INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Saturday became the second team in their division to begin making major moves within their personnel department.
While the Colts look for a permanent replacement for Ryan Grigson, who was fired after five seasons as the team’s GM, the Jacksonville Jaguars had already inserted former head coach Tom Coughlin as executive vice president and signed their general manager, Dave Caldwell, to a two-year extension.
Both teams finished in the bottom half of the AFC South Division standings in 2016, although the Colts had a much more respectable final record (8-8) than the Jaguars (3-13).
The way the Jaguars’ new system will work means that new head coach Doug Marrone and Caldwell report to Coughlin, so it’s Coughlin — the franchise’s winningest coach (68-60 [.531] record) now has the final say on all personnel matters.
It’s yet to be seen how the Colts will change up their system — if a change is made at all. Team Owner Jim Irsay said he already has a list of candidates the team wants to interview, so stay tuned for more on that.
In the meantime, check out the recent major headlines from across the rest of the AFC South:
The Houston Texans overcame the loss of J.J. Watt to reach the divisional round of the playoffs.
But mistakes by Brock Osweiler doomed Houston in a loss to the New England Patriots and leaves questions about whether he’ll be the starter next season.
The Texans signed Osweiler to a $72 million contract in the offseason in hopes of upgrading the position after Brian Hoyer accounted for five turnovers in a 30-0 loss to Kansas City in the wild-card round of the playoffs last season.
Instead of being the answer to their longtime woes at quarterback, Osweiler struggled throughout the season and was benched before returning for the postseason.
He was turnover-free in a wild-card win over the Raiders before throwing three interceptions in the second half on Saturday to allow New England to pull away for the 34-16 victory .
Less than 48 hours after the loss, coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t ready to make any proclamations about who will start next season or say if Osweiler will have to compete with Tom Savage for the job.
“Before I talk about those types of things, I have to evaluate it myself,” he said. “I have to talk to our coaching staff and get their input, our personnel people and get their input. I wouldn’t be a good head coach if I stood up here and told you, ‘Hey, this is what we are planning to do.'”
O’Brien also refused to discuss whether the Texans would consider drafting a quarterback in April after Osweiler threw more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (17) this season.
“We’re so far from — absolutely so far removed from even answering that question … we evaluate everything we do. Then we get with the personnel people,” O’Brien said.
“We talk about all the things we need to do to improve — coaching, playing, everything. So that’s not even a question I can begin to answer.”
EARLY CHANGE: While the Texans need more time to decide on what to do with Osweiler, they made a big decision on offense on Monday afternoon when they announced that offensive coordinator George Godsey wouldn’t return next season. The Texans said they and Godsey “mutually agreed to part ways.”
Godsey was in his second season as offensive coordinator after working as quarterbacks coach in his first year with the team in 2014.
His work came under fire this season as Houston’s offense ranked near the bottom of the league behind the struggles Osweiler.
Godsey called the plays at the beginning of the season, but O’Brien took away his play-calling duties and began calling them himself in late September after the offense failed to move the ball consistently.
(Story via The Associated Press)
Tom Coughlin and new coach Doug Marrone ended up retaining both coordinators from Gus Bradley’s final season.
Jacksonville’s new regime formally kept Nate Hackett as offensive coordinator Wednesday, providing some continuity for quarterback Blake Bortles.
Hackett, who was originally hired as the team’s quarterbacks coach before the 2015 season, replaced fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson in late October and helped the Jaguars (3-13) make strides in a number of categories.
Jacksonville improved its NFL ranking in time of possession (30th to 13th), goal-to-go efficiency (15th to fourth) and red-zone efficiency (16th to fifth) over the final nine games of the season.
The Jaguars’ rushing attack made strides under Hackett, too, improving from 30th to fifth in yards per game.
Had the Jags not kept Hackett, the son of longtime NFL assistant Paul Hackett, Bortles would have had his fourth coordinator in four seasons.
“Nathaniel comes from a coaching family and is truly ardent about the game of football, which is contagious to his players and the assistants,” Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said.
“He has a long history of working alongside coach Marrone and we are fortunate to have him on our coaching staff.”
Hackett spent the past seven years with Marrone, including two in Jacksonville, two in Buffalo (2013-14) and three at the collegiate level with Syracuse (2010-12).
Jacksonville also hired Marion Hobby as defensive line coach. Hobby has 22 years of coaching experience, including the past six at Clemson, where he served as co-defensive coordinator/defensive ends coach for the national champion Tigers.
Hobby has two years (2006-07) of NFL experience, having served as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints and working with Marrone.
He also spent time at Tennessee-Martin (1995), Louisiana-Lafayette (1996-97), Tennessee (1998), Mississippi (1999-2004), Clemson (2005) and Duke (2008-10).
“Marion Hobby is coming off a national championship-winning season, and over the past six years, has helped establish Clemson as one of the premier defenses in college football,” Marrone said.
“I had the pleasure of coaching with Marion for two seasons in New Orleans and have personally observed his ability to get the most out of his players.”
(Story via The Associated Press)
After showing his AFC South rivals — and the rest of the NFL, for that matter — that he was, without a doubt, developing into a solid professional quarterback, Marcus Mariota suffered a setback Week 16, when he fractured the fibula in his right leg.
The Tennessee Titans quarterback would undergo surgery to fix the injury, and late last week, his head coach, Mike Mularkey, gave an update on his progress.
“He’s trying not to kill himself on his little cart,” a smiling Mularkey said, via TitansOnline.com’s Jim Wyatt. “But otherwise he is doing well. I’ve talked to him a few times. I know he is anxious to start rehabbing.”
From this point, however, the trick is to get Mariota to slow it down a bit.
“I’ll probably have to pull the reins back on him because he is going to go above and beyond, just like he does here, to come back stronger than ever,” Mularkey said. “But Marcus is doing well.”
Mariota took a big step forward in Year 2, completing 276 of 451 passes (61.2 percent) for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, for a passer rating of 95.6. He also was effective on the ground, running 60 times for 349 yards (5.82 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns.
He would’ve been a Pro Bowler if not for his injury, as he was voted a first alternate, and would’ve taken the place of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who also suffered a season-ending leg injury.
With a much-improved — and young — offensive line, as well as a strong running game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the fold, the future looks bright for the Tennessee offense with Mariota under center.
As for his immediate status, it is expected to take about four to five months for Mariota — who has been getting around on a scooter — to fully recover.
By the end of February, he’s expected to begin the rehab process.