Del Rio Speaks Out (Part 3 of 3)

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio addresses the quarterback situation, player conduct, next steps, and many other topics from the owners meeting in this third and final segment.


With recent reports of some NFL players getting into a bit of off-the-field trouble, how do you feel about player conduct?

JDR- I think it is an important issue that the league is taking a special interest in. We've always felt very strongly about making every attempt to bring in the right kind of people, quality character people added to the Jaguars organization. I've met with Wayne, I've met with Paul, I've met with Shack, I've met with Skip and VanPelt. Last week Skip, Van and I reviewed all the things we've been doing, and all the education that has been taking place. We want to make sure to do all we can to help educate these young men to better enable them to make good choices. Ultimately, I don't think you can ever get away from the personal responsibility that individuals have to do the right thing to make the right choice. From our end, we want to make sure we do everything we can to educate them to help them understand the responsibility in which they do have.

Is player conduct receiving more attention now than in the past?

JDR- You're dead on. There's no question the increased exposure with the internet and with technology with the way it is, stories that used to maybe, remain in the local paper if written at all, now go world wide. That increases the pressure on everybody.

More exposure?

JDR- Players have always had issues, they're human beings. Exposure now is certainly unprecedented. Another thing that is a factor, is that culture is a little different now. Culturally, there are things that are more a part of today's generation than we had when I was growing up, when you were growing up. Again, that's also an aspect

How much does character figure in with the Jaguars' draft process?

JDR- It is one component, but it's a strong component. Certainly there are cases every year where we'll actually remove a guy from consideration. That's always handled on a case by case basis. That's where the value of the scouts come in, able to ascertain what type of individual you're talking about. Look at the track record, and the history of that young man. Talk to enough different people about another person, and you're able to determine what that person is really like. It is a factor every year. One of the factors we look at, but not the only factor. But if it's severe enough, it can be remove a guy from consideration all together.

Do you feel clubs should be held more accountable to draft better character guys?

JDR- I think it'll maybe be on more teams minds going into the draft, if in case, that is the case. I don't know if that is going to change the way we've done it a whole lot, I think our process is done of our own choice. It'll cause everybody to re-examine what their policies are and how they handle, and how they process those guys.

How do you feel about the alleged lack of benefits for former players?

JDR- If they're feeling that way, it's legitimate. I do know there have been some attempts. This is probably a conversation that best be had with Gene Upshaw or somebody like that, that has more knowledge. I was a player rep, on the executive committee. I've seen the process. I know the motto is, past present and future. They do look to help them, do things for the past. What happens now is that it's tougher to go back and legitimately address all of the different concerns. I don't know how you can look at the history of this league, that people who came before us made it what it is right now today. I certainly respect that and support any efforts to go back and help those guys.

Chris Hanson?

JDR- He did not have a great year, he was injured. That would have to be something you say could have been part of the reason. Most important thing for everybody when you've had a bad year, a good year, whatever it is, is that you move on to the next one, and what can you do for us this year. We know where his focus needs to be, and how can he be at his best this year. I would anticipate he'd work hard and have a heckuva off-season.

What about your quarterback situation?

JDR- Byron Leftwich is our starting quarterback. Really, in the five years I've been there since we selected him, since Mark Brunell was injured, Byron's been our starting quarterback. The biggest thing for us this year with Byron, is that we've got to find a way to keep him on the field. Each of the last two years, we've had our starting quarterback on the sideline with an injury. One of the things that's lagged in our development as a football team is the passing game, and obviously the quarterback is a main cog in being able to develop a passing game.

How have you dealt with having to bench two quarterbacks last season?

JDR- First of all, I'm not sure that's accurate that I benched two guys. One guy got hurt and was replaced. His reaction maybe indicated that there was a benching, but there was not a benching, it was a decision based on the injury that we felt what was in the best interest of the football team. He later had surgery to rectify the problem, so it's not that there was some kind of phantom injury that wasn't there. It was a legitimate injury he had, I think there's a little bit of a misrepresentation of how it really went down. And then it ends up being continually said...I just wanted to clarify that...

There seems to be more scrutiny on how I handled the backup quarterback in the last game after a bad play, a turnover, so be it. I don't think to lump that situation together with the other situation, makes it accurate.

The Jaguars have to get better in the passing game, how do you feel about the wide receivers?

JDR- We had a pretty good player in place with Jimmy Smith when he retired last year. It's not like it's been forever since we've had a good player at that position, a proven productive player. I think that we have an opportunity for other guys to step up now that Jimmy's retired. We have drafted at that position to improve it, Reggie Williams, Ernest Wilford, Matt   Jones, and now we've signed Dennis Northcutt. We do believe that you don't get instant gratification by the selection of a rookie and plugging him into a spot. In many cases in takes some time for them to develop. I think the other thing with the passing game is that maybe it's not fully appreciated any time you lose your quarterback for an extended period of time, that's going to affect the passing game overall. Wide receivers, quarterbacks, and everybody is going to be affected if your starting quarterback is injured and not able to go. We've had some good moments. We've actually we've been able to score some points, and we've been able to move the ball. We're just looking for more hard work to develop that, and we expect to be better this year.

Which guys won't be ready for mini camp?

JDR- Definitely some won't. Off the top of my head, George Wrighster won't be. Reggie Hayward has to be a question mark. Don't have the answer to that question on my fingertips.

What is your agenda for mini camp?

JDR- Always start with getting in shape. Well I think for us, we always want to go in and take a good thorough look at our system, as coaches clean up what we think we can do best with the guys we have. The personnel part where we're always looking hard to assess what's available, whether it be free agency or the draft, what we can bring in to strengthen our football team, that's always a part of it. And then it comes down to getting the guys to do the work necessary to prepare the bodies ready to withstand the rigors of an NFL schedule. Beyond that, getting into the implementation of our system. Off-season gives you a time to develop the body of what you're going to be . Pull from that specifically on game week during the course of the season.

What have you learned about your team in the off-season?

JDR- I think each year you learn a little about how you're going to approach the upcoming season, I think each year is different the off-season that you have made the commitment, the effort is put forth all factors that add up. I'm better able to monitor that each year.

How did all of the injuries hurt the defense last season?

JDR- Looking back, yeah, I'd have to say, as coaches, we're never going to raise the (white) flag during the year. There were several times you said c'mon coach, be realistic. You lost Reggie (Hayward), you lost Mike Peterson, you lost Donovan (Darius), it's got to have an impact. Well, sure it does, but I think it's so important to stay focused on continuing to fight the good fight, we can get it done somehow, we can rally together and get it done, as a coach we have to do that, now that the season is over, you look back and we didn't finish strong. As well as we played during the course of the year, we did not finish strong defensively...and the number of injuries we had to key people absolutely had an impact.

How do you feel about the proposed rule (that was shot down) of the defensive player with a headset?

JDR- It's no more unnecessary than the quarterback situation we have in place now. It's technology we have available. In fairness to football overall, want to afford the same opportunity the offense has to communicate.

How do you feel about you chances of catching the Colts this year?

JDR- Tony's (Dungy) done a great job. Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, and company have done a great job of putting that team together, and Peyton Manning is one of the top players in the game. We've matched up well with them. In the four years we've been here, we're 3-5 against them, three of the four years we've split with them, and last year we had a very strong performance against them late in the year. We like to think we're tightening things up. I think there's no question every year you go in wanting to make the playoffs, and the surest way to do that is to win the division. They've been able to do that the last four years, we'd like to see that change.

How close do you feel your team might be to breaking through?

JDR- I think we're close. The bottom line is getting it done. Each of the last two years, we've been able to defeat the team that went on to win the super bowl, and that means you're able to beat the good teams. The bottom line is being able to win enough during the year to get in, and have an opportunity in the postseason, so we certainly have fought our way and developed this football team, this franchise, into one that can compete with anybody. Now we need to compete with anybody.

How do you build and move on from what happened last year?

JDR- There were some exciting things that happened for us last year. Our run offense was a tremendous strength for us. I really feel like last off-season we took a good hard look at what we thought we could do with blocking patterns, and what we thought we could do to utilize the players that we had, and put a plan into place, and in many instances, we actually reduced the number of plays that we had done the year before. We didn't add to it, and actually streamlined and got it boiled down to things we wanted to be really good at, and then drilled it and taught it. We're really looking to do a similar things with our pass offense this year in terms of taking a real thorough look at it, settling on the things we really believe we can do well with the players that we have right now. And then develop, teach, and instruct how to really execute that. We're excited about that process we're in the midst of now, in terms of staff, preparing for that. And obviously that's just one side of the ball. Definitely we want to do the same thing. We're looking to make sure we can be as stingy as possible, always not giving up points and not allowing people to run the ball down your throat, which are two things going into an off-season that you want to make sure you get accomplished.

Finally, a few words on Deon Grant

JDR- Good player, athletic, and a good person. He did a nice job of playing for us...a good guy, good person, good football player. He's got range, a very rangy safety, with ball-hawking ability.


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