Back in 2007 when Wayne Weaver gave Jack Del Rio a contract extension the confidence level was high. The two considered that year's success the beginning of a competitive run.
I look forward to building on what we have begun. I really do feel that there is something very special taking place here in Jacksonville right now.
-Jack Del Rio
Clearly when I reflect back on the last five years, great things have happened.Under Jack's leadership, this franchise has continued to really make great progress.
We believe the arrow is up and we ought to be able to compete at the very highest level this year (2008).
Two years later the Jaguars owner is not as satisfied, a sentiment also reflected by the fanbase. Since the last playoff run Jack has led the team which he described as "closing the gap on New England and Indianapolis" to consecutive fourth place finishes in the AFC South. After the dissapointement of 2008, the organization played semantics in referring to 2009 as "retooling" not "rebuilding". I think we all knew what was happening.
This begs a very important question: How confident is Wayne that Jack is the man to lead? Some have argued that extending the contracts of the assistant coaches was an indicator of Wayne's committement to the staff as a whole. I disagree. All this indicates is a level of confidence in said coaches.
During his tenure as head coach Jack has replaced every single assistant such that the only remaining authority figure from the 2003 season is he. The perception was that he used them as scapegoats. It may be that Wayne has had enough and is looking for direct accountability from Jack.
The signings could also give the owner options. Should he decide to eat the 15 million dollar salary there are candidates already at One Stadium Place. Mike Tice or Dirk Koetter could step in, a move that would not necessarily require a complete coaching overhaul. In turn Weaver could negotiate a salary for either one of them that would be an increase much less than bringing in a new head coach.
It really comes down to where you think the talent resides. Shack Harris was obviously a failure and, fair or not, Del Rio is going to be associated with many of those poor decisions. Gene Smith is the architect of the strong rookie class, but how responsible for their play is on the head coach as opposed to the assistants? Considering the success that Mike Peterson and Marcus Stroud have had since leaving the Jaguars, the moves after the 2007 season (including the sigining of Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence) are a big strike against Jack's decision making.
That the players are vocally backing their coach may play a factor in this week's discussion. Still, indicators are that Wayne could be ready to finish the retooling process.