Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith played defensive line at Heidelberg College (now known as Heidelberg University) and was a captain of the football team. During the late 1980's, Gene Smith served as a graduate assistant and then assistant football coach for Ohio University. In 1989 Smith moved on to Edinboro University where he served as an assistant coach, recruiting coordinator, and strength and conditioning coordinator until 1994, when he was hired as a regional scout for the new NFL expansion team located in Jacksonville, FL.
Smith worked as a college scout until 2000, when he was hired as the Jaguars director of college scouting. Supposedly, when former Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin was fired after the 2002 season, he told then owner Wayne Weaver that he needed to be sure to keep Gene Smith on board, a supposed comment that has now been an albatross on the franchises neck.
In 2003 the Jaguars hired James "Shack" Harris to serve as their vice president of player personnel, working closely with Smith and then new head coach Jack Del Rio to begin rebuilding the Jaguars after the team was stuck in "salary cap hell" with Tom Coughlin working as both the general manager and head coach.
After many first-round pick misses, Harris resigned from the Jaguars in December of 2008, which led to Gene Smith being promoted as the franchise's first ever general manager, giving Smith completely control over building the roster.
"The changes we are making will bring greater clarity in responsibilities," Weaver told reporters when Smith was hired. "With Gene Smith having final say in personnel decisions and Jack Del Rio having final say in all coaching decisions. Gene has been given greater and greater responsibility with this organization, and I am confident that in this new role he will be successful in directing our football operation."
When Gene Smith took over the Jaguars, he immediately began releasing some failed free agent signings such as cornerback Drayton Florence and wide receiver Jerry Porter. Smith preached a philosophy of "base hits" in building his roster, a polar opposite approach to that of Harris, who often went for "homeruns".
"The expectation is to give our coaching staff a competitive advantage," Smith said in his introductory press conference in 2009. "I have a base-hit philosophy. The more you get on base, the more you're going to score, whereas the more you try to hit home runs, the more you're going to strike out.
"Our challenge is to build a playoff caliber team that can compete to win a world championship," said Smith.
In the middle of the fourth year of the rebuilding process, the team is worse than that 1995 expansion team. They've been thoroughly destroyed in every home game during the 2012 season. Each year that more Gene Smith "base hits" are added to the roster, the seemingly worse it gets. Smith hasn't drafted any flat out "busts" to date with his first-round picks, like his predecessor did, but the team as a collective is a colossal failure.
"We need to re-tool the roster. It's not just about acquiring additional players to help us win, but acquiring the right type of people, too," Gene Smith said in 2009. "I believe a player's character is his best talent."
Gene Smith spent four drafts and four offseasons "re-tooling" the roster, but the problem is he bought all the wrong tools. While character is a nice thing to have, the ultimate thing a roster needs is talent, and that's what the Jaguars lack with what Gene Smith has built.
A Timeline of Gene Smith's Tenure
- January 12, 2009 - Gene Smith hired as the Jaguars first ever General Manager
- 2009 offseason losses: QB Cleo Lemon, RB Fred Taylor, WR Matt "Coke Zero" Jones, WR Dennis Northcutt, WR Reggie Williams, WR Jerry Porter, TE George Wrighster, OT Khalif Barnes, OT Charles Spencer, G Milford Brown, G Chris Naeole, G Tutan Reyes, DE Paul Spicer, ILB Mike Peterson, CB Drayton Florence, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, SS Pierson Prioleau.
- 2009 offseason additions: WR Torry Holt, OT William Tra Thomas, DT Montavious Stanley, ILB Adam Seward, FS Marlon McCree, SS Gerald Alexander, SS Sean Considine.
- 2009 draft picks: OT Eugene Monroe, OT Eben Britton, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Derek Cox, WR/KR Mike Thomas, WR Jarett Dillard, TE Zach Miller, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Tiquan Underwood.
- 7-9 record, ranked 18th in total offense, 24th in points scored, 23rd in total defense, 24th in points allowed
- 2010 offseason losses: WR Torry Holt, DE Reggie Hayward, DE Quentin Groves, DT John Henderson, DT Montavious Stanley, DT Rob Meier, OLB Clint Ingram, OLB Brian Iwuh, S Reggie Nelson
- 2010 offseason additions: WR Kassim Osgood, G Justin Smiley, DE Aaron Kampman, ILB Kirk Morrison, OLB Freddie Keiaho, CB Davis Jones.
- 2010 draft picks: DT Tyson Alualu, DT D'Anthony Smith, DE Larry Hart, DE Austen Lane, RB Deji Karim, KR Scotty McGee
- 8-8 record, ranked 15th in total offense, 18th in points scored, 28th in total defense, 27th in points allowed
- 2011 offseason losses: QB Trent Edwards, QB David Garrard, WR Mike Sims-Walker, OT Jordan Black, G Vince Manuwai, G Justin Smiley, DE Derrick Harvey, OLB Justin Durant, ILB Kirk Morrison, S Sean Considine, S Tyron Brackenridge, P Adam Podlesh.
- 2011 offseason additions: C Jason Spitz, DE Matt Roth, OLB Clint Session, ILB Paul Posluszny, CB Drew Coleman, SS Dawan Landry, P Matt Turk.
- 2011 draft picks: QB Blaine Gabbert, G Will Rackley. WR Cecil Shorts III, S Chris Prosinski, CB Rod Isaac
- 5-11 record, ranked 32nd in total offense, 28th in points, 6th in total defense, 11th in points allowed
2012 through Week 10
- 2012 offseason losses: DE Matt Roth, DE Aaron Kampman, DT Leger Douzable, CB Drew Coleman, WR Jarrett Dillard, WR Mike Thomas.
- 2012 offseason additions: QB Chad Henne, WR Laurent Robinson, WR Lee Evans, CB Aaron Ross.
- 2012 draft picks: WR Justin Blackmon, DE Andre Branch, P Bryan Anger, OLB Brandon Marshall, CB Mike Harris, DT Jeris Pendleton.
- 1-8 record through Week 10, ranked 32nd in total offense, 32nd in points scored, 27th in total defense, 26th in points allowed
Trades executed by Gene Smith:
- 2009 - Traded a draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for QB Luke McCown
- 2010 - Traded S Anthony Smith to the Green Bay Packers for an unconditional 7th-round pick (ended up no pick). Traded S Reggie Nelson to the Cincinnati Bengals for CB David Jones and a conditional 7th-round pick (ended up no pick). Traded DE Quentin Groves to the Oakland Raiders for a 5th-round pick (ended up being Austen Lane).
- 2012 - Traded WR Mike Thomas to the Detroit Lions for a 2014 4th-round pick.
Ultimately, Gene Smith needs to fall on his own sword and resign during the season like his predecessor did, but we all know that's not going to happen.