The Jacksonville Jaguars today announced that Bob Babich has been relieved of his duties as defensive coordinator. The move comes as no surprise to those who followed this team all season, as the Jaguars gave up the second most points on defense in franchise history, surrendering 448 points to the opposition.
The defense has struggled in all three seasons Babich has been at the helm. The 2013 Jaguars allowed a franchise record 449 in 2013 and 412 in 2014. Of course, the blame can’t all be put on Babich, considering the injuries that have befallen this defense. That includes the loss of first-round pick Dante Fowler, Jr. who tore his ACL in the first practice of the spring and never saw the field in 2015. That said, injuries are something every team deals with and you must have that next man up mentality. The Jaguars lacked that under Babich.
The move opens the door for Head Coach Gus Bradley to take a more active role in the defensive scheme that he brought with him to Jacksonville. He needs to put the kind of stamp on the Jaguars defense that made him a hot commodity when he was the defensive coordinator in Seattle. When Bradley was asked about changes on Monday, he was non-committal. He said he had made no decisions on possible coaching moves and wouldn’t do so until he had a chance to talk to his staff. He also said that he wouldn’t rule out taking over the defensive play-calling duties next season. This opens the door for him to do that.
General Manager David Caldwell held his press conference on Tuesday morning and said they wanted to “reflect on the whole season and not just the last two or last week of the season and be quick with our decisions based off of those two games. That’s why we won’t talk about personnel decisions moving forward here.” Just hours after saying all that, Caldwell and the Jaguars showed Babich the door. The move was absolutely justified and some may argue with the number of points the Jaguars defense gave up in his previous two seasons, the franchise gave Babich more time than he deserved. Caldwell, when asked specifically about the defense, said it was easier to fix a defense than it is an offense. Now he will get a chance to do that.
“It’s not like we don’t have any pieces on defense,” he said. “We do have some good players and we have a mountain of cap space and eight draft picks, coupled with players we felt had good years on defense. We do have pieces there and now we have to supplement them. You get Dante Fowler back and Sen’Derrick Marks back and we’ll see where we’re at.” Even though the announcement of the Babich firing came later in the afternoon, it is pretty safe to assume that the move to fire Babich was already decided. When a reporter asked Caldwell if he expected any changes after Bradley met with the coaches, he said “I would anticipate there will probably be some changes, yes.” Caldwell was then asked if he would endorse Bradley taking over the defensive play calling and he said, “I would endorse what he feels to do is right. If he feels that’s the best situation for our team and players then I would say yes.”
This couldn’t have been an easy decision for Bradley, who has known Babich for nearly 20 years. It is just another side to this business that is tough to take. Firing your friends is a common occurrence and Bradley likely handled it with dignity and class, as he has all the other situations he has dealt with as the man calling the shots in Jacksonville.