The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely have a new-look offense as they enter the Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer era in 2021.
According to NFL Network, the Jaguars and Meyer are expected to hire former Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Bevell has just finished a two-year stint with Matthew Stafford, and now his next pupil could be Lawrence.
Bevell was one of just three candidates (joining Scott Linehan and Marcus Brady) who was reportedly connected to Jacksonville's offensive coordinator position. A chief reason he looks to be the front-runner to be hired was undoubtedly his experience as an NFL coach. Bevell has been coaching in the league since 2000 and coordinated offenses in 14 of the past 15 years.
Here’s a closer look at how Bevell’s offenses have fared in terms of points per game, yards per play, Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, Pro Football Focus grade and Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) year-to-year.
There are a few things to note here. The first is that Bevell’s offenses were clearly affected by his quarterback. For instance, the 2019 Detroit Lions averaged 25.5 points and 0.043 EPA per play in Weeks 1-9 when Matthew Stafford was quarterback, but when Stafford suffered a season-ending back injury, David Blough and Jeff Driskel subsequently averaged 17.1 points and -0.122 EPA per play for the remainder of the season.
Bevell unsurprisingly saw his greatest success in Seattle, where he was able to work with a truly elite quarterback in Russell Wilson. Wilson made the Pro Bowl in five of six seasons under Bevell, and the two won a Super Bowl together in 2014 as well as consecutive NFC Championships.
Beyond the Lions' carousel and young Wilson, Bevell coordinated offenses that were headed by Tarvaris Jackson or various aging quarterbacks (36-year-old Brad Johnson, 37-year-old Gus Frerotte, 40-year-old Brett Favre, and 41-year-old Favre, all in Minnesota).
Wilson is the type of quarterback that can lift an entire offense and team with his play, and Bevell certainly benefited from that, but he’s also been impeded throughout his coordinating career in the fact that Wilson was the only quarterback he worked with for at least two full seasons despite having been a play-caller for 14 years.
Fortunately for Bevell, Jacksonville should have a franchise quarterback who will provide stability to the offense by the end of April. Another plus for Bevell is his new head coach, Urban Meyer.
Bevell’s latest stints as an offensive coordinator were under defensive-minded head coaches in Pete Carroll and Matt Patricia. According to them, winning football is about tough defense and not turning the ball over on offense.
Their impact was seen on Bevell’s playcalling. His Detroit teams ranked 27th in 2019 and 22nd in 2020 in early down neutral situation pass rate (per rbsdm.com), and his Seattle teams ranked inside the top-24 just twice in his seven-year stay.
Long story short, Bevell’s offenses have been fairly run-heavy throughout his career, but it’s fair to wonder much more he would’ve opted to pass without haunting head coaches. For instance, Bevell increased Seattle’s pass rate from 26th in 2015 to 15th in 2016 to second in 2017 (in part due to Marshawn Lynch’s 2015 retirement) but was then released from the team due to a declining rushing attack and missed playoff berth.
Interesting quote from star receiver Doug Baldwin following the decision: “It's not playcalling. It's not playcalling... We don't execute as a team... And that's on us as players. You guys can blame Bev all you want to, but the truth of the matter is that Bev's not the problem.”
Meyer is probably more run-heavy than the public perceives, as he (similarly to Carroll) believes that offenses should generally run the ball until opposing defenses are forced to play with one deep safety, and then strike with pass plays.
But Carroll is unwavering in his philosophy. Following Seattle’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams earlier this month, he fired another offensive coordinator who wanted to pass more in Brian Schottenheimer and told media, “Teams were playing two-deep looks is really what it amounts to. And we didn’t chase them out of it. You can chase them out of it by beating them out of their two-deep looks, or you can chase them out of it by running the football and drawing them up. We didn’t get that accomplished, and that’s what’s frustrating to me.”
Meyer is unlikely to be as static, in part because he’s set to start a 6-foot-6 football messiah from Cartersville rather than the 5-foot-11 Wilson, whose height impacts how he plays. While Meyer certainly believes that running is a key to winning, AS he said in a recent interview, “I’ll fight anybody on this; you have to run the football to be successful at the highest level," he also showed in his time as a college head coach that he’s able to adapt to his quarterbacks and remaining offensive personnel.
It’s far too early to know what Jacksonville’s offensive scheme will look like, and how much of it will be influenced by Bevell as opposed to Meyer, especially considering its 2021 starting quarterback isn’t on the current roster.
But while the Jaguars may not rank at the top of the league in pass rate next year, and Meyer will have final say over just about every decision in the organization, Bevell could have the most freedom he’s ever had to call plays- and given his attempts to pass more, pass deep, and play up-tempo under conservative coaches in Carroll and Patricia, the Jaguars offense could be an exciting one in 2021.