Perhaps no franchise in the history of professional football had quite the turbulant day that Jacksonville had this Tuesday. The head coach was fired, the team was sold, and the general manager signed a three-year extension, after turning one down earlier because he did not think he earned one.
For Del Rio, this firing was a long time coming. Granted, he was put in a tough position of having to make the playoffs to save his job (which his former owner openly stated) after losing his starting quarterback, but the move was necessary. Apparently, Del Rio became a running joke in the organization for arriving to work late and leaving early. The team had lost direction and had shown little to no improvement from year to year. He would constantly deflect blame from himself to his assistants, from calling them out in press conferences to simply firing them.
Even Jaguar legend Fred Taylor was not a big fan of Del Rio. He told Yahoo! sports:
Asked if he felt Del Rio played favorites, Taylor doesn’t hesitate. ”[Expletive] yeah. Hell yeah,” he says. “Why do you think I’m not there? At the end of the day, [Del Rio]‘s not a head coach,” Taylor says. “He’s a great defensive coach. But he’s not a head coach.”
“There wasn’t any falloff in my production. I expressed my willingness to take a paycut. I just wanted to be there and be a part of the community. I wanted to finish my career there. Just because we had this new running back. All we had to do was switch roles. ‘Fred, Maurice [Jones-Drew] is going to be the starter.’ Fine, no problem. I wasn’t a virus in the locker room. I worked my ass off — everything.”
Ouch. if that is not an incitement on Del Rio, I don’t know what is.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will get a shot to audition for the job, but I feel that getting a new face to come in and give this franchise a jolt would be the best move. Perhaps a guy like Rob Ryan would be the perfect guy to get an otherwise-boring franchise some buzz for once. But Tucker is not going to just ride out the rest of the season in the status-quo. Yesterday, wide reciever coach Johhny Cox was fired by Tucker.
Now, Jacksonville has been the butt of L.A.-relocation jokes for years now. Now that the team has been sold to Shahid Kahn, who previously tried to buy the Rams two years ago, the speculation of a move to a more prosperous city is only going to increase. Not only are the Jags rumored to go to L.A., but the idea of a second team in Chicago has been floating around (Kahn is from Illonis), as well as a move to St. Louis, while the Rams go back to L.A.
Kahn is going to try to make it work in Jacksonville before resorting to a relocation, but you don’t buy the Jaguars and not at least think about relocating. If things don’t turn around quickly in terms of fan attendance and public support, the move to a new city will be sooner rather than later.
To me, the most interesting part of Tuesday’s spectacle was how G.M. Gene Smith was given an extension. The issue with me is not the Jaguars record and the alarming ineffectiveness of Blaine Gabbert so far; when you look at his body of work, Smith has been a very effective drafter and has made a lot of solid moves in free agency. It just that these moves have not resulted in a lot of wins, which Wayne Weaver has determined is a reflection on the coaching staff.
The interesting part to me is the timing of the extension. Before the extension he signed on Tuesday, his contract was dude to expire at the end of the year. Then-owner Wayne Weaver offered Smith an extension, but he turned it down, according to ProFootballTalk.com
“A contract was extended to me and I declined it,” Smith told Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union. “I did not think I deserved an extension based on the conditions. Our scouts and other employees weren’t being extended. I didn’t think I deserved it. However, I do appreciate that Wayne [Weaver] offered me one.”
I can only assume took him until the day the team was sold to realize that this was his last shot at “guaranteed” employment next year. I cannot say for sure what changed his mind, but was he waiting for Del Rio to get fired before he stayed in Jacksonville? Maybe he just wanted to start fresh with a new owner and a new coach of his choice.
Either way, what Gene Smith does over the next few years will determine whether the Jaguars stay in Jacksonville.