After the 2008 season the Jaguars were in tough spot. Years worth of poor draft picks, free agent selections and lack accountability had placed the team at the bottom of the AFC South with little chance of improving. Wayne Weaver made the decision to cut ties with Vice President of Player Personnel Shack Harris who was seen as directly responsible for the Jaguars predicament and promote Gene Smith to General Manager. This promotion gave the Jaguars a bonafide GM and as Jonathan Loesche explained that the move meant "Smith is in charge of buying the groceries and Del Rio is in charge of who cooks the meal.". Since he was promoted a lot has changed in regards to the Jaguars but if there is one thing that we have learned is that we are never gonna know what Gene Smith is thinking.
Gene's first step as GM, cut ties with anyone who did not show good character, was not needed or was a Shack Harris era bust. Smith started by purging the roster, getting rid of or not resigning players such as Matt Jones, Mike Peterson, Gerald Sensabaugh, Drayton Florence Reggie Williams, Khalif Barnes, Paul Spicer and even letting go of Fred Taylor. Smith did not give special treatment to players he simple acted on what he thought was the best moves for the Jaguars. In their place he brought in aging veterans Tra Thomas and Torry Holt (ala the Patriots) to help improve the team but also act as mentors. The 2009 Draft gave Jaguars fans the first look at what a Gene Smith Draft was like, unpredictable. The first pick by the Jaguars, Eugene Monroe, was a no brainer but after that Smith showed everyone he was willing to stick to his draft board and pick whoever he personally thought was the best pick available not who Mel Kiper Jr. thought was best available. Smith took Britten in the second round showing he was focusing on improving the trenches and then picked Terrance Knighton in the 3rd. Then he shocked most of the NFL when he traded up to get Derek Cox, the CB no one in the media had heard of. Smith simply didn't care, he had the guys he wanted and he picked them plan and simple. I personally got satisfaction in watching Mel Kiper Jr. have a near heartattack when Gene Smith threw is draft board out of whack with the Cox pick.
In his second offseason as GM, Gene Smith once again showed everyone that he going to do what he wants to do and he is going to be unpredictable. When most of the Jaguars fans including most at BCC thought that Smith was going to keep relatively quiet during free agency, he made two major splashes with the signings of Kassim Osgood and Aaron Kampman. It was at that this point that even though Smith has been unpredictable we start to see a decent pattern in his moves. Holt, Thomas, Osgood, and Kampman have been his major free agent signings and all are either hardworking, leaders, or both. Smith has shown a willingness to give chances and take risks on high character players who have shown that they are willing to put in the extra effort. Entering the 2010 draft most people had about 4 or 5 different players pegged as the Jaguars potential pick ranging from C.J. Spiller to Derrick Morgan. When the Jaguars picked Tyson Alualu it stunned everyone and every media outlet started attacking the pick as too high and a huge reach. You know what though Gene Smith didn't care. As Mel had another melt down because his mock draft had once again but busted by Smith, Smith talked up his pick. He then went on to pick 3 more defensive lineman in consecutive picks showing everyone that when he was willing to do what ever he thought was necessary to fix a problem area. While the media attacked some of his early round moves Smith worked some of his magic later on with trades to bring in Kirk Morrison and an extra draft pick for 2011. With the arrival of all these new young lineman Smith even released John Henderson, who had shown a little lack of effort at times and had been called out by Jack Del Rio.
By the time the 2010 season started Gene Smith had retooled most the team. Each offseason he seemed to pick an area of need and focus on it. In the 2009 it was the Offensive Line and 2010 it was the Defensive Line and all the while he signed free agents and brought it later round draft picks to help shore up other areas. In two years Gene Smith had transformed the Jaguars from an aging, struggling, and sometimes characterless team (heres looking at you Matt Jones and Reggie Williams) to a young, upcoming and high chemistry team. Even though the Jaguars did not make the playoffs and dropped their last 3 games, you can just see the difference in the team from the end of 2008 and now. When the Jaguars lost to the Ravens at the end of the 2008 season we as fans saw a lot of finger pointing and sulking when the season ended. Even though the lose to the Texans to end this season was disappointing, we saw a different reaction by the players. They took responsibility for the lose and seemed optimistic about the future. The players even came to Jack Del Rios defense when his job was in questions that they wanted him to stay because they believe "something special" was forming. That type of optimism was not present before Gene took over. He has put together a great group of core players who work hard, take responsibility for their actions and look to lead.
We are now entering the third offseason with Gene Smith at the helm. Everyone knows the secondary is a major hole on this team, can we expect a Gene Smith purge and remolding of the secondary? We will have to wait and see. Will he once again surprise us with a free agency pick up or cutting of an established veteran? Who knows. What players will the Jaguars look to draft this year? Only Gene Smith really knows.The only thing that we know is whatever Gene Smith does do will be probably something we can't predict but will end up being best for the Jaguars organization because even though the Jaguars season is over sooner then I hoped, for the first time in a while I am still excited to see what this group of guys can do next season. In Gene We Trust.