Editor’s Note: This is a post from new contributor Lionel Joel. He provides very good insight into the Jags and does good research in comparison to other teams. He’s a welcome addition to us here at B&T.
So the Jaguars did not come out of last week with Tim Tebow, the most polarizing athlete in recent memory. That’s fine. Jacksonville is already full in that department anyway. Gene Smith, depending on who you talk to, is either a calculating genius who is meticulously building a franchise that will dominate the AFC South for a decade or a dim-witted buffoon who seems to choose his draft picks and free agents out of a hat. And doubtful are the reports that he was courtside at last weekend’s Division II basketball championship between Western Washington and Montevallo to scout for his big board. Regardless of your stance, Gene Smith has a plan and is sticking to it.
When evaluating the success of Gene’s GM tenure, it is hard to look past his 20-28 record. Do it anyway. First, it is clear that he has succeeded in turning a once complacent, lackluster roster into one that works hard and is committed to the city and team. Second, he is finally getting the pieces that are most important in building a winning NFL team: a hungry coach and quarterback. Mike Mularkey came to Jacksonville eager to prove that he can be an elite NFL head coach after five seasons of bouncing around the NFL with different assistant coaching positions. He inherits Blaine Gabbert coming off a disastrous rookie season and looks to utilize the knowledge and experience he gained while helping Matt Ryan become an efficient, successful quarterback. If that happens to hit the skids, the (sort of) reliable Chad Henne is now there if damage control becomes a necessity. Now that Gene Smith has his own coach and quarterback(s) in place, there is nowhere for his “plan” to hide.
Since becoming the GM of the Jags, Gene Smith has stated time and again that the draft is where you build a winning team. He has had three drafts with a combined total of 20 draft picks overall. Of those 20 picks, only six came from a school in one of the “big six” conferences (Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Mike Thomas, Tiquan Underwood, Tyson Alualu, and Blaine Gabbert). Over this same stretch, perennial powers like Baltimore, New England, and New Orleans have drafted almost exclusively from major college programs. In fact, the vast majority of NFL franchises favor college players that come from high-profile, high-exposure, traditional schools.
Not Gene Smith. Not the Jaguars.
Gene has made it clear that he prefers to build around character, potential, and anonymity. That has been his philosophy in the draft and his philosophy in free agency.
Well Gene, the fans are about to call in your debts. No longer will they shoulder the burden of buying tickets and merchandise based on future success potential. No longer will patience be a suitable excuse for failure. No longer will a starved fanbase that has been to the playoffs twice in twelve years allow delayed success. Some fans want to see Gene exalted, others want him exiled. Most want Gene to succeed just to see that talking Eddie Munster hairdo called Mel have to backtrack on his comments about our drafts. But all want to see Jaguars football in late January.
It all falls on Gene. It falls on his strategy. It’s all or nothing.
– Lionel Joel