It's only good if it works. That's the life of a play-caller. It's the life of Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter.
"Being a play-caller is fantastic. I love being a play-caller. I want it all on me," Koetter said on Thursday, as he prepared his offense for Sunday's game in Tennessee.
This week, Koetter got his wish, because it's all on him. Since the moment quarterback David Garrard was sacked on a first-down play in the Jaguars' final offensive series in New York on Sunday, Koetter has been bashed by fans for not calling for a run on that first-down play.
"Everybody who complains about the play-calling has the benefit of knowing what happened. Without knowing what will happen, you have to go with your preparation," Koetter explained.
Trailing 24-20 with about three minutes to play and all of their times out remaining, the Jaguars moved the ball quickly from their 27-yard line to the Giants' 29, on the strength of three Garrard pass completions and a five-yard holding penalty against the Giants. The Jaguars were in their two-minute offense and running back Maurice Jones-Drew had yet to be used in the drive.
On the first-down play from the 29, just inside the two-minute warning, Garrard was sacked for an 11-yard loss. It was the first of three consecutive sacks that resulted in a fumble the Giants recovered to seal the Jaguars' fate. Immediately, Koetter became the target of fan criticism for not using Jones-Drew in that final drive.
"We did a nice job of going down there. If I know the outcome of that next play was going to be a sack, would I run? Of course. If I could go back and call something else, I'd do it," Koetter said.
He can't, of course. All Koetter and the Jaguars can do now is prepare for a game this Sunday that will go a long way toward deciding the Jaguars' fate in 2010, and the AFC South Division title.
Is the Jaguars' offense prepared to make a final-month-of-the-season push for the division crown?
"We've been up, we've been down, we've been all over the place," Koetter said, referring to a season that has seen the Jaguars score 30 or more points five times, yet, be held twice to three points. Garrard has been interchangeably very good and very bad, and at one point in the season the Jaguars had to play a game with a 38-year-old quarterback they signed off a tractor.
"I think our running game is in a good place. Maurice is playing at a high level. For us, everything comes off that," Koetter said.
Where is the passing game, Koetter was asked?
"We're not where we need to be," he said, "but probably 28 out of 32 teams would say they're not where they need to be, either. It's tough against the top pass-rushers. It's a battle every week. We've had our moments. We've also had our not-so-hot moments."
He knows what to expect from the Titans.
"We're going to see some kind of eight-man front. They know if we don't see an eight-man front, we're going to run it every play," Koetter said.
Suffice to say, that won't satisfy his critics, either. Nothing short of calling the right play at the right time, which is to say a play that always works and never fails, is satisfactory. It's the life of a play-caller. It's Koetter's life.
"Coach Del Rio is continually on me about being aggressive and being in attack mode. We're best when we're in balance, but it's got to be successful balance," Koetter said.
It's got to work, whatever it is.