During former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver's press conference three weeks ago announcing the sale of the team to Shahid Khan, he claimed that his team was headed in the right direction and it would take another few drafts to get where they want to be. With a 4-10 record through 14 games it's clear that the franchise is in the midst of a rebuild and a few more drafts seems reasonable to build a contender.
A three-year plan is acceptable in today's NFL although many teams have done in shorter amounts of time. Since the team is beginning their rebuild, what exactly occurred three years ago when Gene Smith took over as general manager?
Is a five or six-year plan acceptable? If you take the three seasons Smith has already put in, and add two or three more, that's what Jaguars fans are looking at.
Jack Del Rio can be blamed for a good amount of what happened on the field this season, but When is Gene Smith going to be held accountable? Del Rio did a poor job in game and clock-managing situations, but exactly what did he have to work with?
Smith's "base-hit" philosophy of drafting players includes selecting high character guys with high floors has landed the team into "double-play" situations. The team is void of playmakers on both sides of the football.
As poorly as Smith has drafted, his insistence on playing "his guys" and exiling others has left the team in dire straits. Where Smith loaded up in free agency on the defensive side of the ball, where improvement was certainly neccessary, he failed to address the offense- purposely. More than $100 million of defensive contracts including $30 million to linebacker Clint Session made the defense immediately respectable. Before you praise Smith for that, his mantra has always been to build through the draft and those signings replaced the bad players that Smith previously acquired.
It's difficult to be a good football team without solid line play. Gene Smith has spent high picks on offensive and defensive linemen. These are positions where statistics are rarely accrued and the common fan can rarely accurately evaluate. Signing linebackers and safeties in free agency also made statistics mostly irrelevant. With all the acquisitions of these non-statistical based positions, it's difficult for the average fan to criticize the picks, or even figure out who can play and who can't. More of Gene Smith taking the safe route while the roster improves slightly, if at all.
Paul Posluszny has been a great free agent pickup, worth every penny thus far. Terrence Knighton represents good value in the draft. Aside from these players, most of Smith's acquisitions have been mediocre or bad. By being afraid to select playmakers that could affect public perception of his job, Smith is setting sail to a six-year plan for the Jaguars. That is unless it turns into a nine-year plan.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie
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