JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – (AP) – The Jacksonville Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Blake Bortles a day after the team's seventh straight loss.
Coach Doug Marrone fired Hackett and put Bortles on the bench Monday, making radical changes to one of the league's worst offenses.
"I felt I needed to make a change so we had the chance to win some games," Marrone said. "It's not an automatic reaction, I really feel that at the end of the day we have to try to get a better production of our passing game or a more consistent production in our passing game."
Marrone promoted quarterback coach Scott Milanovich to offensive coordinator, as well as backup quarterback Cody Kessler.
Milanovich spent five seasons (2012-16) as head coach of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League before landing in Jacksonville last year. Kessler lost all eight starts for Cleveland in 2016.
Marrone expects Milanovich and Kessler to energize a lackluster offense when the Jaguars (3-8) host Indianapolis (6-5) on Sunday.
"Hopefully he can stay healthy and win some games for us," Marrone said. "My plan is for him to get in there and play."
Staying healthy could be a challenge for Kessler considering that Jacksonville will not have three starting offensive linemen, including left guard Andrew Norwell (ankle), who was placed on the disabled list on Monday. Norwell joins center Brandon Linder and left tackle Cam Robinson on IR.
The Jags could also be without their offensive center if the NFL suspends running back Leonard Fournette for leaving the sideline and provoking a fight in a 24-21 loss at Buffalo.
Marrone refused to make excuses for the offensive struggles.
Bortles did not throw for 150 yards in four of the last six games. He had 104 passing yards against Pittsburgh two weeks ago and 127 yards against the Bills. Marrone sat Bortles on the bench twice in two years, only to return the job on both occasions.
Now, however, it seems that Bortles could be made in Jacksonville.
Finances may be the only reason why you stay. The fifth year starter signed a three-year, $ 54 million contract in February and will have $ 21 million against the salary cap in 2019. Cutting it would cost Jacksonville $ 16.5 million against the limit.
But it is clear that Marrone has lost faith in Bortles, who stepped back this season.
Marrone felt that Hackett should have done more, too. Marrone and Hackett had been together for nine years, including stops in Syracuse (2010-12), with the Bills (2013-14) and in Jacksonville (2015-18).
Hackett ended up being the first scapegoat in the ultra-disappointing Jacksonville season. He failed to get Bortles and the offense to play near the level they had at the start of the season or in 2017. Injuries have been the biggest problem, but not enough to save Hackett's work.
"Obviously, you feel terrible, especially as an offensive player," center Tyler Shatley said. "I feel like a lot of that is in us, I had great game plans and all that, we just have to run better."
The Jaguars are ranked 22 in the NFL in total offense, with an average of 346.5 yards per game, but have been in steady decline in the last two months. They are ranked 29th in points, with an average of 17.9 per game.
The lack of production of Bortles has been the main problem. He has 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions this season, unable to put the offense on his shoulders when things go wrong around him.
It has also been paralyzed, especially by the lack of creators of games and numerous injuries. Jacksonville does not have three left tackles, two tight ends, the team's main receiver since 2017, the home center of the team and played six games without Fournette.
"It's horrible that someone had to let him go," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "I thought I was doing a wonderful job, but it's the nature of the business, we need to start winning, or we should all look in the mirror about who can let go.
Marrone could have made other changes. The defense seems little like it did in 2017, which led some to question the future of coordinator Todd Wash, and special teams have not been a factor throughout the year.
But Marrone chose to address the offense.
"Every time you lose, it's not just one person," Marrone said. "It's for everyone, and obviously when I say I understand and I'm responsible for that, start with me as head coach … Obviously, none of us is doing a good enough job right now, we have the opportunity to play." "Five games and get back on track and break this losing streak."
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