The Jaguars and Giants combined for seven wins last season.
Now, they’re two victories away from playing in the Super Bowl.
Both teams hired new coaches who quickly delivered success.
Doug Pederson took Jacksonville from 3-14 and consecutive No. 1 overall picks to the AFC South title.
Brian Daboll led New York from a 4-13 mark to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2016.
Pederson already had an impressive resume before the Jaguars hired him to rebuild the culture following a disastrous season under Urban Meyer. Pederson won a Super Bowl in his second season in Philadelphia just five years ago. But turning the Jaguars into a winner might be an even more impressive accomplishment.
The Jags (10-8) had finished last in five of the previous six seasons. They had only one winning season in the previous 14.
Things started well for Pederson as the Jaguars opened 2-1. But they lost five in a row and were 4-8 before winning their last five games of the regular season to secure the division title. Jacksonville trailed the Los Angeles Chargers 27-0 in last Saturday’s wild-card game and rallied for a 31-30 win behind four touchdown passes from Trevor Lawrence after four interceptions.
“Right now, our team is, we’re a tough football team, we’re a physical football team,” Pederson said this week. “Those are some of the things we pride ourselves in. We’re not perfect, we still make mistakes. It was evident Saturday night. The one thing our team is going to do, is they’re going to battle. They’re going to keep fighting, scratching, and clawing.”
Daboll, who was Buffalo’s offensive coordinator from 2018-21, earned five Super Bowl rings as an assistant under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. But Daboll hadn’t been a head coach before the Giants tabbed him to restore winning to a storied franchise.
The Giants (10-7-1) won six or fewer games in each of the previous five seasons, finishing last three times.
They got off to a 6-1 start under Daboll, earned a wild-card spot and knocked off 13-win Minnesota on the road last weekend to advance to the divisional round for the first time since winning the Super Bowl following the 2011 season.
“I just think that we really believe in our process and being consistent — whether that’s a preseason game, a game you have to win to get into the playoffs, a division game,” Daboll said before the playoffs. “I think that throughout the season, you go through a lot of different things. ... You go through some failures. You go through some successes. You go through some tough games on the road when everybody’s against you. You go through some big games, whether that’s a night game on a Sunday night against a division opponent or a Thanksgiving (game). You’ve went through these experiences, and each week you learn.
“You might not learn for that necessary next game, but I think those collective experiences, you lean on those. But in terms of our preparation for our players, for our coaches, it’ll be — a boring word — but it’ll be consistent. We believe in what we do. We believe in how we do it, and then we have to go out there and execute and call a good game and make good decisions. Again, what wins in Week 1 wins in the playoffs. And that’s the truth.”
The Jaguars have a tough task Saturday afternoon against the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs. Pederson faces his mentor, Andy Reid. The Chiefs (14-3) are seeking their fifth straight trip to the AFC championship game.
The Giants also are going against a No. 1 seed. They’ll visit the Eagles (14-3) on Saturday night. Philadelphia swept the regular-season series.
Pederson and Daboll weren’t the only new coaches who reached the playoffs. Mike McDaniel (Dolphins), Kevin O’Connell (Vikings) and Todd Bowles (Buccaneers) also did it.
That should be encouraging for the five teams looking for new coaches this offseason. The right leader could speed up the rebuilding process.
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