Jaguars fire defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, seven assistants after late-season collapse

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Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, right, is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins, left, after a long gain during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and seven of his assistants ended up taking the fall for the biggest late-season collapse in Jacksonville Jaguars history.

Coach Doug Pederson fired Caldwell and the others Monday, a day after a 28-20 loss at Tennessee that knocked the Jaguars out of the playoffs. Jacksonville was 8-3 in late November and had been atop the AFC South since Week 3.

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But Jacksonville (9-8) lost five of its final six games — the Jags no-showed on both sides of the ball during the slide — and failed miserably in a win-and-in game against the Titans.

Caldwell's unit allowed 29.2 points and 146.8 yards rushing per game in the Jaguars' five losses down the stretch.

Also relieved of their duties: D-line coach Brentson Buckner, linebackers coach Tony Gilbert, safeties coach Cody Grimm, senior defensive assistant Bob Sutton, cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend and quality control assistants Sean Cullina and Tee Mitchell.

Pederson made it clear before the firings that Jacksonville is built to win now.

“You only get so many windows in this league,” said Pederson, who is 19-17 in two seasons in Jacksonville. “And we feel like with the personnel that we have, and we’ll continue to add, our window’s now. We’ve got to make the most of our opportunities. …

“We just can’t have the collapse like we did this year because you feel like now the season’s sort of wasted, right? You had a great opportunity to win the division and we didn’t. So we have to live with that and we have to own it and we got to learn from it. But I still feel like we have the best football ahead of us moving forward.”

The Jaguars have several roster decisions to make in the coming months, including potentially releasing safety Rayshawn Jenkins and right guard Brandon Scherff to create salary cap space and finding a way to keep pass rusher Josh Allen and receiver Calvin Ridley.

But the locker room was more concerned with learning from the late-season free fall and using it as motivation moving forward.

“This has to become part of our story,” tight end Evan Engram said. “The leaders of this team, the foundation of our team, the guys that will be back in here, it’s up to us that we act on it and allow it to never happen again.”


Quarterback Trevor Lawrence finished with 21 turnovers (14 interceptions and seven fumbles) this season, one shy of his total as a rookie. It seemed to be a step back for the No. 1 overall pick in 2021.

Lawrence said reducing those will be atop his offseason to-do list.

“It’s definitely an emphasis,” Lawrence said. “There’s a lot that goes into that. But I’ve got to own my part and I’ve got to take better care of the ball. That’s going to give us a better chance to win a lot of these games.”


Calvin Ridley’s first — and potentially only — season in Jacksonville ended with him barely missing what could have been a 33-yard touchdown reception. The ball slipped through Ridley’s fingertips with 2 minutes to play in a 28-20 loss to the Titans.

Ridley finished with 76 catches for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns in his first full season and his return after a nearly two-year hiatus. He missed all of 2022 because of a gambling suspension and part of 2021 while dealing with a foot injury and mental health issues.

“I’m going to be better for sure,” said Ridley, who is a pending free agent. “Toward the end of the season, I was feeling much better. Just knowing everything and seeing it clear. I found a good routine. I found a good space. I’m going to build from that and definitely try to fix all the (stuff) I have.”

The Jaguars could use their franchise tag on Ridley, but only if they sign Allen to a contract before the new league begins March 5. If they can’t reach a deal with Allen, they surely would tag him and let Ridley leave in free agency.

“There’s a lot of things that have to be right,” Ridley said. “It’s not up to me.”


Allen had a franchise-record 17 1/2 sacks. He was one of the few bright spots on a defense that ranked 17th in points allowed and 22nd in yards.

Allen, who just finished the fifth year of his rookie contract, could be in line for a deal worth close to $100 million.

“The business is the business,” Allen said. “We’ll have conversations down that road.”



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