Fire Del Rio? Don’t Be Stupid…

Posted: August 5, 2011 in Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Someone who called himself Louie called Jeff Prosser on 1010XL’s “Sports Final Radio” the other day and blurted out, “Now that the Jaguars have shored up their defense with all of these free agents signings it’s time to get rid of Del Rio. Right now.”

While I appreciated Louie’s passion, is it possible he realized how stupid he sounded? Yeah, yeah…sports fans don’t have to be smart or even reasonable, but Louie’s comment was over the top on both counts.

The Jaguars’ defense in 2010 was lousy, particularly in the second half of the season after defensive end Aaron Kampman went down with an injury. The pass rush was horrible, the linebacker play was just as bad and the secondary, given the lack of support from the front seven, was as effective as a screen door is blocking the wind.

There’s no question the defense will be improved in 2011. It can’t get much worse, can it? The signings of linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session and cornerback Drew Coleman are a major upgrade. Kampman has mended and we’re told second-year pass rusher Austen Lane has shown significant progress.

Now, back to Louie. With the defense so bad, what did Louie expect Coach Jack Del Rio to do? Suit up himself? If you agree the Jaguars had major issues with personnel – as Louie did – how can you then blame the coach? Isn’t that like blaming the chef for a bad meal if all he had to work with was bread and water?

Louie isn’t alone in his dislike of Del Rio. There’s no question his popularity with the fan base is low. His job security is on life support.

But once again I come to Del Rio’s defense because I don’t think he’s been given the players to produce a playoff team. Sure, he’s made his share of mistakes and deserves to be on the warm seat. There have been times when the team seemed unmotivated. He has made a bad habit of blaming his assistants. That’s obvious by the turnover on his staff.

But fire him? Ridiculous.

I’ve pointed out on many occasions that only tight end Marcedes Lewis remains on the roster of the first-round draft picks and big-time free agents acquired during James Harris’ six-year run (2003-08) as head of the team’s personnel department. Those players should be the nucleus of the Jaguars’ team right now. Under similar circumstances what coach would have been successful?

As far as I’m concerned Del Rio’s beginning his third season, not his ninth. Keep in mind he still doesn’t exactly have a team of stars. The pass rush remains questionable, which is a major problem for a team in the same division as quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub and plays a schedule this season that matches it against such QBs as Matt Hasselback, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan. And who on the team besides Mike Thomas is a proven NFL wide receiver?

But General Manager Gene Smith has improved the roster. The bottom of the Jaguars roster is solid and the special teams are among the league’s best. Now moves have been made to strengthen the starting lineups..

I’m also a firm believer that Del Rio has improved as a coach since Owner Wayne Weaver hired him off the Carolina Panthers’ staff in 2003. In fact, I think Del Rio did his best coaching in 2010. Yeah, I know about the late season collapse last year. I know this team has developed a bad habit of finishing seasons on a bad note. But I make the case that the late season collapses are the result of a lack of depth. In other words, not enough talented players.

So take off your “Fire JDR” buttons and think about the fact that the Jaguars were still in the playoff hunt last season as late Dec.19. Just to get to that point means the Jaguars were overachieving. Credit Del Rio and his staff.

There is no magic in coaching in a league as competitive as the NFL. Sure, some coaches are better than others, but in the long run winning comes down to having better players who make plays at the right times and stay healthy.

I contend the general manager has become more important than the coach in the NFL.

So while I appreciate Louie’s passion and understand his frustration, firing Del Rio would only be making change for the sake of changing. Del Rio deserved another chance to turn around the franchise. Keeping Del Rio was a wise decision by Weaver.

Now the roster is stronger. Higher expectations are reasonable. The playoffs? Maybe. As for Del Rio’s future after this season . . . well, check back with me in January.


  1. Clip Hopkins says:

    Let’s see, we should give Del Rio credit for holding the Jags in there till late in the season but don’t blame him for the collapse at the end.

  2. Del Rio’s been our head coach since 2003. That’s 8 season’s and counting at 65-63. That’s mediocrity at it’s best. I hear what you’re saying, but he has to take some of the blame for our inability to win consistently over the past 8 years! I know we’re rebuilding now, but we had high hopes before and he’s let us down. Especially considering who he drafted while he was in charge.

    If he were playing for ANY other team, he would have been fired by now. Although I fully expect Weaver to allow him to coach out his contract, unless we pull a 4-12 (I doubt it, GM Gene has brought in some serious talent, like you mentioned).

    BTW, love the article, I just disagree. We will never be a serious threat with Del Rio at the helm.

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