Lame Duck Assistants Looking for Work

The Jaguars are entering a pivotal year for the franchise, assuming the labor situation is settled and the games are played. If the Jaguars don't make the playoffs, owner Wayne Weaver has made it obvious that he will fire coach Jack Del Rio and his coaching staff.

Weaver decided it was too expensive to fire Del Rio this year because he has more than $10 million left on the final two years of his deal and he would have had to pay the final year of the contract for his assistants if they didn't find new jobs.

Also, he was reluctant to fire Del Rio with labor strife looming. If the lockout wipes out the offseason, it would be difficult for a new coach to implement his program.

But he set it up so it will be easy to fire Del Rio and his staff next year if they don't make the playoffs.

He didn't extend the assistant coaches' contracts so most of them expire after the end of the 2011 season and he can fire them without having to pay them off.

And Del Rio will only get a little more than $5 million for the final year of his contract.

There's also speculation that Weaver wants to sell the team after a CBA and is clearing the decks for the new owner so he can pick the coach he wants.

Weaver has said he plans to sell the team at some point but hasn't laid out a timetable yet.

But the bottom line is that the 2011 season is critical for Del Rio. If he makes the playoffs, Weaver will keep him and a new owner might too.

If he doesn't, he's gone and the franchise will start over with its third coach.

Del Rio knows he's been given a rare opportunity. Weaver could have fired him after the 2008 season when the team went 5-11 and James Harris, the vice president of player personnel departed. And Gene Smith was elevated to the post of general manager and began a rebuilding program.

If Del Rio hadn't gotten a four-year contract extension the previous spring that kicked in for the 2009 season, he could have been fired then.

"I think really if you look at it honestly, fairly, it's rare that a head coach is offered the opportunity to rebuild a team a second time, which is essentially what we started two years ago," he said.

But the last two years the Jaguars have collapsed down the stretch. They where 7-5 in 2009 and lost the last four. They were 8-5 in 2010 and lost the last three. They were also 8-6 in 2006 and lost the last three.

Del Rio's contract protected him despite the last two collapses. The contract won't protect him again.

It is playoffs or the Jaguars begin a new era next year with a new coach. And possibly a new owner

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