May 6, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey talks with general manager Gene Smith before the start of rookie mini camp at Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE
When Gene Smith was given the title of general manager of the Jaguars in January of 2009 the first thing he did in his first press conference was tell the media that he would target players of "high character." Within the first two months of taking the helm, Smith cut ties with two first round wide receiver busts by allowing Reggie Williams to leave via free agency and releasing Matt Jones.
In the time after those two players left the Jaguars in early 2009, the team didn't have another player in trouble with the law until Nate Collins was arrested for marijuana possession in February of this year, almost three years after the last arrest. Despite being an exclusive rights free agent, the option to keep Collins was denied by Smith and he left in free agency. Then came Justin Blackmon's arrest.
Just one month after Gene Smith traded up to the fifth overall selection to draft Blackmon, he was arrested for an aggravated DUI after reportedly blowing a .24 into an Oklahoma police officer's breathalyzer. In a situation where Smith can't possibly consider releasing the rookie receiver, his only choice was to come down as hard as possible on the rookie in front of the media.
Let's make sure we're all on the same page here: there is absolutely no way the Jaguars could release Justin Blackmon. You're not going to trade him, you're not going to release him, you're not going to do anything that wouldn't involve him wearing a teal jersey in the fall.
A significant investment was made in the player and while the immediate returns off the field haven't been good, it's his production on the field that warranted the investment in the first place.
With that, Gene Smith is left in the awkward situation in which he could very easily come off as a hypocrite. After releasing players in the past for lesser incidents than an aggravated DUI, how could he publicly defend a player that made a mistake that would cause him to cut ties with well over half of the players on the roster if they did the same? He didn't.
Instead of defending Blackmon at the team's first press conference regarding the incident, Smith raked him over the coals. While he did say that he felt Blackmon would grow from the incident, he also made several comments that intimated he may feel like he made a mistake in drafting the Oklahoma State product.
"Clean Gene" Smith says this reinforces the need to do in-depth research before draft. Ouch. #Jaguars— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) June 6, 2012
Smith and Mularkey certainly didn't hide their disappointment in Blackmon during the press conference today, but as long as they intend to maintain an image of an organization that places an emphasis on high character, they had no choice in the matter. They had to make an example out of the incident.