Jacksonville Jaguars special teams were a complete disaster in 2016 and Joe DeCamillis, one of the best at special teams coaches in the NFL, will be a major boon to the Jags going forward.
The terrible punt coverage and occasional poor kick coverage got a lot of (negative) attention for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016. It felt like every time Brad Nortman took the field the Jags may do something stupid that gave momentum to the other team.
This led to fair accusations against then-head coach Gus Bradley and his decision to keep special teams coordinator Mike Mallory on staff. How does Mike Mallory still have a job? we asked in December, naively hoping that the Jags would make a change mid-season that could turn the special teams unit into something special; or at least just mitigate the severe problems that Mallory oversaw.
While there has been plenty of continuity for the Jags in their transition to a new regime, Mallory’s departure and replacement by Joe DeCamillis is one of the major bright spots. DeCamillis’ hiring is an important example of shaking things up at a key spot. Where Mallory was terrible, DeCamillis shines.
Coming to the Jaguars by way of the Denver Broncos but is also returning home. He coached as special teams coordinator for the Jags back in 2007 and 2008. His Broncos special teams unit was a top-10 unit in 2016, ranking well in kick and punt return averages allowed and also in kick return averages for the team. The Jags desperately need to turn the special teams unit into something beneficial – like DeCamillis has – rather than keeping it a liability. Phillip Heilman at the Florida Times-Union does an excellent job laying out just how bad the Jags were:
"The Jaguars muffed/fumbled punts three consecutive weeks against Oakland, Tennessee and Kansas City midway through the season and were plagued by penalties and poor performance from there, including allowing a touchdown on a punt return during a loss to Detroit.How bad did it get for the Jaguars on special teams during their nine-game losing streak? In a loss to Minnesota, the Jaguars were flagged for an illegal block on a kickoff, a delay of game on a kickoff, roughing the punter, illegal touching on a punt, had a punt partially blocked, missed a field goal and had another field goal blocked."
It was a comedy of errors for the Jags on special teams throughout the season. DeCamillis will come in an restore order and discipline for a unit that has been anything but special. He is a winner with a winner’s mentality that can drive the unit forward.
Former Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has called him a “championship-level football coach” and noted the Jags snagged someone special. Kubiak brought DeCamillis in for the 2015 Super Bowl-winning season with the Broncos and the special teams needed to perform each and every week to compensate for an offense that looked anemic under Peyton Manning (the defense gets most of the attention but special teams was critical, too).
It is tough to speak too highly of this hire, there are so many positive things about this acquisition. This is the kind of change the Jags desperately need if they want to be competitive again. Bring in winners like DeCamillis and make sure they are in a position to succeed. Hopefully we’ll see big gains from his coaching immediately.