As everyone knows, when the Jaguars went on the clock for the 17th selection in the draft, the guy they had been targeting, Reggie Nelson was available. The choice would have been an easy one, but there were also two players of high value also available, Leon Hall, the cornerback from Michigan, and Brady Quinn, the highly touted quarterback from Notre Dame. The Jaguars then received a phone call from the Denver Broncos (currently sitting at pick #21), who had intentions of trading up to acquire Jarvis Moss. Knowing that it was very likely that one or more of those highly valued players would be available four picks later, the Jaguars made the move and recouped an extra third and sixth round pick, a deal that was in the Jaguars favor according to the draft value chart.
When the Jaguars then went on the clock at pick #21, only Hall had come off the board (taken by Cincinnati at #18). That left the Jaguars with the option of selecting what many people figured to be their guy, Reggie Nelson, or rolling the dice and drafting a possible franchise quarterback. As well all know, the Jaguars made the safe pick and acquired Reggie Nelson from Florida. The easy explanation is that he was rated higher on their boards, he fills an immediate need, and the team was intent on going defense in the first round. Where many of those explanations are true, the decision to pick Nelson was not unanimous. It turns out that Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio was in favor of selecting the quarterback.
Del Rio, who also wanted to correct the perception that they bypassed Quinn because he may need to make the playoffs this year to save his job, strongly suggested that he wanted to take Quinn, but James "Shack" Harris, the team's vice president of player personnel, disagreed. Del Rio said they only pick players they have a consensus on, and they all agreed on taking Reggie Nelson with their first pick after they failed to read a consensus on Quinn.
"Contrary to how it's been portrayed in the media, I don't believe in coaching scared (to save his job)," Del Rio said. "I believe in acquiring talent and coaching the heck out of it and competing." He then added, "I actually have a little more aggressive approach towards the quarterback position in particular, but we make Jaguars' picks. I'm not trying to open up and make it a big story because it's really not."
When it was suggested there was an animated conversation about Quinn in the Jaguars' draft room, he said, "That's part of what we do and obviously that was unusual set of circumstances."
Although he didn't specifically say he supported Quinn and Harris didn't, he conceded there was support for Quinn in the draft room. "We didn't have a consensus to take him. That's why we didn't take him. We're going to take consensus guys. To say we didn't have people in our building that liked him that valued him above our pick (Nelson). Yeah, we did have some people."
Del Rio said he believes in making consensus picks even though he lost this debate. "I believe in that approach. I think it's a sound way to operate. We've done a nice job of building this roster over the last five years with that approach and I support it," he said. It is arguable that Quinn would have possibly energized a franchise and helped a team that needs to sell tickets. He also would have solved their long-term quarterback position. But Harris remains a strong supporter of Byron Leftwich despite a perceived rift with Del Rio.
If Leftwich struggles this year, Del Rio has positioned himself to say that it's not his fault because Harris wouldn't let him take Quinn. Harris declined to confirm Del Rio's account. "I'm not going to go that far in the draft room. When we finished our discussion, we just thought Reggie was the best choice for us," Harris said. When Harris was asked why he wouldn't want Quinn, he laughed and said, "You were here yesterday with the same question." As he left the press conference, he smiled again and said, "Do you want to take one last shot (asking about Quinn)?"
When Harris and Del Rio were hired in 2003, owner Wayne Weaver was asked who had the final say if the two men disagreed. Weaver first said he hoped they would come to an agreement, but added Harris would have the final say. This is the first time in five drafts that Del Rio has even hinted that he and Harris couldn't reach an agreement on a player, but bypassing Quinn is probably the most controversial move they've made.
Although Del Rio has named Leftwich the starter, the problem is that Leftwich in his last year of his contract and isn't necessarily sold on staying. If he leaves at the end of the year, the Jaguars will be left with their quarterback situation in a state of flux for 2008 because Del Rio benched backup David Garrard in the second half of the season finale in Kansas City.
Brady Quinn Decision Splits Front Office
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