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New defensive coordinator must be courageous


Coach Tom Coughlin's focus this week has been on finding a new defensive coordinator for the Jaguars.

Former University of Michigan and Detroit Lions coach Gary Moeller met with Coughlin yesterday and the two were to meet again today. Monday, Coughlin interviewed former Washington Redskins and New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Moeller's and Nolan's interviews would indicate Coughlin's new defensive coordinator will not come from his existing defensive staff.

It is a prestigious position. Coordinator positions are the springboards to head coaching jobs in the NFL, and Moeller could vault into that position very quickly since he has previous head coaching experience at the major college and NFL levels.

However, whoever accepts the Jaguars defensive coordinator's job will be doing so on blind faith. Whoever takes the job, he'll do so with grave concerns. He must ask himself this logical question: To what degree will the Jaguars' salary cap problems affect the defensive personnel?

On this, the final day of January, the Jaguars are just 30 days away from the March 2 deadline for bringing their $37 million salary cap excess under the $67.4 million that will be allowed in 2001. The new defensive coordinator has to be worried that his personnel will be ravaged by the cap.

Linebacker Kevin Hardy immediately comes to mind. Hardy has only a year remaining on his contract and he'd be a $4.5 million cap hit in 2001. The Jaguars need to either do a new deal with Hardy and lessen that hit, or move him from their roster, which would be a $2.2 million cap savings in 2001.

There are contract re-structuring concerns at almost every position on defense, and no one is sure the players will agree to re-structure their deals in a way that is cap-favorable to the team.

Then there's the matter of older players such as Hardy Nickerson, Carnell Lake, Joel Smeenge and Lonnie Marts. Nickerson and Lake must be re-structured, and are expected to be receptive to doing new deals, but both players are coming off surgeries that cloud their futures. Nickerson will be in his 15th season next fall; Lake in his 13th.

Smeenge and Marts are almost certainly too expensive for the Jaguars to afford and will be cap casualties.

The fact of the matter is that whoever takes the job of defensive coordinator, we'll know this about him: He's got guts.

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