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"You should expect improvement every year"


As Dirk Koetter sees it, his objective is simple.

And while Koetter, entering his fifth season as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, said recently without question his goals involve improving any aspect of the offense, the bigger picture remains significantly more important.

The goal, Koetter said, is winning. Anything else is decidedly secondary.

"Maybe I'm different than most guys," Koetter told recently. "I've been a head coach. My goal is to win games. If that means winning 6-3 or 45-44, I don't care. I want to win."

Koetter discussed a variety of topics with during a recent interview -- including the development of the run offense as last season continued, the play of Maurice Jones-Drew and his thoughts on David Garrard -- and when asked about the offense in general, said, "I like the guys we have.

"They're the right kind of guys," Koetter said. "When we game plan, our guys buy in and they try to do it. They ask good questions and play hard. You can't ask for more than that."

The Jaguars this past season finished 15thin the NFL in total offense, third in the NFL in rushing, and had fewer three-and-out drives than any team in the NFL (18).

Two skill players made the Pro Bowl – Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis – and Koetter emphasized during the interview that there is much with which to work on the offensive roster. He also said while the Jaguars could very well focus on defense in the draft, key offensive players are "still young enough on offense that we should continue to ascend."

"If you keep your coaches and philosophy the same, and keep your core players together – as long as they're good players – you should expect improvement every year,' Koetter said, adding, "What you ask is, 'Are these guys coachable? Do they want to be coached? Will they listen?' And, 'Do they buy into what the head coach is laying down each week and then what the offensive coaches are laying down as the game plan?' Our guys are doing that."

Koetter also addressed:

*The 2010 season of Jones-Drew: "He is a remarkable player. Maurice is more than willing to do the dirty work. He will run between the tackles. He wants to run between the tackles. He will block. He knows he's a playmaker and he wants the ball in his hands. He's not shy about saying that. For what Maurice dealt with in the preseason and early in the season . . . the way it played out, it (his knee) just wouldn't hold up anymore. He had a six-game stretch where he had a real nice run. You couldn't ask for the bell cow of your offense to have more of a warrior-type mentality than Maurice has. That's exactly what you're looking for. He's more than willing to put his money where his mouth is."

*Garrard: "I heard the criticism of David. For a guy who has been in the league as long as Dave, he continues to improve. I think Dave is a guy you can consistently win with. He does some things very well. There are always going to be things for every player that you have to work on. Dave is no exception to that. He's going to work on things and try to get better as we move forward. . . . Dave has had some games where he has played very well. He has had some games where he hasn't played as well, but you can do a whole story just on that."

*More on Garrard:"One of Dave's strengths is he does not get too high or too low. If he has a game that's less than we would have liked, we can always count on Dave to come back to work that next week. Not every quarterback can do that. Very rarely does Dave let something in the past bother him in the future. We had a couple of unfortunate games last year. Dave would come back and have some other outstanding games."

*The end of the last two seasons: "You never can be satisfied. The bottom line is winning and losing. We were a .500 team. The frustrating thing is in each of the last two seasons, we had overachieved going into the last quarter of the season to get to that point – clearly in my opinion. But then in the last quarter, we couldn't close it out, so we could feel really good about ourselves and carry that into the playoffs. It's a result-oriented league, so you can't feel like you're there.

But the most rewarding feeling as a coach is to coach a team that overachieves, so to be at that point at a part of the season is a good feeling, but to be that close and not finish it off is not what you want. I look at it as a team. We were overachieving. We were playing better than anyone expected us to play. If you go back and look, all of the so-called experts picked us last. We didn't finish last, but that's not how you're judged."

*The offensive personnel in general:"They're fun guys to coach. They're guys who want to get better. They're guys who are Jaguars. They buy in. That part is all good and we're headed in the right direction, but to not quite get over the hump and advance to the playoffs and win playoff games and get a chance to win in the tournament shows we're not quite there yet. We're close, but we're not quite there."

*The ability of the Jaguars to overcome a 3-4 start in 2010: "I give Coach Del Rio a lot of credit for that. Through that rough stretch early in the year, the message Jack delivered to the players in the daily team meetings was we were going to get there. It happened as he said it would.

*On the offensive development in 2010:"We're built to be a running team. It's hard to be a running team in the preseason. You're trying hard to not to get your guys beat up. You can't give Maurice 25 carries in a preseason game. That makes no sense. The guys are playing two series and you're not game-planning. After we figured out what we were again, and how we were going to approach it, we got on a nice run there for a while. It wasn't brain surgery. We have a Pro Bowl tailback and we need to get the ball in his hands. We started off not as healthy as we'd been in the past, but when we got our offensive line on track and got Maurice up to speed from a health standpoint, he did his part and backed it up. We did a nice job of adding some other pieces."

*More on the running game's improvement in 2010:"This isn't an original thought, but if you're committed to running the football, you are going to get better at it. Running the football is basically committing to doing it and then having your key guys stay healthy and having a back that can tote it and then getting linemen used to playing together and working combinations, knowing how they're going to come off double teams and the like. If you're committed to running it, you are going to get better. What might knock you off of it is either your stud running back gets hurt, or you have a series of injuries on the offensive line. Now, you might have guys whose strengths don't jibe with what you're trying to do. What happened this year was two key cogs of the run game got healthier – Maurice and Vinny (guard Vince Manuwai). Vinny didn't start the first couple of games, then he came along from a health standpoint and a conditioning standpoint. He's a dominant run-blocker when he's healthy." 

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