One of the most difficult issues our culture cannot handle is our desire for instant gratification. The NFL, and its win now culture only magnifies any attempt for patience. We as fans want Rome to be built in a day. With the Internet, tapes, mock drafts, and stats we all have become "experts." We watch our favorite players in college and therefore with profound bias expect and predict their success at the next level. Being a General Manager has never been harder.
The problem with being a GM, is unlike the casual fan, you cannot afford to be wrong as everyone holds you accountable. There are no hindsight glasses you can wear. Apart from the day to day tasks of managing a coaching staff and a football roster at the pro level, a considerable amount of time must go into evaluating unproven potential assets. It is at this phase, that current Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith is most harshly criticized.
Gene’s tenure as GM of the Jaguars has become the new lightning rod for fan criticism and he has become the sole reason for the failure of our team. Yet is that fair? Gene has only been in charge of all football decisions for 3 years now (he is going into his fourth draft). He is unjustly critiqued for drafting players who have gotten injured, and in all honesty does not get enough flexibility for taking over a roster lacking in talent in the first place. Moreover, He has been severely criticized for all 3 of his first round picks. First and foremost, Eugene Monroe has developed into a very good Left Tackle, and quite possibly on the brink of being elite. Not to mention he has far and away outperformed every other big ugly drafted ahead of him (Jason Smith and Andre Smith). Tyson Alualu in his own right has helped to solidify the interior of our D-Line. While he may not be the fans choice of JPP or TT, some credit has to be given for him playing every game of his career on an injured knee. That gets us to Blaine Gabbert, who Gene moved up to get in his most recent draft. The jury is still not out on him, but we did get a signal caller who many felt was a top 5 prospect in the past draft.
The other argument that the casual fan blast Gene for, is his preference for small school players. Let me be clear on this, I believe you should always draft the player and not the school. While there is legitmacy in succeeding and playing at a tougher level of competition, there is also something to be said about an individual players work ethic. Going to a top school is well and good, but remember that most of the athletes that go there had successes at an early age that lead to their recruitment. Also, you never know the internal reasons an athlete chooses his or her school. Rashad Jennings, transferred from Pitt, to Liberty, so he could be closer to home. Does that make him a small school guy? I think not.
The most comical of all the arguments against Gene, is this lack of drafting PRO BOWL players. This argument is just flat out ridiculous. In the past 3 drafts, ONLY 4 PERCENT OF ALL DRAFTED PLAYERS IN THOSE DRAFTS WERE PRO BOWLERS. What is that you say naysayer? The 2011 class is too new, and should not be included? Ok, let me eliminate those 5 (Newton, Miller, Peterson, and Green were also drafted well before we picked anyway). If you include only the 2009 and 2010 drafts only 5 PERFECT OF ALL DRAFTED PLAYERS HAVE BECOME PRO BOWLERS. Of that list, one could easily argue the legitimacy of Johnny Knox and Marc Mariani even being Pro Bowlers in the first place. Point blank, Pro Bowlers are picked based on popularity and that is not how you build a franchise. If all GM’s were judged on amount of Pro Bowlers on their roster, they would all be fired.
Point is for every Rob Gronkowski that Gene Smith could have drafted, there were 31 other teams that passed as well. While it is easy to be critical, we need to put this current regimes tenure in better prospective. I admit, there is nothing worse for a franchise than years of mediocrity. However, this cannot be fixed over night. Gene has been building his team with his plan. Gene started his focus on the O-Line, the interior of the D-Line and in his last draft choose the most important position of them all. In baseball terms he has been building the important positions up the middle, he deserves the time to see the fruits of his labor. Is Gene perfect?
Hell no, he signed Matt Turk No, and neither is any other GM. In his short tenure he has already dramatically improved the defense. Last years team was clearly more competitive than anything we saw in 2010. Now it is his time to improve the offense. Smith has hired his own new coach, installed a new system, and has a developing quarterback. While we can be critical, we need to also be logical. A GM is judged on improving the quality of the players on the feild. Let us put down our pitchforks for the present and try to take enjoyment in the process. Who knows, maybe our patience may pay off.