It seems obvious, doesn’t it? The new Jacksonville Jaguars’front office and head coach will have to break from the obviously failing ways of the past in order to be successful. That’s the whole gist of the rebuild. However, I was really struck at how bad the situation was when I was reading Pro Football Focus’ draft grades from 2008-2010.
The grades obviously don’t dwell on the two most recent draft years as those players have yet to pan out. That said, the news from ex-GM Gene Smith’s early tenure (his best drafts) is bad.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with PFF’s draft grading system, it ranges from -2 to +2 with 0 being the norm or average of a player at a position. Players fall at points of -2, -1.5, -1.0… and so on. For the -2s and +2s you need to have drafted either Ryan Leaf or Tom Brady, respectively. The Jaguars don’t have anybody at either -2 or +2, but they have a whole jumble of mediocre to underperforming players.
As discussed numerous times on B&T, the best pick for Gene Smith was easily his first-ever pick: Eugene Monroe at number eight overall in 2009. PFF agrees and grades him as the only +1 player for the Jags. Smith’s other first round pick, Tyson Alualu, picked up a grade of -1.
Fortunately, the Jaguars from 2009-2010 only have three drafted players graded negatively. This should bode well for them. It doesn’t.
Looking at the grades PFF has given the Jags’ drafted players from ’09-’10, I would have expected more players to be graded negatively. Though, as a fan, I expect the Jaguars to play hard and win games. Losing is not factored into PFF’s grading system, so it fits that the players could have just been mediocre, resulting in losses. This is what happened and was the major flaw behind Gene Smith’s approach as general manager.
Smith pursued “base hits” that were going to lift the Jaguars up out of mediocrity by providing depth and strong contributors. He did this with players like Terrance Knighton, Derek Cox, and Austen Lane. None of the players he drafted in ’09 or ’10 were players that could carry a game, however. Even a talented left tackle like Monroe can only give the players behind him the opportunity to make plays.
The playmakers expected to make plays were all from the previous Shack Harris regime. Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis were the big names for the Jaguars. Just two players, neither of which were a quarterback. Rather than rectify this problem, the “base hit” approach that Smith utilized was not strong enough – and the level of play of these “base hits” wasn’t high enough – to create more playmakers and force teams to respect other parts of the game.
The “base hit” strategy should be used as a complement to a team full of playmakers. It is not a strategy to rebuild a team. At some point you need to find players that can change games and add them to your roster. You need to go for the home run. Base hits sound good, but in football you need to add top-notch talent more than average-above average talent if you want to keep getting better.
The new Jaguar regime understands this and new GM Dave Caldwell has noted that he is going to try and hit it out of the park every time. In order to succeed the new regime must not get caught in the “base hit” mentality that pervaded the team for the past four years. If the Julio Jones trade is an indication that Caldwell will not grow complacent and is always looking for players who can alter the game to add to the roster, then I trust that the Jaguars will continue to swing for the fences every time.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims