The Jacksonville Jaguars currently sit at 8-7 and still in the playoff race with a win and a Colts loss. Prior to the 2010 season, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver challenged Jack Del Rio and quarterback David Garrard to perform. Weaver didn't necessarily claim that Del Rio needed to coach this team to the playoffs to keep his job, but ending another season on consecutive losses certainly won't set Del Rio in Weaver's good graces. "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," Weaver said.
Jack Del Rio certainly has this football team in contention for the playoffs again, just like he had in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. The problem has been instead of making the playoffs in 5 of the last 6 seasons, the Jaguars have gone from the brink of the playoffs to playing themselves out of contention. In 2004 the Jaguars had an outside shot at the Wild Card, but finished the season 3-2 with a critical loss at home to the Houston Texans. In 2005 the Jaguars went 3-1 down the stretch and made the playoffs via the Wild Card. In 2006, the Jaguars sat at 6-5 and in the hunt and finished 2-3. In 2007 the Jaguars were able to coast to the playoffs via the Wild Card and win their first playoff game since the 1999 season. In 2009 the team was 7-5 but faltered down the stretch to lose their final four games. This season doesn't look to bode much better as the Jaguars have now lost two straight, pushing their record to 2-2 in December and the potential to end the season either winning 3 of their last 5, or finishing with 3 straight losses.
"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,'" Weaver said back in January.
I'm of the belief that the outcome of the game on Sunday will determine Jack Del Rio's fate as the Jaguars head coach in 2011. Chris Mortenson and Adam Schefter of ESPN both said they believed Jack Del Rio will be back to coach the 2011 season, but if the Jaguars lose on Sunday to go from 8-5 and in first place in the AFC South to dropping the final three games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs, that's a hard sell to fans who're mostly tired of Del Rio already. I think with a win over Houston, Weaver can claim that the Jaguars finished with a winning record and were in contention of the playoffs up until the final week of the NFL regular season.
I understand firing Del Rio and I understand keeping Del Rio. I don't have a feeling either way if he's kept or fired. Firing him on the brink of labor unrest means you've got to find a new coach, still pay the remaining $10 million left on Jack Del Rio's contract, and hope the new staff can install their system on what will likely be a shortened off-season.
I just know either way, wholesale changes are coming. Wayne Weaver put a charge to Jack Del Rio and David Garrard in January, and it doesn't appear either will deliver. Weaver once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.