JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned this week in the aftermath of the Jaguars' 2014 regular season …
1.The offense will have a new look …Head Coach Gus Bradley fired offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch Tuesday. It wasn't about scheme, play-calling or philosophy as much as …
2. … and the reason is? Bradley was intentionally vague on this topic during his media availability Tuesday, and there's rarely one reason for such a change. He cited "philosophical differences," and at the core of the decision was a desire to have players be able to understand the offense enough to be able to play fast. Bradley said the two differed in their approach on how much to put on players' "plates."
3…. Bortles mattered.Bradley on whether he and Fisch differed in their approach to rookie quarterback Blake Bortles: "There is a lot of truth to philosophical differences as far as (what) we want to put on Blake's plate. 'Let's throw a lot at him and then let's see how much he'll be able to carry that over to the next year' … Or 'let's not put a lot on his plate and let him grow through this …' Which way is best? I don't know. I know the way we kind of want to do it. That would be somewhat of an example. I think we want to help him get better every day, not overwhelm him. I think you know my philosophy enough of, 'Be careful how much you put on a guy to create a lot of anxiety … it might keep him from being his best.'" Translation: Yeah, how to develop Bortles was a factor – but again, not the only factor.
4.Caldwell was ready for a long build.Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell spoke to the media two hours before Bradley Tuesday, so his thoughts will be included in this post-season What We Learned. The big takeaway from Caldwell – that he very much expected the building process that began when he took over in January 2013 to be a long one. Caldwell said he wasn't overly surprised with the Jaguars' 3-13 record this season. "To be quite honest with you we may have won more games than I anticipated when I first took the job over the two-year period," Caldwell said. …
5.Caldwell expects more in 2015.Caldwell: "I would expect us to win more games in the next couple of years, for sure. Some of these close games that we didn't take advantage of I expect to be victories in the next couple of years."
6.There could be offensive staff changes.Bradley said he wants the rest of the offensive coaching staff to remain intact. He said he will argue for that. He also said the new offensive coordinator ultimately will make that decision. "I would try to talk him out of it, but I think I just have to be open to say that is a possibility," Bradley said.
7.There's no timetable on a new coordinator …Bradley: "When we find the right guy it'll be time."
8. … there's no specific criteria, either.Bradley said the new coordinator almost certainly will have NFL experience. But he said he doesn't necessarily have to have been an NFL coordinator or a head coach. "I don't want to limit ourselves to that," Bradley said.
9.Offensive line coach George Yarno could return.Bradley said Yarno has told him he plans to return to the team in February. He missed this season underdoing cancer treatments. If that happens, Bradley said interim line coach Luke Butkus would resume the assistant line coach role he previously held.
10.The zone-blocking scheme will stay.No matter the new coordinator, Bradley said he expects the team to continue using zone-blocking techniques. "I think that's important because that's what our personnel is," Bradley said.
11.Bob Babich will be back.Bradley said the defensive coordinator and the defensive assistants are expected to return.
12.The staff is Senior Bowl bound … again.The Jaguars didn't exactly want to coach the Senior Bowl for a second consecutive year. That's because the "honor" goes to the teams with the worst records in the NFL whose coaching staffs are returning. But the Jaguars felt coaching last year helped them a great deal in drafting players such as cornerback Aaron Colvin and linebacker Telvin Smith, so when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14) turned down the chance to coach this year's game, the Jaguars accepted quickly.
13.Caldwell likes the secondary …Caldwell lauded cornerbacks Demetrius McCrary and Aaron Colvin and safety Johnathan Cyprien, and said cornerback Dwayne Gratz played better in the second half of the season. "They had some inconsistencies at times earlier in the year, but really settled down in the last eight to nine games," he said.
14. … and Bortles …Caldwell on the rookie quarterback: "The kid has a heart that's unmatched and his competitive desire to win and to compete is really good."
15. … and three-fifths of the offensive line …Caldwell said while the offensive line must be addressed in the offseason, the Jaguars like what they have in center Luke Bowanko, left tackle Luke Joeckel and guard Brandon Linder. He also said veteran guard Zane Beadles improved as the season continued. "I think we need to add some competition there, we need to add some depth and we'll see where it takes us," he said.
16. … and Toby Gerhart. Caldwell on the veteran running back: "We weren't disappointed in Toby…. You saw some glimpses later in the year when he was healthy what he could do and that's why we signed him and that's what we hope to get out of him in the future."
17.The Jaguars feel good about Ziggy Hood and Abry Jones.Starting defensive tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks will undergo offseason knee surgery. Caldwell said Miller is expected back for the offseason program while Marks' status for the regular-season opener is uncertain because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Still, Caldwell said the Jaguars feel fine with Hood starting temporarily for Marks at the start of next season.
18.The Jaguars hope to know about Justin Blackmon this offseason.Caldwell said the Jaguars stance on the suspended wide receiver hasn't changed – that while they are open to his return they are treating it as a luxury. Caldwell said he hopes to know from the league Blackmon's status before the 2015 NFL Draft on April 30.
19.The Jaguars may spend big, but they don't have to.Caldwell said it's possible the Jaguars could be major players in free agency come March. But it will depend on the market. He said the team can spend 95 percent of the salary cap over the next two years and meet the NFL's minimum spending requirement, so the Jaguars won't be forced to spend foolishly. "Our plan was for Year Three to bring some free agents in," he said. "We'll see where it's at and see if we can find some good opportunities."
20.Tyson Alualu could be back.Caldwell said he would like to re-sign the fifth-year veteran defensive end. He was less specific when asked about fourth-year veteran Cecil Shorts III, also a free agent. Caldwell also talked about the positives of having middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and tight end Marcedes Lewis return. The latter two have high salaries/cap numbers, and restructuring their contracts is a possibility.
21.There's such a thing as too young.Caldwell said Tuesday if he had to do over again, he might have had more veterans on a roster that featured six or seven rookie starters in many games: "I probably in hindsight should have added more veteran presence going into this year, where we weren't so forced to play so many rookies right away. I think that's probably the one thing that I probably overlooked was the value of somebody that can just steady the waters in a game where things start to go awry." …
*22.Caldwell's not ready to guarantee a playoff run. *Caldwell: "We'll see. It depends what we do in free agency and how the draft falls."
23.Caldwell believes in the approach.There was little question about that Tuesday: Caldwell believes in the Jaguars' approach and believes the foundation is being built. "There's no doubt, no," he said. "I think this has been our vision. We're going to make mistakes; we have made mistakes. Hopefully we don't have any setbacks and hopefully our players stay healthy. But I think we have to continue to build and get more players and get better players, and I think our coaching staff can lead them to where we need to go."