After there was much speculation that coach Jack Del Rio would be fired in the wake of a four-game slide at the end of last season, owner Wayne Weaver decided to keep him. Weaver said money wasn't a factor, but it would have cost Weaver almost $16 million to fire Del Rio. As a small market team losing money, Weaver couldn't afford to do that.
But Del Rio's return for an eighth season even though he has just one playoff victory in his first seven is going to make it tougher for the Jaguars, who blacked out nine of their 10 home games, including the first seven regular-season home games, to sell tickets. The fans are turned off by Del Rio's failure to win and by his aloof, moody attitude.
Del Rio didn't appear at the press conference when Weaver announced he was staying. He also stayed away from a pep rally that night when Touchdown Jacksonville, the civic group leading a ticket selling campaign, kicked off the effort.
After what amounted to a lost decade (The Jaguars haven't won a playoff game since beating Miami after the 1999 season), the Jaguars do have hope for the future because Smith is now in charge.
The previous six years when Shack Harris and Del Rio combined on the draft were a disaster for the team. Their first three first-round picks -- Byron Leftwich, Reggie Williams and Matt Jones -- are gone and a fourth, Reggie Nelson, has been benched.
By contrast, Smith's first four picks in his first draft are all starters. After Harris resigned, Smith was given total control of personnel. He decides which players to sign and he cuts the roster.
"We have to acknowledge the fact that what set us back to (being) average the last few years is we did miss badly on first round draft choices. We missed badly on some free agents," Weaver said.
And he took the blame.
"Shame on me that I haven't done (extensive reviews of the organization) more. Shame on me -- for if I would have dug deeper in some of the earlier years with some of the personnel things going on in this building - I would have had a different result," Weaver said.
Weaver said he just conducted the most extensive internal review of the team in its 15-year history.
He also said the Jaguars have to decide what kind of team they want to be.
"Once we all coalesce around what type of team we want to be (Del Rio and Smith's) job is to tell me what kind of team we want to be. Then let's be true to that mission and draft around that concept and build a team around that concept," he said.
On how things will be different, he said, "It starts like it starts in every organization: It starts with accountability, holding yourself accountable, holding your coaches accountable, holding your players accountable. You can have a star player that plays his heart out on game day but if he's not accountable to do the other things every day that we expect in this organization in strength and training and practice tempo and all of those things, it doesn't work. People have to be accountable and they know they have to be accountable and there has to be a standard that you set, and that standard has to be adhered to by everybody in the building."
When he was asked if Del Rio is coaching for his job next fall, he said, "My hope is that he fulfills that goal that we have for ourselves, for sure."
When was asked if Del Rio has to make the playoffs to keep his job, Weaver said, "I'm not going to get into those kind of conversations. Right now we're moving forward on a very positive note. My expectations are that we're going to be better than average and that means that we're going to be competing for the playoffs, not just for next year but for years to come.
"People have shown us in this league that if you do it the right way, there's no reason that you can't compete for the playoffs every year. And I think we've got the team in place. I'm really excited about what Gene Smith and his people are doing in the personnel area. We've always espoused that you draft to build your franchise and we've always said you take the best player available. We haven't always done that. We've got to get back to the roots of saying, 'Let's make sure that we're true to what our goals are and what we say we're going to do and let's do them and let's go execute them.'"
All indications are, though, that it is playoffs or bust for Del Rio in 2010.
Weaver Lays Down the Law
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