For a few years now, many who kept up with the Jacksonville Jaguars, fan or not, saw this move coming. It wasn't a matter of if, but when.
The Jaguars fired coach Jack del Rio Tuesday after eight seasons. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will coach the team on an interim basis, and, according to ESPN.com, owner Wayne Weaver said that Tucker will get a chance to interview for the full-time job.
And, to boot, ESPN reports that Weaver is selling the team to businessman Shahid Khan, who will keep the team in Jacksonville, at least for now.
Is this the start of major changes in Jacksonvillle? It should be. The Jaguars haven't had a winning season since 2007, when they went 11-5, nor have they won their division since they were part of the AFC Central in 1999.
Del Rio's departure makes sense, and will surely change the aura surrounding the Jags, but more moves need to be made in order for the team to get back the legitimacy they have lost. Here are three of them:
- 1. Hire a coach that will inject toughness and a consistency of winning.
When Tom Coughlin was the head honcho from the Jags' inception in '95, he recorded four straight winning seasons from '96-'99, but then had three straight losing seasons en route to his firing in 2003. Del Rio had only back-to-back winning seasons in '04 and '05, but went .500 and worse the last four seasons. According to ESPN.com, the move to fire Del Rio during the season gives the Jags time to at least see whether premier ex-coaches such as Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Jeff Fisher have any interest. Any one of them may be exactly what the team needs, all of them carrying a hard-nosed pedigree of toughness. During their coaching tenures, Gruden went 60-57-0, Cowher went 149-90-1 and Fisher went 142-120-0. Del Rio: 68-71-0.
- 2. Develop Blaine Gabbert and draft more offense in the short-term.
In nine games as Jaguars starter, Gabbert has only thrown for 1,371 yards and six touchdowns, good for last in the league at pass yards per game. We know how strong the running game is with Maurice Jones-Drew being the franchise back. We know the defense is pretty good, too, placing fourth in the league in passing yards per game given up and 14th in the league in rushing yards per game given up. Nevertheless, the offense can still be better overall, but, in a quarterback-driven league, it starts with the quarterback. Coaches must find a way to get Gabbert to play to his 10th overall pick potential and would help that cause next year by drafting receivers and offensive linemen. This season, Gabbert has been nervous under pressure and inaccurate on short throws, so drafting the two aforementioned positions, coupled with Gabbert's progressive development, will help negate that.
- 3. Try and move to Los Angeles.
It will probably be even tougher for the Jaguars to court suitors in L.A. as much as it was for them to break into the NFL in 1995. But, if they were to pull it off, playing in a big market city would immediately propel their notoriety. The city of Jacksonville blacked out seven games in 2009 and came really close to blacking out the team's home opener against the Tennessee Titans this season, all proof of the lost interest among fans in the city. Moving is the long-term answer that doesn't need to happen immediately. But, if the Jags don't win starting next year, the move could come sooner than later.
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