The Jacksonville Jaguars have had two head coaches in team history. Now they’re about to have a third.
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver finally put Jack Del Rio out of his misery early Tuesday morning, reportedly firing the second head coach in franchise history. It’s the first head coaching move as we drift into December, and Black Monday looms.
Del Rio’s been getting paid for several years now while he’s been forced to battle through heavy scrutiny and lingering questions about his employment. Two years ago when there was a head coaching vacancy at USC, where Del Rio was once an All-American linebacker, he was reportedly sent a contract and left it unsigned, staying in Jacksonville and declining an opportunity to bolt for California and coach the Trojans.
The USC vacancy was then filled by Lane Kiffin, and the indecisive Weaver made a feeble public announcement after swinging and missing in a coaching search. He endorsed Del Rio and announced that he’d stay on, although like Stephen Ross in Miami last year and his handling of Tony Sparano, those words were hollow after Weaver was actively and openly looking elsewhere.
The hidden reality that Weaver never confessed is that Del Rio was likely allowed to stay aboard because of his recently signed contract extension, and canning him prior to the 2010 season would have led to a payout of $16 million. That sum decreased to $10 million last year, yet Del Rio was still allowed to survive the winter while again facing intense scrutiny, likely due to a hesitancy to change coaches because of the uncertainty of the labor unrest.
And so now the end has finally come for Del Rio, and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will reportedly step in as the interim head coach in Jacksonville. Del Rio’s record (68-71) and lack of success that spanned five games shy of nine full seasons is the simple reason for his demise, although in fairness this year management deserves equal blame after abruptly and oddly cutting David Garrard, and saddling the offense with a rookie quarterback who clearly isn’t ready to start. Del Rio’s Jaguars finished with a winning record only three times.
Despite being in contention for either the division or a wild card playoff berth on multiple occasions, Del Rio’s Jaguars only qualified for the playoffs twice, winning just one post-season game. This year’s record (3-8) isn’t surprising for a rebuilding team, but Del Rio had his chances, and combined between 2009 and 2010 a team very much in control of its playoff destiny heading into the stretch run lost seven games played beyond Week 13.
That’s not a team or a coach with the ability to close, and Weaver finally summoned the gumption to move on.