[Editor Note: When coming over to Black and Teal, I was happy to be joined by Zoltan Paska and his wonderful perspectives. Zoltan writes me one day and tells me Phillip Blair has resurfaced. Phillip was one of our favorites and so we asked him to write something. He agreed. So without further fanfare, let me introduce the first piece authored by Mr. Blair. - Welcome Phillip! ]
During a time of slight boredom and an ever increasing curiosity in the days ahead, fans of that one team down in Florida—who are they again?—have plenty to digest. The off season has been colored with quite a few notable events, and it has further reinforced the mission of rebuilding which began a little over one year ago.
During the last several months, residing head coach Jack Del Rio dodged the bullet and retained his job. Several members of the organization have departed for other teams, and in the process, JDR’s inner circle was successfully disbanded. With only one leg to stand on this season, it would seem JDR has reached the end of his rope. It would also seem, in a way, that owner Wayne Weaver has given him the last remaining slack of cord for the upcoming season. Success or failure could prove to be the determining factor in JDR’s continuing stead in Jacksonville.
Throughout the upcoming months, JDR will work together with beloved General Manager Gene Smith, and the two will put in hours of hard work to assemble what fans hope can eventually become a championship caliber team. However, there are several challenges the team’s head coach must face, and some question marks that remain to be answered for this to take place.
Jack Del Rio’s credibility has been damaged. Has he lost respect from the players?
It doesn’t take any type of genius to understand that JDR’s reputation has suffered throughout the past couple of seasons. JDR was under close scrutiny by the fans during the 2009 season, and then he underwent a close examination of his coaching practices by Mr. Weaver. Gene Smith has kept him on a short lease, and all of this has been surely noticeable by the team. Not to mention the media has recently been shredding him to pieces, or so it would seem.
Will JDR be able to regroup his young football team, and will the players be receptive to his messages throughout the season? Every football fan knows that a head coach is more of a philosopher, a cheerleader of sorts. He manages the coaching staff, evaluates the players, and is the “head honcho” on the field, but determinations of a player’s status is almost always made by each position coach. Position coaches must have a strong dedication and sense of “buying in” to what the head coach is teaching and preaching. With all that has taken place, his job has become much more difficult.
Luckily, I honestly believe opinions and perspectives can easily change. With hard work, grit, and by showing that he is still truly committed to establishing a high-caliber team, I believe the young group of players will be true professionals and have no trouble drinking the kool-aid JDR puts out. The biggest question is how effectively JDR will operate as a head coach now that his supporting cast of inner-circle coaches is out of the picture. Will he reach out to his current staff and establish a lasting rapport, or will the constant hiring and subsequent firing of coaches continue? Many outstanding coaches have departed from the team in years past solely because of JDR’s coaching style. Only time will tell if the winds of change have actually changed anything at all.
Since the Gene Smith era began, the G.M. has made every effort to put highly talented football players who are leaders of men on the field. Great strides in the receiving corps were made last season, but several areas on the team still need to be addressed. The defensive line and the secondary is still an issue, and these two areas will no doubt become a focus in this year’s draft. However, Smith will also be keeping a close eye on the development of his crop of players from last year. With what many fans believe to be a blockbuster draft by the Jaguars, last year’s draft picks showed plenty of promise throughout the 2009 season. Will the second year players continue to improve, or will they regress? Inconsistency has always been a trend during the JDR era. Will it continue?
Part of JDR’s responsibility is to ensure the development of his football team. A great leader establishes a tightly knit rapport with his staff, thereby ensuring his team of coaches instills the philosophies and teachings of their trade into results by the players. The closer his coaching staff becomes, in ideology and overall commitment, the more productive this team will become. JDR must ensure his coaching staff is just as committed as his players are, and only then will this team see the strides in development the fans so badly seek to enjoy.
Can JDR ensure the second year players continue to improve or will they hit their sophomore slump? CB Derek Cox has a huge ceiling and could develop into a dominant force against top wide-outs of the AFC South, such as Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne. DT Terrance Knighton has already opened the eyes of many around the league, and the team takes comfort in knowing the offensive line will be anchored for the next 10 plus years by 2009’s 1st and 2nd round draft picks. It all sounds so lovely, right?
Maybe not for JDR. The more talent this team acquires, the higher the expectations for the head coach. He is being given every opportunity for success as Smith is bound and determined to produce results for Mr. Weaver. One season is all that is left. The expectations are high, not to win a Super Bowl, but to improve and become consistent. This is it, Jack. Through it all, I’m still amazed at how hard it is for me to dislike JDR, and I hope he rises to the challenge. The fans are waiting, hoping with fervent anticipation for everything to click for JDR, his staff, and the team. For better or for worst, we love our Jaguars.
– Phillip Blair
[Terry's take: JDR has his flaws, no doubt. I do, however, understand Phillips feeling of finding it hard to dislike Jack. I will say he has produced motivated teams in his time. I guess I root for him to do well. Being a season ticket holder, I want some excitement in the stadium! Thanks Phillip. ]