Some seats are definitely warm, and it’s not due to the blistering heat we’ve experienced this summer. It’s due to the fire being brought forth to head coaches in the NFL by fans and owners. Winning is expected and, quite frankly, demanded RIGHT NOW! No more signs of progress followed by steps back. No more trips to the playoffs followed by years of mediocrity. That’s essentially what’s happened down in Jacksonville with the Jaguars, and that’s why Jack Del Rio is feeling heat.
I had an opportunity to briefly meet Jack Del Rio during his first season in Jacksonville. I was a senior at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia and the school’s mass media department had a contract with CBS Sports to send students to work as assistants on the crew from Jaguar home games. I took advantage of having a “CBS Sports credential” and had a brief 30-second encounter with Del Rio. It was still early in the season, but you could sense things slowly turning around down in Jacksonville. It’s a really, and I mean, REALLY, small market for the NFL, and it’s extremely difficult to get fans excited about the Jaguars. But, due in part to Del Rio and in part to then-rookie Byron Leftwich (come back later this week for more on Leftwich), you could sense a little excitement around Jaguar land.
After that rookie season the Jaguars would go on to post four consecutive non-losing seasons, including playoff berths in 2005 and 2007. The team was often labeled as that team that “no one wanted to play come January.” Despite that label, they are 1-2 under Del Rio in the playoffs. With minimal success, the Jaguars have taken a step back.
With a combined 12-20 the past two seasons support in Jacksonville has been downright terrible. Agents get more support from Nick Saban than the Jaguars get from the citizens of Duval County. Amazingly, only ONE game was not blacked out locally last season. One game! That’s amazing to me! And that is due in large part to Peyton Manning and Co. being in town for that game. If you read our debate on blackout rules last year you know how they work. In case you didn’t, home games are blacked out in the home market if the game isn’t sold out within usually 72 hours (and sometimes 48 hours) of kickoff. All that means is that fans are not coming to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and that fans are not getting to see the Jaguars on TV. Such little interest in the organization led to fodder that the franchise may even give a fly at taking Tim Tebow in the draft in order to attract interest. That never materialized, but you can bet it would have sold tickets!
The bottom line is to win games, and that’s the only thing Jack Del Rio can try and control. That’s what he has to do to keep his job. Conflicting reports had Del Rio being offered the USC job in the off-season did nothing to buy him any job security or a better contract. He still has to win. If he doesn’t, he’ll be looking for another beach to enjoy during the off-season!