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Jack Del Rio's Job Harder? Gene Smith May Have Saved It.

EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Jack Del Rio of the Jacksonville Jaguars watches on against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on November 28 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach Jack Del Rio of the Jacksonville Jaguars watches on against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on November 28 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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In the Florida Times-Union today there was an article written by Gene Frenette called "With Jags' draft direction, the current is against Del Rio, but he goes with the flow" which implies Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio's seat is even hotter in 2011 with the selection of quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the first round last Thursday during the 2011 NFL Draft.

I respectfully disagree, whole heartedly. I think it does the exact opposite. It's like dumping ice cold water on a raging inferno.

His job suddenly got a whole lot harder.

He's under a mandate to get to the playoffs this fall, and he wound up with a rookie quarterback who might not play until 2012 instead of two defensive players who could have helped him immediately.

This is part of the basis for Frenette's piece, and to me it makes little sense if you look at the situation. Del Rio's job didn't get harder by drafting a quarterback, it got easier. This belief that it got hard falls on two false pretense.

  1. It falls on the false pretense that Del Rio must make the playoffs in 2011 or he's fired.
  2. It also falls on the pretense that defensive players would have helped your defense immediately.

First and foremost, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has backed off his statement that it's playoffs or bust in 2011. Not only that, but that comment was only made by Weaver after he was prodded over and over by reporters that the press conference and felt more like a "Ok, shut up" crowd pleasing comment. In a recent chat with fans on, Weaver made the comment that he wants the "opportunity" to be in the playoffs in 2011.

"We are realistically one or two drafts and one or two free agency periods away from being able to compete at the very highest level," Weaver wrote. "That's when we can realistically getting [sic] into the postseason and having [sic] the opportunity to bringing [sic once again] a Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville."

On my second point, there was this notion leading up to the draft that defensive players were going to be the majority of the Jaguars draft picks because the defense was so bad. Well, yes... the defense was terrible. Adding rookies to the defense however, isn't going to make it good. While the rookie players would have been able to "contribute" right away, that doesn't mean their contribution would make the defense better. Tyson Alualu started immediately as a rookie, Austen Lane started half the season, Larry Hart and undrafted free agent Aaron Morgan both got playing time... but the Jaguars defense in 2011 was statistically worse than it was in 2010. Their sack total nearly doubled, but it went from being ranked 32nd to ranked 31st. Adding rookies to the defense will improve it by default, but relying on rookies isn't generally a safe practice in the NFL, especially when your job is on the line.

Yet Del Rio endorsed the decision because he knows it was the best one for the long-term future of the franchise, even if he isn't part of that future. He said he puts the team's interests first.

This is the next part of Frenette's article that makes me do a "Wait, what?" Of course Del Rio is going to endorse the pick. Jack Del Rio was attached to the hip of David Garrard and was going to sink or swim with him. The selection of Blaine Gabbert allows Del Rio to perform separation surgery, should he chose to. It gives him an out and can buy him some time.

Think about it.

Wayne Weaver has backed off his stance of playoffs or else. I think it's pretty clear Wayne Weaver doesn't want to fire Jack Del Rio unless he absolutely has to. Not just for financial reasons, as he'd still have to pay Del Rio $5 million in 2012 if he's fired or coaching, but because Weaver models himself after the Rooneys and likes continuity at the head coaching position. If Weaver wanted to fire Jack Del Rio, he'd have done it back in January even with the looming lockout.

Now that Gene Smith drafted his franchise quarterback, it's almost handing Jack Del Rio a mulligan on a silver platter. I don't know if Del Rio will start Blaine Gabbert right out of the gate, but in his interviews over the weekend I don't think it's out of the question. General manager Gene Smith also said that decision is up to Del Rio and the coaching staff.

With Weaver backing off his stance, Del Rio having the choice of playing a rookie quarterback, and Weaver's comments about realistically being 2 years away... it sets up perfectly for Jack Del Rio to be back coach the Jaguars in the 2012 season. If Jack Del Rio starts a rookie quarterback in the 2011 season and the Jaguars miss the playoffs, it's an easy palpable excuse for Wayne Weaver to bring him back in 2012 without a big fan backlash.

I don't mean to call Frenette out on this, as it's his opinion, but I think he missed the mark entirely here.