The season has ended, speculation about the head coach and his future with the Jaguars has been determined, and media attention has transitioned to things like health care and the tragedy in Haiti. But, for a small segment of the fanbase in Jacksonville, letting go of the past and moving on is still a painful pill to swallow.
It is the same for any fanbase for any sports franchise in any town.
Okay, they accept the fact Jack Del Rio is going to be the head coach in Jacksonville even though they really do not agree with the decision.
So, with acceptance, do they move on and relish the downtime? Do they look forward to the offseason and the moves the team will make to improve upon a roster that saw more than half the players replaced, half of those being rookies?
The pitchfork and torch crowd simply moved on to the next target in a never-ending quest to find someone to blame for the team not making the playoffs. They bounce from target to target like a group of over-caffeinated, hyperactive, angry females in the grips of PMS (no offense to the coffee gulping ladies reading this). They are a scary bunch.
Moving on from the big guy and coordinators, they have now decided to focus their attention on position coaches. These are the guys who usually remain the anonymous drones tasked with developing the talent, ultimately going unheralded as coaches and coordinators get the credit for their efforts. Given the tools, they are expected to maximize the potential of their charges, and they work tirelessly to meet the challenge.
It is not uncommon for these position coaches to put a lot of time in developing plans to evaluate their guys and determine the best approach to try to improve upon their athletic abilities and talent to make them productive players in the NFL.
So, the natural progression for the torch and pitchfork crowd is to go after these guys. It has to be THEIR fault that the team lost the final four games of the year, mounting one of the most anemic pass rushes in franchise history, and fielding the worst defense statistically in 15 seasons.
It could not possibly be a lack of talent contributing to this, right? It must be the coaching!
Someone must be fired!
Enter the latest scapegoat, Ted Monachino.
Fans know little about position coaches beyond what is written in a fluff biography provided by the team in media guides or on their Web sites. These guys normally fly below the radar going about the task of preparing their players for each game, and developing them to become the best players possible.
What does anyone know about Monachino, the defensive line coach for the Jaguars?
Aside from his name, there is very little anyone outside of the organization could possibly know about Monachino or any position coach.
Obviously he must be inept.
He must go!
In typical fashion, Jaguar fans need a coach to blame when players do not develop at a rate they deem to be acceptable, and with a 14-sack season under their belt, the defensive line has fallen under the microscope, and rather than look at the lack of pure talent available to coach up, the anger is aimed at Monachino for not making chicken salad out of chicken excrement.
Granted, Derek Harvey is a first-round draft pick the team traded up to get. He was touted as a player who could be developed to help fix the problems in recent years with an inconsistent pass rush. That is all fine and good.
Monachino was happy with the selection, and excited about the prospect of getting to work with Harvey.
Then, there was the rookie holdout, which hampered his ability to learn the system and develop any sort of technique. The setback for Harvey was significant, and slowed his progression during his rookie season.
Still, the improvement in his overall game improved from his rookie season to his sophomore year in the NFL.
Statistically, it may not have appeared to be the case, but Harvey did improve upon his rookie season. The one area where he remained a concern for fans was with the pass rush and his contribution. With only two techniques to lean upon, Harvey struggled to get to the quarterback. It became enough of an issue for Jack Del Rio to come out and defend his player against criticism stating Harvey was a tough player and not necessarily a double-digit sack machine.
Watching Harvey on the field, it was clear he was improving. It was frustrating as a fan to see him struggling to get to the quarterback. But, he had developed into an every-down defensive end in the same mold as Paul Spicer. The problem with that is he was drafted to be an every-down defensive end in the same mold as Justin Tuck or Mario Williams, racking up sacks and creating havoc.
There were doubters about Harvey coming out of the University of Florida.
Not everyone thought he would be a magic bullet for the pass rush problems the Jaguars have been dealing with for years. Not that he was not a talented player, but the expectations some placed upon his shoulders for solving the quandary the Jaguars were dealing with in getting to the quarterback were unrealistic.
Jack Del Rio pretty much confirmed that with his comments on Harvey this season.
So, how much development can a position coach like Ted Monachino draw out of a player when there are obvious limitations to contend with?
And, aside from Harvey, what talent has the position coach had to work with to improve the pass rush? Look at who the Jaguars had playing defensive end at the end of the season as they tried to find some answer to the pass rush question. When you hang your hopes on Jeremy Navarre or Julius Williams to fix your pass rush in the final weeks of the season, it is pretty clear the cupboard is bare for pass rush specialists on this team.
Given the talent, the team can certainly develop a pass rush. It just is not on the roster currently.
Blaming the coaching for a lack of talent is like blaming the mechanic for the manufacturer not building a car that is good enough. There is only so much he can do to make it better.
Fans need to develop a less adversarial approach and adopt a little patience. This is still a team in the midst of a rebuilding process with a talent deficit in certain areas including along the defensive line.
It is going to get better, and firing a position coach is not the solution. Identifying and acquiring talent is the key.
Pack up the pitchforks and extinguish the torches. The offseason has begun.
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