Del Rio Wanted Status Quo

This was supposed to be a quiet offseason for the Jaguars. In the wake of the first playoff victory of the five-year Jack Del Rio era, the team was expected to stick with the status quo. Del Rio, who had fired about a dozen coaches in his first four seasons, said he didn't anticipate any changes in his coaching staff. Little did he know...

What nobody knew is that Del Rio was planning to pull off a power play and it was successful.

On top of that, defensive coordinator Mike Smith got the head coaching job in Atlanta so he has to find a new coordinator.

Del Rio emerged as the big winner after the Jaguars had a shakeup in their organization although he didn't get any new titles. But he did get a lot more power over personnel.

In an unusual Saturday night press release, the team announced that Gene Smith, the director of college scouting, would also be taking over the pro personnel duties previously held by Charles Smith.

The release said that Bailey would be leaving the team, which is a polite way of saying he was fired.

Del Rio and James Harris, the vice president of player personnel, retained their titles, but the balance of power has now shifted. Del Rio now will have much more power over the personnel duties than he's had in the past. The catalyst for the change was that Del Rio bet on the right quarterback and Harris bet on the wrong one.

When Del Rio wanted to cut Byron Leftwich nine days before the season started last September so he could go with David Garrard, Harris and Bailey both objected.

Del Rio then went to owner Wayne Weaver, who approved the move.

If Garrard had flopped and the Jaguars hadn't made the playoffs, Del Rio would have been fired. Instead, Garrard, who missed three games with an ankle injury, led the team to the playoffs and won a playoff game in Pittsburgh.

That gave Del Rio the opening to press for Smith to get more power and greased the skids for Bailey's departure.

Weaver has been downsizing the organization - he uses the word "flattening" to describe it - and this move enabled him to save Bailey's salary while giving more power to Del Rio and Smith.

Bailey was Harris' closest ally in the organization. Harris hired him from New Orleans shortly after he was named to his current post in 2003, the same year Del Rio was hired as head coach.

This means that Harris is likely to have little input in personnel moves if he disagrees with what Del Rio and Smith want to do.

In the past, Del Rio has chafed at some of Harris' moves, notably taking Leftwich over Terrell Suggs on the first round in 2003 and Matt Jones over tight end Heath Miller in 2005. And Del Rio wanted to draft a quarterback last year.

With Harris pulling the trigger, the team hasn't hit it big on first rounders.

Leftwich is gone and Reggie Williams and Matt Jones haven't lived up to their potential and the team still needs a franchise wide receiver. Marcedes Lewis showed potential at tight end this year, but safety Reggie Nelson struggled as teams targeted him in the passing game and he missed too many tackles.

In the past, Del Rio has privately grumbled about some of Harris' picks although he signed off on the Matt Jones selection.

But now Del Rio will be on the spot. If the first-round pick doesn't pan out this year and in future years, he'll have nobody to blame but himself.

Del Rio also finds himself looking for a new coordinator now that Smith has departed. Whether Smith will be missed is a matter of some debate. Former Jaguars defensive end Marcellus Wiley, now an ESPN commentator, said Smith didn't have the respect of his players because Del Rio was perceived as running the defense. Smith's mild-mannered personality also was a factor.

Del Rio leaped to Smith's defense, saying he was respected by the players.

One thing is for sure. The new coordinator will likely run the defense Del Rio wants.

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