortles in the offseason.
Marrone said that subject arose with coordinator candidates.
“You talk some people and they’re like, ‘What’s the quarterback situation?’’’ Marrone said. “People do their homework. I told them the truth. I said, ‘Listen: Obviously all options are on the table.’ It’s the standard way. I don’t know, truly. Right now, we’re just going through the work.
“There are a lot of different avenues that are going to be explored. At the end of the day, there will be someone who plays the position and it will be our job to get the most out of him. It could happen any different way.”
Marrone said the specifics of a particular position mattered less than the eventual coach’s approach to the job.
“You want someone that A, wants to be here and they’re not just settling on the job; two, who loves the challenge, because it is going to be challenging for us on the offensive side of the ball; and three, who has a chip on their shoulder,” he said. “Those are the things you want, that thinks, ‘Hey, there’s a lot to prove.’
“That’s the way I feel every day when I wake up, so those are the people you want to be around.”