Gene Smith was promoted as the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars in January of 2009 after James "Shack" Harris resigned as the team's personnel director. Harris resigned after the 2008 season, when the team thought they were close to making a Super Bowl run and struck out in magnificent fashion, going 5-11 a season just after cruising into the playoffs and getting knocked out in the second round.
"The changes we are making will bring greater clarity in responsibilities, 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," former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said in a statement when Gene Smith was promoted to general manager back in 2009.
Part of the problem I personally had with fans and most media alike shoveling all the dirt on Shack Harris was the fact that there was no clear cut decision maker. It was now made clear who would be responsible going forward if there was a failure in personnel and drafting. In the past, it was a three headed monster and Harris, Smith, and Jack Del Rio had to agree on the personnel.
Now, it was all on Gene Smith.
"The expectation is to give our coaching staff a competitive advantage," Gene Smith said in the press conference after he was hired. "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. We have a staff of quality people who drive the process, and the player personnel department will continue to work with the coaching staff to collectively accumulate not only the best players, but the best people who possess our defined character traits," Smith said.
Through the first quarter of the 2012 NFL season, the Jaguars look like they've hit into far more double plays than they've scored runs. They look nothing close to a playoff-caliber football team and they barely look competitive most weeks, even against bad football teams.
The staff has seemingly failed at accumulating "the best players".
The easy notion is to pin Gene Smith's failures on second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who despite some improvement, still hasn't been much more than mediocre on the football field. Gabbert was atrocious during his rookie season in 2011 and is just slightly better during the 2012 season. While Gabbert hasn't been great, he certainly hasn't been terrible, but when you draft a quarterback in the Top 10 of the draft he needs to be more than "not terrible" in his second season.
What is likely to ultimately cost Gene Smith is job however, is just poor roster construction overall. The problems on the Jaguars when Gene Smith took over were long-term answer at the quarterback position, the wide receiver position, and a pass rush. In the fourth year of the "four-year plan" the problems on the Jaguars are still long-term answer at quarterback, the wide receiver position, and a pass rush.
Not counting the 2012 draft, because it's still even a bit early to judge that one, Gene Smith has netted just two players who I consider "good". Left tackle Eugene Monroe and cornerback Derek Cox. Outside of those two players, the draft picks have been average to poor, across the board.
Some fans will argue that Terrance Knighton is a good player, and he can be at times, but in his contract year the Jaguars are one of the worst teams against the run and that's what Knighton does the best. The Jaguars have Knighton and Top 10 pick Tyson Alualu starting on their defensive line and they've been gashed by the run all year. These players can't be playing well if that's happening. You can't take average football players in the Top 10, either. They need to be difference makers.
Under Gene Smith's tenure, the Jaguars have gone 7-9, 8-8, 5-11, and start the 2012 season with a 1-3 record for just the fourth time in franchise history.
Unless there is some magic switch the Jaguars can flip this week and finish out the season looking a lot better than they have, it's hard to imagine Gene Smith keeping his job beyond the season. Somehow, this football team has gotten worse and doesn't even look like it can compete with average football teams. Against one of the worst defenses in the NFL on Sunday, the Jaguars offense struggled to score 10 points. The quarterback was just average, the offensive line was a sieve at some spots, and the Bengals didn't fear the Jaguars "new" wide receivers one bit, even with four of their top cornerbacks inactive for the game.
Shad Khan has to do some serious evaluation come season's end on the front office, because as it stands right now Gene Smith makes Shack Harris look like an average general manager. Harris at least kept the team competitive and drafted some playmakers. Gene Smith has drafted two good players so far, and somehow the team has progressively gotten worse under his direction.
Firing Gene Smith, who got a three-year contract extension prior to the season, will get the process started on going a new direction. Then, the problem you run into is sticking your new general manager with Mike Mularkey and Blaine Gabbert, which isn't fair to the new general manager to be stuck with the past regimes mistakes. It's similar to bringing Mularkey in with Blaine Gabbert already here. While I think the team can still hang on to Gabbert as a cost-controlled young back up player, can they keep Mike Mularkey too?
One person I talked to estimated that completely wiping the slate of Smith, Mularkey, and Gabbert would cost Shad Khan roughly $18 million. That's a lot for any businessman to just flush down the toilet for one season. Khan has to weigh that however, with what could happen if those three are here for another season and nothing improves.
What you put on the field as a general manager says everything about how you've done your job. Right now, the Jaguars are putting arguably the worst football team in the NFL and the team is predominantly composed of "Gene Smith guys".
There's not even really anything to get excited about this season. The team has won 6 out of their last 23 games.
The simple fact is, the Jaguars lack talent and there is only one person responsible for that.