We have spent much of this offseason talking about this being a pivotal season for several offensive players on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster. What we haven’t talked about is how important this season is for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
As Hackett and head coach Doug Marrone have both preached this offseason the second year of this offensive game plan is crucial for the development of Blake Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette and the offensive line’s ability to better run and pass block.
Ultimately, if Hackett can get more productivity from “his” roster, a team that finished fifth in the NFL in scoring will be better in 2018.
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This is another chance for Hackett to prove he is one of the better young assistant coaches in the league. it’s also an opportunity to steal some of the headlines from the team’s defense, which ranked second overall in the NFL. As the rapport continues to develop between teacher (Hackett) and student (Bortles), Jacksonville may be devising a blueprint other teams will follow in the next couple of years.
As a copycat league, Hackett and his staff will be scrutinized this season – deciphering what works and what doesn’t, making sure he gets the most out of his players – and most important, his continued push to make Bortles a great quarterback, something the Jacksonville fanbase craves.
As long as Bortles continues to grow as a player, Hackett will be lauded for his ability to help No. 5 improve on his reads, his mobility and his reduction of interceptions and busted plays. As you know, after he signed his contract extension, the fifth-year signal caller has higher expectations for himself and this team.
The same holds true for Hackett and his coaching staff.
″We know what we have to do and all of the things we have done,″ said Hackett, in a story that appears on Jacksonville.com.
″We can do that again and maybe even more. I think that is the thing that from the offensive standpoint those guys are excited about. They know that they have to work even harder just to get over the hump.″
Hackett has a personality that is infectious from the moment you meet him and talk X’s and O’s. He smiles like a grade schooler on picture day, beaming with pride about player development. He is the one who finds a silver lining in every situation. His tutelage under his father, former college, and NFL coach Paul Hackett has served him well. Hackett will even tell you how he and his father talk about game plans and plays, and like most father-son relationships, the advice is offered, warranted or not.
This is also a litmus test for the Jaguars offensive coordinator. Should the team continue its progression on offense and once again reach the playoffs or better yet the Super Bowl, teams may knock on his door to kick the tires about head coaching jobs. It happens when you have a young coach who gets the most out of his players.
Hackett’s relationship with Marrone is nothing new, dating back to their time together at both Syracuse and with the Buffalo Bills before making the move to North Florida. It’s a connection that has worked so far. It’s a partnership that has paid off handsomely for the Jaguars moving forward.
While he speaks highly of Bortles, the feeling is mutual. The former UCF star said he and Hackett continually talk to make sure he understands what is expected of him. The bond is strong in these two and should be strong as the 2018 season progresses.
By the end of the Jaguars’ playoff run, Bortles was playing his best football of the season. A lot of that has to do with Hackett’s game plan. The rest is his desire to be better. Both student and teacher want to excel on and off the field. For Hackett, his acceleration could open doors for opportunities in the future.
For now, he has a job to do here in Jacksonville. It’s a job well done so far in this process.