Weaver: Changes Ahead

After a disappointing 5-11 season, owner Wayne Weaver is overhauling the structure of the team. Find out what else we learned Weaver is up to.

He named Gene Smith the team's first general manager after James "Shack" Harris, the vice president of player personnel, resigned under pressure and fired two scouts.

And he made it clear that coach Jack Del Rio has no say in personnel. Smith is in charge of that department. And sweeping changes are expected in the team's roster as they attempt to improve the team chemistry.

Now that Smith is running things, Del Rio is obviously on the hot seat going into 2009. If the team doesn't win, Weaver could decide to let Smith find a new coach in 2010.

Del Rio survived this year only because he signed a $21 million contract extension that runs through 2012 last season.

To paraphrase Bill Parcells, who once said that if you want him to cook the meal, he should be able to buy the groceries, Del Rio won't be buying any of the groceries. He'll have to stick with cooking the meal.

In overhauling the structure of the team, Weaver made it clear that Smith is in charge and has been groomed for the past several years for the position.

"For the last five years, it has been my intention that Gene Smith inherit this job as long as he continued to grow. I do think he would take our personnel department to a new level," Weaver said.

Weaver also said that Smith is empowered to say no to Del Rio if he doesn't want a player Del Rio likes.

"You better believe we had all those conversations. I don't have any doubt that Gene has that leadership skill (to say no to Del Rio)," Weaver said.

When Weaver was asked if Del Rio has any problems with the new structure, he said, "Jack's fine with it, but Jack understood that in the past. Jack understood that James Harris had the final say in the past. James' style was different."

Weaver explained that Harris, who resigned last month as vice president of player personnel, had a different style even though he technically had the final say.

"His style was to build a consensus and if he couldn't build a consensus, move on," Weaver said.

Weaver made it clear he doesn't expect Smith to build a consensus. He wants him to make the personnel decisions.

"I feel it was important to me to clarify that. Gene Smith has the final decision on personnel. Jack Del Rio has the final decision on football operations and football decisions, not on player personnel. If there is a disagreement, clearly, Gene Smith has the final call," Weaver said.

Just to emphasize the point, he also said later in the press conference that he decided to give Smith the general manager title because, "I felt that it was important (for him) to have the title and send the message that Gene Smith is in charge of personnel."

Weaver, though, declined to blame Harris for the fact the team drafted only one Pro Bowl player during his six-year tenure.

"I won't point the finger at Shack. I won't point the finger at anyone. Ultimately, it comes down to the guy sitting at this front table (Weaver)," Weaver said.

When Weaver was asked if he was accountable for the fact the team has won only one playoff game in the last nine years, he said, "I'll let you guys judge that. I will tell you that if you look at our record over the nine years or the 14 years, that we haven't been bad. Am I happy that we only won one playoff game in the last nine years? Absolutely not."

Weaver also said the Jaguars will stop drafting for need, which was their style under both former coach Tom Coughlin, who was in charge of personnel, and Harris. They'll go for the best player regardless of position.

"I think it clearly is something that we've always espoused (drafting the best player over need), but haven't always done that. We need to get back to that," Weaver said.

He also said they'll stop spending big money in free agency after an offseason in which the Jaguars didn't get much return for their big investments in Drayton Florence and Jerry Porter.

He had a one word answer ("no") when asked if they'd spend big in the offseason.

Of their free-agency signings in the past, he admitted, "We don't have a stellar batting average there."

He also suggested they'll hoard draft picks under Smith instead of trading them away to move up in the draft the way they did last year on the first two rounds to take Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves.

"I think those are smart things to do (stockpiling picks)," he said.

Despite all the changes, one thing remains the same. Weaver remains optimistic about next year. He never talks about long rebuilding programs.

"Our goal is to compete to win our division and our ultimate goal is to get in the playoffs," he said.


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