Gene Frenette: As a head coach or not, Jaguars would benefit with Jim Caldwell on payroll

·7 min read

Regardless of the outcome on the Jaguars’ coaching search, one thing owner Shad Khan ought to strongly consider is finding a role for candidate Jim Caldwell somewhere in the organization if he’s amenable to the idea.

Whether it’s as a head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, special advisor or whatever, Caldwell is precisely the kind of calm, smart influence the Jaguars could use in their building following such a chaotic 2021 season.

After the Urban Meyer debacle, the Jaguars need strong leadership and a drama-free environment, somebody to help stabilize the franchise. Caldwell, who served as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions for a combined seven seasons, fits that description perfectly.

It doesn’t matter which NFL city or role Caldwell has held. He remains a no-nonsense grinder who demands excellence, in his own quiet, effective way, and gets the most out of players under his tutelage.

Peyton Manning has vouched for how much of an influence Caldwell had on his career, both as his quarterback coach and head coach in Indianapolis, particularly early on when he won his first two league MVP awards. Former Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco had the best season of his life and won a Super Bowl the first year Caldwell was his quarterback coach, then took over play-calling duties later that season.

Above all else, the understated Caldwell has a knack for being a steady hand in a winning environment. He’s been part of two Super Bowl-winning staffs and also guided the Colts to a Super Bowl appearance in his first year as an NFL head coach.

The Jaguars would be smart to try and get former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell (L), who was a profound influence on quarterback Peyton Manning (R), into the organization as a head coach or any position of influence.
The Jaguars would be smart to try and get former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell (L), who was a profound influence on quarterback Peyton Manning (R), into the organization as a head coach or any position of influence.

Caldwell, who hasn’t coached since he was forced to leave the Miami Dolphins before the 2019 training camp due to an undisclosed medical issue, wants back in the NFL. How much you think the Dolphins now wish Caldwell had stayed healthy, if only to be a calming influence around ultra-demanding head coach Brian Flores, who recently got fired more for alienating too many people instead of not winning enough.

With Caldwell aiming for an NFL return, it was a no-brainer by the Jaguars to interview him for their coaching gig. They need an anti-Urban, someone who players appreciate for their every-day consistency and steady hand.

For those who have reservations about Caldwell just turning 67, remember that three pretty successful NFL coaches with Super Bowl rings – Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick and Bruce Arians – are all older than him and nobody seems to have reservations about their age.

Since Caldwell interviewed with Jaguars about their coaching vacancy on January 4 and there's no indication he returned for a second interview, some might infer the team is moving in another direction, It’s uncertain whether Caldwell has interest in a role other than head coach with the Jaguars, but his presence would be an invaluable resource.

Just imagine if 42-year-old Byron Leftwich, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator and former Jaguars quarterback, were to get the head coaching job in just his sixth year working in the NFL. How could it not make his transition easier with Caldwell on the Jaguars’ staff, possibly tutoring a Trevor Lawrence?

Whatever Caldwell’s job title might be, the Jaguars would benefit to have his experience and influence in the organization. . . .

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Big decisions loom for Jaguars

An Indianapolis Colts insider told me before defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus met with the Jaguars to discuss the head coaching job, his personality and leadership qualities were such that he would ace the interview. Apparently, that analysis was spot-on, because Eberflus was the first of nine candidates to get invited back for a second interview. . . .

The Jaguars’ front office faces a ton of offseason decisions regarding the offensive line and the outcome could go multiple ways. Starting with franchised left tackle Cam Robinson, who performed well enough to warrant looking into re-signing him to a long-term deal if the price and guaranteed money is reasonable. Whether that means moving him or Walker Little to right tackle, just let training camp competition decide that.

With left guard Andrew Norwell a free agent after he restructured his deal last spring, the Jaguars probably should let him walk and find a replacement in free agency or the draft. Center Brandon Linder is a big question mark. His $9 million salary in 2022 should give the Jaguars a lot of pause since he has missed 22 games with various injuries the past four years.

GM Trent Baalke or whoever makes these personnel calls can’t be replacing the entire O-line, but moving on from Norwell and certainly right tackle Jawaan Taylor after the 2022 season is almost a necessity. Linder will be a tough call. . . .

After all the crazy, inexplicable comedy of errors in the fourth quarter that defined the San Francisco 49ers’ 23-17 NFC wild-card win over the Dallas Cowboys, this is what 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo should have told Dallas QB Dak Prescott after the game: “Tough game, man. Thanks for out-idioting me.” . . .

Unless Florida leading scorer/rebounder Colin Castleton has a remarkable recovery from a left shoulder injury, his absence coming as the Gators enter one of the toughest parts of their schedule – road trips to Tennessee and Ole Miss, then a home game against Oklahoma State – sure feels like it could be a UF ticket out of the NCAA tournament. . . .

If there's a more mind-boggling college basketball stat out there than Florida State winning 13 consecutive overtime games under Leonard Hamilton, including that 79-78 thriller this week against Duke, I'm not sure what it is. . . .

Auburn, coached by known NCAA rules violator Bruce Pearl, moved up to No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press college basketball poll and actually received 11 more first-place votes than top-ranked Gonzaga. So much for cheaters never prospering. . . .

Eyes on Titans' Derrick Henry

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry performed so well in just eight games this season that he finished as the NFL’s ninth-leading rusher with 937 yards. Had the Yulee High product not suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for the last nine regular-season games, he was on track to possibly become the NFL’s eighth 2,000-yard rusher. It’ll be interesting to see how much Henry plays Saturday, if at all, in the Titans’ playoff matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. . . .

Numbers to keep in mind for those inclined to wager on the NFL playoffs: Since the start of free agency in 1993, the home team has compiled an 84-28 record (.750) in the divisional round of the playoffs. The only year in that span when road teams won three of the four weekend games was 2008 when the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles each won away games. . . .

You might say playoff experience favors Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady over the Los Angeles Rams’ Matthew Stafford. Brady is 12-1 playing at home in the divisional round, while Stafford has never made it this far into the postseason in his 12-year career. . . .

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg called it “flat-out deflating” after Major League Baseball nixed his plan this week to split the team’s home games evenly between Tampa and Montreal, a way to alleviate the long-standing attendance issues the Rays have at Tropicana Field.

Everyone knows the Rays’ failure to draw fans has to do with the venue and location, so it’s incumbent upon Sternberg to either find a solution in partnership with Tampa or St. Petersburg or look into selling the team. Dividing a team’s home games between cities 1,500 miles apart is a patently absurd way to do business and cheats the fans. . . .

Pigskin forecast: Tennessee Titans over Cincinnati Bengals by 1 (needed bye week); Buffalo Bills over Kansas City Chiefs by 1 (cold dish of revenge); Green Bay Packers over San Francisco 49ers by 7 (State Farm commercial overkills); Los Angeles Rams over Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 3 (pass-rush bullies). Last week: 5 right, 1 Dallas Cowboys clock management seminar. (904) 359-4540

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Gene Frenette: Jaguars would benefit with Jim Caldwell on their payroll

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