Note: I know it isn’t the end of the season, but Hof’s latest Book It is making me feel an irresistible urge to look to the future.
With the 2011 season rapidly becoming a nearly hopeless situation for the Jaguars, I take comfort in knowing that whatever happens this offseason will be a restart, much like shaking an Etch-a-Sketch. The main components will still be there, Blaine Gabbert, Maurice Jones-Drew, Gene Smith (if he accepts his contract extension), TnT, a pair of solid safeties, solid corners, and developing linebackers; but there will be a new direction, a new approach, and new gains made.
It’s becoming pretty clear that Jack Del Rio will be on the way out. Treading water for nine years is too long for an NFL franchise. Unfortunately for Jack, this year he got too close to the bottom of the barrel. He’s had his moments of brilliance, but it’s time to move on. And it’s time to plant a flag and declare the next nine years to be the Jacksonville Era.
Like the 2000s belonged to the Patriots, Colts, and, to a lesser extent, the Steelers, so the ’10s will be the Jacksonville Era.
Looking at the past of great franchises, and their revivals, it is apparent that the rebuilding process centers on two things: The quarterback and the Head Coach. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, Bill Cowher and Ben Roethlisberger, even Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning (since he’s all the buzz right now….a ring helps too). If the coach is strong willed, smart, and a good leader he can generate a buzz and change a culture. He can take the Jags from treading water to swimming laps, and winning races! Look at Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. But similarly, the quarterback has to be willing to buy in, to lead, to promote his coaches schemes and to show the team why they can win, and do it. Matthew Stafford, when healthy is a good example.
So, how can the Jaguars make the ’10s their era? How can Jacksonville plant its flag in the earth and declare its right to supremacy?
This will start with the hiring of the new head coach. I don’t know who it could be, and I’m not going to speculate, but he needs to take a long look at what the Jags have in the cupboard. He needs to be a man, like Harbaugh, who is able to look at the roster that is built, and know which aspects are essential, which aspects will help win, and which aspects are cohesive with his coaching mentality, his schemes, and his work ethic. Then, he must look at what he brings and realize that tweaking his stance is more important to winning than his pride. Too often, a coach comes in and tries to only run what he wants to run. This can be seen with Pete Carroll in Seattle (yes, I’m calling this another failed venture for him after only two seasons) and the Brad Childress era in Minnesota. But how can the Jaguars address that in hiring?
Wayne Weaver and Gene Smith have begun to develop a rapport by hiring men of good character for their football team. The same will apply to the hiring of the third head coach for Jacksonville. The vetting process will be tough and the team will have to be somewhat flexible. But I doubt they will find a guy who is obstinately opposed to the same process they’ve been following. But that man has to be aggressive, he has to be driven, and he has to know how to get stuff done.
Looking at the roster the Jaguars have developed, I’ve got a lot of confidence in what comes next.
- Luke N. Sims
Note: I’m also an optimist.