Last January, when the Jaguars beat the Steelers in the playoffs to become the first team ever to win in Pittsburgh twice in the same year, Del Rio seemed ready to start a run even though the team lost the following week in New England.
The Jaguars were widely picked to be a Super Bowl contender this year.
Instead, the bottom has fallen out. The team has gotten old and the young players haven't emerged to replace them. The players that Tom Coughlin left behind when he was fired after the 2002 season have departed or aged and the Jaguars have drafted only one Pro Bowl player, Rashean Mathis, since Del Rio was hired.
The result is that the Jaguars are 4-6 after a 24-14 loss to Tennessee and are virtually out of the playoff picture. And they face a major rebuilding job starting next year.
Of the last six games, starting with Minnesota Sunday, five of them are still alive in the playoff chase so the Jaguars will face motivated teams when they don't have much to play for but pride.
The Jaguars need to at least split the last three games to finish 7-9. If they go 2-4, they'll be 6-10 and double-digit losses are always ominous for a coach.
Although Del Rio signed a four-year contract extension in the offseason for over $20 million that ties him to the team until 2012, owner Wayne Weaver could face a tough decision if he goes 6-10 this year and follows it with another 6-10 record next season. And ticket sales could plunge if Del Rio doesn't turn the team around quickly.
The fans are already on Del Rio and they're pointing fingers at the coach and the quarterback.
"The coach and the quarterback always get the blame, but if you understand that, you can deal with that a little bit better," Garrard said.
Coach Jack Del Rio said, "It's part of the job. I think David understands that. We've talked about that. We're tied together. Whenever you talk about a head coach and a quarterback, you talk about their won-lost record. You don't talk about a defensive tackle's won-loss record. You don't talk about a linebacker's won-lost record. You talk about the quarterback and the head coach. I think he understands that. I've explained that to him."
Del Rio's message to Garrard: "Be confident, and carry on. Go forward and continue to do the right things for the right reasons and things will work out."
And Garrard knows the fans are frustrated.
"We definitely understand the fans' frustration," he said. "Trust me, I definitely do. I always say I'm as good as my wins and losses. It's not really the stats. The stats can be great, but if you're losing every game, it doesn't help you. The fans are going to look at the coach and they're going to look at the quarterback. I've got to deal with that. If I couldn't deal with that situation, then I'm playing the wrong position.
"That's why they pay us all the big money. We have to be level-headed and understand that when things aren't going right, is it really the quarterback's fault or is it a bigger picture of things?
Garrard hasn't been getting much protection, but he also said, "I can make better throws."
And the numbers aren't good for either Garrard or Del Rio. Garrard has an 83.4 passer rating, which is close to his career number of 86.5, but a dropoff from last year's 102.2 figure.
And Del Rio's six-year mark has fallen to 50-43 with just one playoff victory in his first six seasons. And now he's fighting history in his bid to bring a Super Bowl title to Jacksonville. The last Super Bowl winning coach to take longer than six years to build a title team was John Madden with Oakland in 1976 in his eighth season.
That happened to be the team Del Rio grew up rooting for as a youngster growing up in northern California. But the Raiders didn't take a step back in their sixth season. They lost the AFC title game to Pittsburgh in 1974-75 before winning it all the following year.
Like Garrard, Del Rio is frustrated himself.
"I think for me the frustrating part was being able to sleep about an hour Sunday night. I was tossing and turning and thinking about what went wrong in the second half (against Tennessee)," he said.
But Del Rio doesn't want to get ahead of himself and think about fixing things next year. He wants to focus on the rest of this season.
He knows the clock has started to tick on his future.
SERIES HISTORY: 4th regular-season meeting. The Vikings lead 2-1 although the Jaguars won the last meeting in 2004 by a 27-16 margin when Mike Tice, the Jaguars current tight ends coach and assistant head coach, was the Vikings head coach. Tice was fired at the end of the 2005 season. It'll also be the first time the Vikings have played in Jacksonville since the Jaguars started play in 1995.
Quarterback David Garrard even suggested the team has to "fake" a positive attitude.
"I think everyone is just trying to keep a positive attitude," Garrard said. "Sometimes, it might have to be a little fake, but you've just got to do it. There's no reason for us to walk around gloomy. We just need to worry about winning the next game."
He later clarified it to say, "Well, I do not want to sit here and say that we are faking it because I think that we can still be positive. I think sometimes you might have to just keep the morale up and keep everybody in tune. As a leader, I want to see a positive smile on my face."
The Jaguars have nothing left to play for and they have a roster filled with players who've already gotten big money or are upset because they haven't gotten big money. And then there are players upset because free agents who got big money, like Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence, aren't producing.
The result is that even coach Jack Del Rio said the team doesn't have the chemistry it had last year.
"I thought we had a pretty good offseason. In terms of training camp, you're taking me back a way, but my recollection is that it was a very business-like camp," he said.
He added, "We had a holdout (Derrick Harvey) and an injured receiver (Jerry Porter) and then (Brad) Meester got hurt. Then, of course, in the first game, boom-boom, we lose a couple of guys (Mo Williams and Vince Manuwai)."
BY THE NUMBERS: 645 — David Garrard's rushing total since 2006, which ranks him third in the NFL behind Michael Vick and Vince Young in that span. Vick tops all rushers the last three years with 1039 yards even though he hasn't played since 2006 when he gained 1039 yards. He's currently serving a prison term for being involved in illegal dog fighting.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think you get what you earn. I don't subscribe to that (a team being better than its record)." — Coach Jack Del Rio, when he was asked if the Jaguars are better than their 4-6 record.