It was awkward at first.
Wayne Weaver walked into the room filled with reporters to give his year-end assessment as well as his plan going forward for the Jaguars. (BTW, he showed up a couple of minutes early. We were planning on showing the entire press conference live but he walked in during a commercial break.) Weaver had papers in his hands, statistics, rosters, rankings, all kinds of stuff to support his decision to keep Jack Del Rio as the head coach of the Jaguars.
And that was the awkward part.
Wayne wanted to back his decision up with facts, pointing out that David Garrard was the 11th ranked quarterback in the league and that he had the second best passer rating in the 4th quarter. That’s all well and good but the owner of the team should feel like he has to back up his decision on who the coach should be. But once he got past the hard numbers, Wayne looked more comfortable talking about his decision-making from a qualitative instead of a quantitative point of view. “It’s only rational to see that we are an ascending football team over the last two years,” Weaver said. “You can’t look at the whole body of work. We’ve made progress since we dismantled the roster after 2008.”
Wayne’s a passionate yet measured businessman, capable of great passion as well as dispassionate decision-making. “I think we’re stronger by keeping this group of coaches together. It would be a step back to change at this point.”
Weaver discounted the first six years of Del Rio’s tenure, attributing the overall problems to bad drafting and poor personnel decisions. “I should have recognized the problems in our personnel department and made some changes earlier,” he noted adding that both Del Rio and Gene Smith had a hand in some of those decisions.
As far as his expectations, the Jaguars owner wants off-season action and in-season results. Weaver has challenged the coaching staff to find out what the elite teams are doing and add that to the Jaguars repertoire. He wants Del Rio to step back on game day and be more of a traditional head coach. Not be so involved with the defense.
“I believe with every fiber in my body that we’re an ascending team,” he said when asked how he’s measuring progress. “We’ll be in the playoffs next year. If not, there won’t be a lot of people around here. Including me.”
While that was a bit of poetic license and bravado, clearly Wayne expects the post-season to be part of the 2011 season. It’s a laudable goal, but there’s a different schedule to face next year, one that’s tougher than it’s been in a while by virtue of the Jaguars second place finish in the division. Add the NFC South and the AFC North as the regular teams in the division rotation and they’ll find out pretty early what their playoff chances are in 2011.
Either way they’re on notice. It’s a production business. Win or we’ll find somebody.