Doug Marrone Explained This Week Why He Retained Jaguars DC Todd Wash for 2020

John Shipley

Despite a serious regression on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, the Jacksonville Jaguars haven't made any changes to the defensive coaching staff heading into 2020. 

From defensive coordinator Todd Wash to the rest of the assistants below him, Jacksonville is running it back with the same defensive plan next year. Many presumed after the season that Wash was on the hot seat, but he is geared to return in 2020 despite a defense that ranked 21st in points per game. 

But why is this the case after so many issues on the defense in 2019? For head coach Doug Marrone, it wasn't a hard decision to make once he looked at the whole picture. 

"I think it’s simple for me to see," Marrone said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "You look over a period of time and I think you look at a body of work, you talk about someone who has been around with me for a long period of time. I think when you look at what he has done as a defensive coordinator, over the majority of time, you are talking about a defense that probably ranks fifth in the league [over that span]."

So for Marrone, the decision to retain Wash after last year's 6-10 season had more to do with everything Wash's defense had done in the years previously. 2019 was a statistical outlier, though there were concerning trends each week.

Wash has led top-tier defenses in Jacksonville in the past, with the 2017 defense ranking second in the NFL in yards and points allowed and takeaways. In 2018, the defense wasn't as dominant but was still very good, finishing ranked fifth in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed. Takeaways regressed to 22nd in the NFL, but the passing defense was ranked second in the NFL in yards and touchdowns allowed. 

But in 2019, things went haywire. The Jaguars allowed 30 points or more in five games, with three of those games featuring 40 point scores. The defense finished the year ranked 24th in yards allowed, 21st in points allowed, 28th in rushing yards allowed, 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed, 16th in passing yards allowed, and 12th in passing touchdowns allowed.

But, as Marrone would go on to point out, the Jaguars had their fair share of personnel issues on defense. They lost several key players, such as linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and injuries took a major toll at the rest of the linebacker unit.

"I think a lot of time what happens in this profession is you get caught up in one year [where it is bad] and it’s, ‘Oh my god, we have to make a change because we went down.’ There were a lot of reasons," Marrone said. "We had a lot of change, we had a lot turnover on the defensive side. We had injuries on that side of the football. All of those things come into play, but I have complete confidence in Coach Wash and the rest of the defensive staff. We just have to do a better job of coaching and a better job of getting them in position and a better job of playing, too.”

With a mandate to win in 2020, and several holes on defense that must be filled immediately, the performance of Wash and the rest of the defensive coaching staff will be one of the most pivotal factors of whether the Jaguars succeed next season. 

Marrone took a risk by retaining Wash and hoping the defense can return to 2017 and 2018 levels. If it doesn't, then Marrone will likely be the one who has to pay the price for that risk.