Gene Smith: Jacksonville’s McRib

Seemingly every year the McDonald’s McRib regains popularity.  Commercials about how its back and that it was ever eatable flood the television.  It disappears for nine months and comes roaring back.  This is how I see Gene Smith.  This is how hope and time can mask the inevitable disappointment.  I imagine people talk about Gene Smith’s drafts and the rereleases of the McRib about the same:

Guy 1: “Dude, it’s that time again! It’s gonna be great, I just know it!”

Guy 2: “Are you sure?  I’m pretty sure it’s disappointed you every time in the past.”

Guy 1: “Whatever, man, I know it’s gonna work out this time!!”

Guy 2: “Okay, buddy, but when you are left frustrated and defending your choice to every single person you talk to, just remember that you go through this every year.”

Like the McRib, GM Gene Smith leaves everyone who sides with him constantly on the defensive.  While it is usually 1st round picks like Alualu and (to a lesser extent) Gabbert that Gene surprises people with, this year he decided to make his 3rd round draft choice a national talking point.  Bryan Anger, through no fault of his own, has made the Jaguars a laughing stock throughout the sports world.  Even if he becomes a perennial pro bowler, he is still a punter drafted in the third round, where solid defensive and offensive contributors can be found.  Just based on Jaguars’ recent draft history, do you think Derek Cox, Terrance Knighton, and Will Rackley are as equally valuable as a punter?  They were all 3rd round picks.  They are all starters.  I don’t care what the Jaguars say, a punter is never considered a starter.  There are about 900 plays a year on each offense and defense, and about 100 plays of special teams.  If you are looking for a “starter” on one of the three, which one seems more valuable?

Unfortunately, after hours of research, I have discovered that “Back to the Future” is based in fiction and time travel is currently not possible.  But I don’t care.  I looked at the draft results and compiled a list of prospects the Jaguars could have drafted instead of Brian Anger that could contribute to our team and still meet the value of a 3rd round pick.

Brandon Taylor, S, LSU – The 3rd ranked strong safety in the draft, Taylor started 33 consecutive games for one of the top defenses in country.  A strong and quick defender with considerable experience in big games against top-level talent in the SEC.  Lacks great one-on-one coverage ability and operating in space but has a high football IQ. (Drafted: #73, Chargers)

Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State - Projected to get drafted in the second round but was still available when the Jags drafted in the third round with the #70 overall pick.  Agreat pass rush can win a lot of games and the Jags had a great opportunity to get an excellent value pick in Crawford to pair with Andre Branch.  He is a quick, athletic player and at 6’4”, 275lbs, he has excellent size.  Still kind of raw but succeeded at the JuCo and Division I levels so there is definitely growth potential if he can learn from coaches and veteran players. (Drafted: #81, Cowboys)

Sean Spence, OLB, Miami(FL) – A little undersized at 5’11”, 230lbs, he has shown that he can overcome his lack of ideal size by being a film room junkie.  He has excellent read-and -react ability, strong coverage skills, and is a fierce natural leader on the field.  He is also quite fast for a linebacker. (Drafted: #86, Steelers)

Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington – I wrote about this beast in the middle a few weeks ago, and I still believe he could help our interior.  He is 6’3”, 350lbs, but reportedly has surprising quickness and has the wide frame to plug up the middle and take on multiple blockers to free up other defenders.  Ta’amu has short arms and isn’t great pursuing downfield.  I don’t care if he can’t catch Chris Johnson from behind if he can keep Johnson from getting there. (Drafted: #109, Steelers)

T.Y. Hilton, WR, FIU – Hilton was a topic of conversation on ESPN, CBS, and the NFL Network in the days leading up to the draft as being a dark horse draft pick after round one.  Playing for FIU will never garner very much attention, but he has shown excellent potential.  Hilton ran a 4.37 40 at the combine and runs strong, clean routes.  Has the size and speed to be a DeSean Jackson, minus the mind-numbing baggage. (Drafted: #92, Colts)

Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia – Boykin’s stock dropped when he broke his fibula in the Senior Bowl and couldn’t work out at the combine or UGA’s pro day.  On film it is clear that he has elite speed (reportedly clocked at sub-4.4 sec in the 40 multiple times) and is good in tight coverage situations.  He is aggressive in run support and works hard to overcome his smaller build.  He was also an excellent return specialist.  Could be valuable if his versatility is utilized as a nickel corner and punt returner. (Drafted: #123, Eagles)

Chris Rainey, RB, Florida – Rainey may not be the prototypical “Gene guy”  given his text messaging history, but head coach Mike Mularkey was the only NFL H.C. at the Gators’ pro day and specifically cited Rainey as a player of interest.  He could have been the Jags’ guy in the fourth, but that pick was wisely traded for Justin Blackmon.  Not having a fourth, however, could have led the Jaguars to reach for a playmaker like Rainey, who arguably could be valued higher on a pure talent basis.  He was also available when the Jaguars drafted in the fifth round.  He was extremely versatile in college, with successful stints at running back, wide receiver, punt/kick returner, and punt/field goal blocker.  He is quite possibly the fastest player in the 2012 draft and has great hands, field vision, and cutting ability.  Rainey isn’t a good run blocker or pass protector.  At 5’8”, 180lbs, and a history of shoulder issues, his durability as an NFL player is in question.  He also has some character issues.   But the Saints (with Reggie Bush and then Darren Sproles) have shown that an undersized player with speed and soft hands can be very valuable as both a playmaker and a decoy and can immediately boost your team’s short yardage offense. (Drafted: #159, Steelers)

The Jaguars had the potential to have one of the best drafts of 2012 and one of the best in team history.  We got our potential star in Blackmon, a highly coveted pass rusher in Branch, and addressed weaknesses in special teams and defense.  However, drafting Brian Anger in the 3rd round was a total whiff by the Jaguars.  In his senior season, Anger averaged 44.2 yards per punt.  This would rank him tied for 22nd in the NFL in 2011 (according to   It is only 1.5 yards more than Nick Harris, who was the Jags punter for the last 11 weeks of 2011.  A 3rd round pick to put a team on the 36 yard line instead of the 38 yard line and plays in 10.3% of the game?  What about a player that can score touchdowns, stop the run, or buy Blaine an extra second in the pocket?  Is that not worth an average NFL punter?  The Jaguars and their fans already have to deal with chatter about low ticket sales, underachieving players, and tarps in the stands.

Why did Gene have to pile on more internal and external criticism?


-Lionel Joel

Next Jaguars Game View full schedule »
Friday, Aug 2222 Aug7:30at Detroit LionsBuy Tickets

Tags: 2012 NFL Draft Brian Anger Gene Smith Jacksonville Jaguars McRib

  • LukeNSims

    Very well laid out Lionel!  Excellent piece!
    Also, I hate McRibs…

  • KeenanJ

    I think this article is shortsighted to an extent. While I was shocked when the pick was announced, I fully understand the logic behind the decision. First, I don’t think one of those players you named would’ve came here and cracked the starting lineup with the roster at it stands. With that being said, I don’t think any of them would’ve had as big of an impact as Anger is going to have. It’s been constantly said that we could’ve gotten him later but without a 4th round pick and him having 3rd-4th round grade (per cbs sports), I doubt he would’ve made it to our 5th round pick. It has even been rumored that the Rams intended to take him with their first pick in the beginning of 4th, meaning he still wouldn’t have been there if we still had our 4th round pick. Simply put, I find the premise of this article to be shamefully discrediting to the job Gene has done putting this team together.

  • KeenanJ

    Also, a punter is only as valuable to the extent that you value field position. The way you used his stats does not tell the whole story either. I think it’s unfair to state how many of his punts did he pin the opposing team behind their twenty (what he was brought here to do). I don’t care if anyone thinks the pick will ever be able to be justified or not but if it’s going to be debated, it’s only right that both sides of the story be presented fairly and I don’t think that’s been done among most observers. The people on NFL Network hasn’t downed the pick as bad as the local media and the ‘fans’ have.

  • KeenanJ

    *I think i’ts unfair to not state how many of his punts…

  • LukeNSims

     @KeenanJ Do you think the Rams would have received ridicule using their 4th rounder on him?

  • KeenanJ

     @LukeNSims That’s a fair question and I’m inclined to think that most of the ridicule probably would’ve come from their local fan base. I think they would’ve received a better review from the media, especially with them having so many picks, it would’ve been easier to justify spending an early 4th on punter, especially one of Anger’s stature. Funny thing about this though, is since it was the Rams that was rumored to be interested in him, that would make it twice in one draft that we stuck it to Jeff Fisher and that’s a wonderful thought.
    Back to Anger. I think the decision will be pardoned once it’s all said and done. Just imagine the benefits of having a punter like him in the playoffs. As Rich Eisen said after we drafted him, “He’s not a punter, he’s a weapon.” And I fully believe that will be the case with Anger.

  • GrasshopperNijinsky

     “Shamefully discrediting” might be going a little too far.  I’m pretty sure I said Gene’s draft has potential to be the best of the year and the best in Jaguars’ history.  The purpose of this article is to point out what a third round pick is worth and how the Jaguars have consistently found starters in the third round. Real starters.  Maybe none of those players would start this year, but they would add depth to our roster at positions where depth is needed according to NFL analysts and the Jaguars’ front office alike.  Maybe Brian Anger will be great, but I prefer to have a player that can directly score touchdowns or stop touchdowns over a guy who has a minimal impact on the outcome of the game percentage-wise.  If star punters possessed the ability to change the outcome of games on such a regular basis and equalled the value of an every down starter, I believe they would have voted at least one into the Hall of fame by now.  I’m glad you are satisfied with the choice.  Here at B&T we offer both sides of every issue, so if you are searching for an article to make you feel more secure about your opinion, I refer you to my colleague Terry O’Brian’s elloquently written article “I am ok with a Punter”.    
    - LJ

  • LaurenAlderman

     @GrasshopperNijinsky Well said. I think our team has potential but some of Gene Smith’s choices have held us back, and I’m not just talking about the draft although that too was a disappointment. Let’s not forget without the fans there are no Jacksonville Jaguars no one cares more about our team than us.

  • LukeNSims

     @GrasshopperNijinsky  @KeenanJ I wonder if the punter will ever go the way of the dinosaur.  I know that some people, when discussing fourth downs say that the odds of trying for it and only succeeding 55% of the time makes it worth it.
    I am decently fine with having a better punter (Lord knows we needed it!), but it’d be interesting if one day a team just decides to not carry one with them.

  • LukeNSims

     @KeenanJ I’m inclined to agree.  I thought Rich was being sarcastic mostly, but field position is a part of the game after all.  It would be great to stick it to the Rams, but I do love Jeff Fischer.

  • KeenanJ

     @LukeNSims Indeed, Rich was definately being sarcastic but I find a grain of truth in it. Also, I meant no disrespect to Fisher because I respect him as a man, just not a fan of the coach because of all his years with the Titans. Since he’s in a different conference, I wish him the best unless somehow the Jags and Rams meet in the Super Bowl.

  • KeenanJ

     @LaurenAlderman  Please tell me one thing, other than the Podlesh thing, that Gene has done to hold this team back.I don’t even hold the Podlesh debacle against when all things are considered.

  • KeenanJ

     @GrasshopperNijinsky I respect your opinion but honestly, a third round pick is only worth as much as the player selected. We’ve been fortunate with our third round picks under Gene but it’s not the norm. Most teams don’t get much out of third round picks and even ex-NFL front office personnel has said that most players coming out of the third round are developmental players. Look, I’m not saying a punter is worth the 70th overall pick but it appears that Anger is special enough to eventually make up for his pick. I’m not saying that he will or that he is at the moment but to say that he can’t ever be worth it is unreasonable before we see what the guy can do. Laslty, if Anger can consistently flip the field, then he can help stop touchdowns, albeit in an indirect manner.

  • LaurenAlderman

     @KeenanJ  Well let’s just look back to last year…. Remember when he drafted Blaine Gabbert and said the purpose of drafting him was to train him behind David Garrard? Then 5 days before the season opener, who got fired? David Garrard. Drafting a punter in the 3rd round certainly didn’t help the reviews for him. Also, on the draft he even admitted signing Lee Evans and Laurent Robinson was a mistake. Well, at least he’s consistent I guess…

  • KeenanJ

     @LaurenAlderman I wouldn’t put the Garrard situation squarely on his shoulders, as I’m sure he isn’t the only who had say in the situation. I’m grateful Blaine fell and we we’re able to get him because I wouldn’t want to image what our QB situation would be if he wasn’t here. Also, he said that about Evans and Robinson? I’d appreciate it if you pointed to me where he said this.