Jacksonville Coach Yearning for More

Del Rio's roots having him thinking "What's next?"

Jack Del Rio grew up in northern California rooting for the Oakland Raiders in the early 1970s.

It was a successful but frustrating time for the Raiders.

They kept making the playoffs, but falling short of the Super Bowl. They lost in the playoffs to Miami in 1970, to Pittsburgh in 1972, 1974 and 1975 and to Miami in 1973 before finally beating the Steelers in the 1976 AFC title game when Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were injured. They then went on to win the Super Bowl in John Madden's eighth year as a head coach.

Since then, only one Super Bowl winning head coach, Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh, has gone longer than five years to win a Super Bowl.

Two years before Madden did it in his eighth year, Chuck Noll did it in his sixth season.

Although Tony Dungy won his first last year in his fifth season in Indianapolis, coaches these days tend to win quickly. Jon Gruden won in his first season, Bill Belichick and Brian Billick did it in their second seasons and Dick Vermeil in his third season.

Del Rio, by contrast, finds himself in a situation that Madden was in during the early 1970s. He's made the playoffs two of the last three years and won his first playoff game in Pittsburgh this season, but lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots both times.

Since Brady is only 30 and may be in his prime for several years, this is not a good time for Del Rio to be coaching in the AFC. And he's also in a division with Peyton Manning.

Brady and Manning are 8-1 against the Jaguars the past three years.

The Jaguars have a lot of positives. The main thing is that they have developed their quarterback of the future in David Garrard and they look like a team that should keep making the playoffs.

Now the next question is whether they can take the next step.

Del Rio obviously won't concede he'll have trouble winning a title while Brady is in his prime. And Del Rio has won only one Super Bowl in 22 years as a player, assistant coach and head coach. But he never loses his optimism that he's going to do it eventually.

"First of all, you're a competitor. You don't just accept that you're not going to do something. How did Pittsburgh go with three on the road when it had never been done (New England did it in 1985)? Tom Brady was in that playoff field (although he didn't face the Steelers). I think the first thing that we want to do every year is make the playoff tournament and from there you have a chance," he said.


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