It's clear that with yesterday's media bombshell that things are going to be a hell of a lot different in Jacksonville. Let's take a minute to reflect on what happened: nine year head coach Jack Del Rio is fired, check; Wayne Weaver sells the team, check; general manager Gene Smith receives a three-year contract extension, check. All in a days work you say? Wrong, the changes, while not as groundbreaking as yesterday's news, culminated into a few more today.
Jason Hill, our leading wide receiver, as pathetic as that is, was officially waived today. Receiving coach, Johnny Cox was also fired and his job was handed over to Mike Sheppard, the previous QB coach. While there is sure to be more changes in the future, the biggest question mark remains: Who will be the Jaguars' head coach going into the 2012-2013 season?
In typical fashion, many members of the fanbase have sounded off that they want a "high profile" coach. Names such as Cowher, Fisher, Dungy, Gruden, pop up sprinkled with a few coaches they've probably looked up one time on a winning team's website. Not that I blame them, people want a winner. But, I'd like to turn away from some of the more well known names and look at some of the more recently successful coaches: names like Tomlin, Peyton, McCarthy, Harbaugh, Schwartz, Whisenhunt, come to mind. What do all these coaches have in common?
None of them are really household names, some may even be relatively obscure, and most of all they've helped build their respective teams (and with varying degrees of success) into respectable, even Superbowl contending teams (see: Tomlin, Peyton, McCarthy). Tomlin, for example, was a defensive backs coach under Dungy's Tampa 2 scheme and helped build the Steelers into one of the best 3-4 defenses in the league and Superbowl XLIII Champion.
As headcoach he was able to do this by carefully picking a staff, molding his players to best utilize their individual talents, and smartly managing his team. It also didn't hurt to have solid drafting. With all that said, I personally feel like our future head coach is already here. Enter, Mel Tucker.
Who is Mel Tucker? I could rehash Wikipedia but I'll save you the trouble. Tucker began coaching collegiately under several well known coaches such as Nick Saban and Jim Tressel as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. He entered the league in 2005, and within three years he was promoted to defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, where he helped built a top 5 defense. In 2009, he was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Jaguars and in 2011 he coached a consistently top 10 defense. Okay, all that is probably things you already know about Mel Tucker so let me get straight to the point.
In my personal opinion he is exactly what this franchise needs. We don't need a big flashy "high profile" or a trash talking coach like any of the Ryans. What we need is a no-nonsense coach who clearly understand his role as the team leader and is willing to work closely with GM Gene, and his coaching staff to evaluate and shape our personnel into a winning team. By all accounts, you can say Tucker is already doing that.
He has taken the players that Gene has given the defense and developed a winning strategy to best exploit their individual talents by simplifying and streamlining our defensive strategy. And even with the numerous injuries on the defense, Mel's "Next Man Up" theme has inspired 2nd-3rd string players to play at a high level. Tucker, is not hesitant in articulating his feelings regarding the team.
One particular quote that struck me in the Tucker, Smith conference was something Tucker said, "My expertise in defense. I know good offense when I see it, and so my big thing, and I've always believed it, allow people to do their jobs, empower people to go to work and do their best." Maybe this is one of the many reasons Gene Smith felt he was a "definite asset to the organization" with Tucker's initial hire in 2009.
While it remains to be seen if Tucker will transition from interim to permanent head coach, I have high hopes for him. Anyway you look at it, he has done good things since becoming the team's defensive coordinator. Who knows maybe this "next man up" will lead us to the promise land like some of the more recent "no-name" coaches.