Going into this season, I thought the Jaguars had a very good chance of winning the AFC South. I admit, I was more optimistic than most, but that was the direction I felt the franchise was headed towards.
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Even in Peyton Manning's absence, the Jaguars haven't been able to get a grip on the division, or many of their opponents for that matter. The Jaguars are exactly halfway done with their 2011 campaign (barring a miracle). At this point, it's time to look at the present and the future. It's almost a certainty that the Jaguars will have brand new coaches next season, and it's possible they'll have an entirely new personnel department as well. All that being said, the Jaguars do have a lot of core players already in place.
Tyson Alualu hasn't had the great season that he had last year, but he's also been fighting an injury most of the way. That being said, he's still being disruptive, especially in recent weeks. He was a great pick by Gene Smith, and I don't think many people are arguing that.
Terrance Knighton, the other DT on the team, was another great pick by Gene Smith. He's incredibly powerful, and he forces offenses to plan around him. Both of those players will be anchoring this team for many years to come.
The offensive side of the ball is an entirely different story. In all reality, I think the Jaguars are missing a couple good receivers. Mike Thomas, with some other receiving talent, would be moved to the slot position, something he would likely excel at, and he'd be able to be the full-time punt returner.
That's really about all the Jaguars are desperate for. The offensive line has to be able to protect Blaine Gabbert better and longer, and that'll likely be fixed in the coming off-season. Maurice Jones-Drew is as good now as he's ever been, and the Jaguars can look forward to getting Rashad Jennings back for next season.
Make no mistake about the current situation. Jack Del Rio and most, if not all, of his coaching staff will be gone next season. I don't think the situation is as toxic as it could be, and that's largely a credit to both the players and the coaches of the team. They haven't given up yet, and they seem willing to grind it out until the season ends. And when it does, Jack Del Rio will likely move on. Many fans, myself included, thought that the Jaguars' next head coach would be either Dirk Koetter or Mel Tucker. Koetter's stock is sharply down this year, and that's not really his fault. He simply hasn't been able to work with a talented offense as he was last year. I'm not saying the 2010 offense was out-of-this-world, but I am saying it was better, much better.
Mel Tucker may still be on the short list for the opportunity to become this teams head coach. He came from a 3-4 background, and he's adapted to the 4-3 incredibly well. This has been his first year calling the defensive plays, and that may win him extra points with the fans, but it's not likely to gain him major points with owner, Wayne Weaver. While I think his chance of becoming the Jaguars third head coach in their history is slim, I would like to see the next head coach keep him around. He's done a great job bringing together a unit that is made up of a variety of free agents and young players. He's the guy I'll be keeping my eyes on once the season's over.
I'm not going to speculate about who will be the Jaguars next head coach. I tend to think it'll be a guy that's already established himself as a head coach, whether that be in college or in the pros. That's, at least, my hope in the situation. As for the cries to fire Del Rio now; I can only ask why? It won't make the team any better, and it would accomplish nothing. This is his ninth season with the team, and he's at least earned the right to ride it out for the rest of the season.