What the AFC South Coaches Are Saying About the 2017 Season
The AFC South is made up of some fan favorites like the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts, with the latter returning this year as 2016 division winners. In the past eight years, these teams are the only two to have placed first in the division, taking four each since 2009. Tennessee has only placed first twice since the division was formed in 2002, and the Jaguars are yet to climb to the top of the table.Most observers have the Titans as the safest bet for leading the division this season, after making significant improvements in the last season. Let’s take a look at what the head coaches from the division have to say about the season ahead.
Houston Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Bill O’Brien will be head coach of the Texans for the fourth year running, as the team comes off of a 9 – 7 season with first place in the AFC South. They also won in their Wild Card Playoff game against the Raiders.The big news this year is that O’Brien will be taking playcalling duties for offense this upcoming season. Former offensive coordinator George Godsey has departed the team, and it is reported that they won’t be looking for a replacement. In other interesting news, rookie Deshaun Watson might be ready for game time in 2017. He impressed at minicamp practice in June, and when O’Brien was asked if Watson might not be ready, he replied with “Absolutely not. No, He’s got a really good future.” Speaking after their Divisional Playoffs loss to the Patriots earlier this year, O’Brien also had some words to say about the offensive game of the Texans. “We have to play better offensively in order for us to get to where we need to be in this league with the defense that we have,” O’Brien told reporters. He continued, “As an offense, we need to score more than 16 points. You’re not going to beat the Patriots scoring 16 points.”It will be interesting to see whether he will be able to turn things around while taking on the role of offensive coordinator as well as head coach.
Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
The 8 – 8 record of the Indianapolis Colts last year was not much to be proud of, and the sixth season for coach Chuck Pagano will need to bring results to restore confidence in the team.Pagano is well aware that consecutive 8 – 8 seasons aren’t good enough, and he was forthcoming in recent interviews when talking about recent performance. “Everybody wants answers. My kids, my wife. We understand that 8 – 8’s not good enough and that’s on me. That’s unacceptable. We know what the expectations are. Mr. Irsay (Team Owner) always gives us everything that we need. He let us go out a year ago and try to put together a great staff. Always gives us all the resources and I’m grateful to Jim for that. I know we got the right staff and the right guys in the locker room,” Pagano said at the end of last season.Pagano took a unique approach to the start of training in June, taking the team to a paintball game to begin team building. When asked what the move was all about, he said “team building, camaraderie — instead I got bunch of welts. It was a great opportunity for our guys to get off campus, do something a little bit different. I was praying, down on my hands and knees, nobody turns an ankle.”Pagano is currently on a contract extension through until 2019.
Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone
The Jaguars have an all new head coach for the whole of 2017, after Doug Marrone replaced Gus Bradley late last season. Last year they missed the Playoffs for the ninth time running, and ended with a season record of 3 – 13. They’ll be hoping to improve after placing at the bottom of the AFC South division.Marrone has been vocal about his intentions for the team. He wants to change the way that they play, telling reporters “For me, I like to run the ball every play.” When asked how many passes he wanted to see in a game, he had a simple response with “None. Zero. I want to go back to the old way. I want to change the game.”In interviews he has continued to iterate that a running game is the style to go for. When speaking of the offense, he said that “when you look around the league for the most part – and you can argue this either way now – I know that you can say, so and so threw it 50 times and they always win. I think if you look at the NFL, it’s probably a lower number [throwing] than what people think and a higher number running. When you have that, you’re usually in control of the game and you’re going to win the game in general. That’s a general statement.”The Jaguars will definitely need a stronger offense to turn their losing record around, but it’s yet to be seen whether a new coach and new approach will deliver results this season.
Tennessee Titans AFC South Head Coach Mike Mularkey
Mike Mularkey is returning for his second season as head coach of the Titans, and he will aim to take last season’s record of 9 – 7 and improve upon it.Some observers have said that the Titans can win the South in 2017, with some even predicting that it will be a breakthrough season. Mularkey has commented earlier that his team has an “exotic” offensive (Mularkey’s term for a running offense), and if this is the case, then Marcus Mariota (quarterback) will be essential this season. Coming off of the back of a late season injury, Mularkey has been optimistic regarding Mariota’s recovery. He has mentioned that the recovery is “on pace” and that “he’s probably going to try to come back as quickly and better than ever.”Is Mularkey a turning point for the Titans? We’ll have to wait for the regular season to find out.