The Jack Del Rio era is ending the way it began.
The Jaguars are 3-7 going into Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, their worst mark since they started off 2-9 in Del Rio's first season as head coach and won three of their last five to finish at 5-11.
This year it doesn't matter how the Jaguars finish. Barring a miracle finish and a collapse by both the Texans and Titans, the Jaguars aren't going to make the playoffs and Del Rio will be fired at the end of the season.
Now the only question is how the team will finish when the players know that Del Rio is a lame-duck coach and they won't be playing for him next year.
As it is, the Jaguars have a history of playing poorly down the stretch, losing their final four in 2009 and their final three last year. Both years they could have made the playoffs with a strong finish. They were 7-5 in 2009 and 8-5 last year. And they were also 8-5 in 2006 and then lost their last three.
The last time they were in a similar situation was in 2008 when they were 4-6 after 10 games and lost five of their last six games.
That season led former vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris to resign with one game left in the season. Gene Smith was then elevated to the general manager's post.
This time, it is too late for Del Rio to save his job, but he would like to finish the season on an upbeat note.
Del Rio said, "One thing you can always tap into in this league is the fact you are here in this league, that you're representing the Jacksonville Jaguars, putting that cat head on your helmet. You've got that National Football League shield, emblem, on your uniform."
He added, "It's the best of the best the world has competing. And guys have a lot of pride. We work hard all year long to be able to play the games that we have scheduled and we're looking forward to going out and competing our butts off. So there is a professional pride that kicks in at some point if you're not in the hunt for some of the loftier goals, but being a man of substance and standing for what's right and going out there and living the dream. There are many kids at home that are watching that dream of someday making it to this level and so I think there's a certain sense of pride when you step on the field regardless of the record, regardless of the situation."
The players echoed his thoughts.
Wide receiver Mike Thomas said, "You've still got to go out there and play with heart and continue to try to get better. That's our goal as an offense. At the end of the day, we still have a job to do to do and the fans look at us as having a job to do. To throw in the towel now would be disrespectful to the game and the fans," he said.
Now the Jaguars have to prove they won't throw in the towel.
Del Rio Wants to Go Out Strong
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