Beleaguered Trent Baalke remains Jaguars general manager entering Week 18 despite massive fan unrest, and he continues to have a considerable role in the team’s ongoing coaching search. As reported first last week, Baalke is a big supporter of former Texans coach Bill O’Brien and, sources said, has proposed to ownership that pairing him with Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator could give the franchise the best chance of reversing its fortunes.
O’Brien, now the offensive coordinator at Alabama, will interview with the Jaguars this week following the NCAA title game Monday night, and his candidacy has continued to gain steam after he was not among the initial list of men to be interviewed. While many candidates have expressed serious reservations about going to Jacksonville with Baalke running personnel, sources said, O’Brien is very much aligned with Baalke and, with his focus on the offensive side of ball, Fangio would be their target to run the defense if he got the job and Fangio was fired as Denver’s head coach, which is widely anticipated.
The tenure of former coach Urban Meyer didn’t last a single season, and fans are protesting keeping Baalke, planning to show up in droves in clown suits to mock owner Shad Khan. To this point ownership has not flinched, and the immediate reaction to O’Brien’s candidacy has been heavily panned by the fanbase as well; he had a toxic stint as head coach of the Texans, eventually assuming GM duties as well after several ugly power struggles. He did lead the team to the playoffs, however, winning consecutive AFC South titles on two separate occasions during his six-plus-year tenure.
Many of the other men with previous head coaching experience would have issue with Baalke remaining in that role. Several rival coaches and executives believed Khan would eventually relent to fan and industry backlash about retaining Baalke, but he has not wavered to this point, and the decision to interview O’Brien has led some to believe that perhaps Baalke will survive the hiring process.
Fangio will have numerous opportunities as a defensive coordinator. He did work previously with Baalke in San Francisco under head coach Jim Harbaugh; animosity between Harbaugh and Baalke eventually resulted in the termination of that regime and Harbaugh’s return to college coaching at Michigan.