This Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars will play host to the Cincinnati Bengals. To the national media, there's not much on the line, but to the Jacksonville Jaguars, everything's on the table.
Jack Del Rio has had some fine, fine moments as the Jaguars' head coach. Remember 2007? Do you remember David Garrard on 4th and 2 cutting through the Steelers defense to set up the game winning field goal in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers? Do you remember? I do.
I have wondered if I am the last remaining "keep Jack" guy out there, and I doubt that I am, but our numbers are dwindling. Some would say that it's crazy to continue to trust in a coach that's never had his team win the division, and I would tend to agree under different circumstances.
Let's face the facts here. Jack Del Rio took over a team that had just gone through it's first, and probably still largest, roster implosion. The team that Jack Del Rio took over in 2003 was terrible. Still, it wasn't long until he had turned it around and had the Jaguars competing at a high level.
Then the terrible drafts came. It wasn't like the Jaguars would hit on one guy and miss on the next. It was more like they'd hit on one guy in the draft and follow it up with 4 or 5 misses in a row. There's a reason Jack Del Rio has never won the AFC South. He's, frankly, never had the players.
There's another huge reason the Jaguars haven't won a division crown since the days of the AFC Central. Peyton Manning. This past summer, I did a lot of research on Peyton Manning, and I've found that he's at the top of virtually every significant passing stat in the history of the game. He's truly one of the greatest players to ever play, and he's been healthy, until recently, since he was drafted. We shouldn't be surprised that the Del Rio era has been tough as fans.
Now let me ask everyone a question. Is it really his fault that the Jaguars have no good wide receivers? Is it his fault that David Garrard didn't continue to develop into an elite quarterback? Is it his fault that they haven't had a talented team since 2007? No. He doesn't decide who is and isn't on the team. That's Gene Smith's job. Del Rio has a say in personnel moves, I'm sure, but he doesn't have the final say. My point boils down to one simple truth. You can't make a cake out of crap.
Sure, I'm disappointed that this season hasn't gone the Jaguars' way to this point, but I'm choosing to look on the bright side. Blaine Gabbert is the Jaguars' man of the future, and he's already showing flashes of brilliance. The defense is unbelievably better than it was last year. You don't think Del Rio, a defensive coach, had something to do with that improvement (new talent doesn't hurt either)? This team may have taken a step back on offense, but as a whole, the Jaguars are getting better.
I realize that it will be tough for Del Rio to keep his job, and I hope that he finds another great opportunity if he's forced out of Jacksonville. He's always done great things for the Jacksonville community, and it'd be a shame to have a good coach such as Del Rio lose his job to poor personnel decisions made by other people. Let's not forget Blaine Gabbert in all of this. The way to develop a young quarterback is not by putting him in a different offensive system every season. That doesn't work; just ask Alex Smith.
In all reality, I think it'd take 9 wins for Del Rio to keep his job. I don't think Wayne Weaver could legitimately justify firing his coach for getting a young team such as the Jaguars over .500. The season is still young, and the Jaguars' schedule has been brutal. At the very least, Del Rio deserves the rest of the season to turn it around. I'll be driving the "Del Rio Band Wagon" all season. Feel free to hop on.