Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Thanks Wayne!

We’ve had some good luck as a city to have people in critical decision-making positions at critical times who turned out to be the right people at the right time. Mayor Jake Godbold served as “best Friend of the city” at a time that luring an NFL franchise was a complete pipe dream: to everybody but Godbold and the citizens of Jacksonville.

When that became a reality in 1993 we were again fortunate to have an owner step forward who was committed to Jacksonville as if he was a native. Asked by the NFL to consider taking over the St. Louis bid, a place he had lived and had ties to, Wayne Weaver declined, and instead cast his lot with the longest shot in the field.

But we were used to that.

And as Tom mentioned earlier, Wayne’s brother Ron reminded us over and over, “what my brother goes after, he usually gets.”

During the expansion process, Jacksonville was always considered an also-ran, once again except in the minds of Wayne Weaver and the people who lived here. It was a painful process to be ready to do whatever it took to get a team, and still be put off several times as the league, and other cities fortified their expansion bids.

In October of 1993, when Charlotte was awarded a franchise and Jacksonville was told to cool their heels while the league considered their options, I spent a lot of time with Wayne in Chicago and he was flat out hot. We stood outside of the NFL’s makeshift office at the Hyatt Regency, just the two of us, waiting for Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to explain to Weaver what was going on.

As the door opened, I asked Wayne, “what are you going to ask him?” Weaver stopped, turned to me with a locked jaw and fire in his eyes and said, “i’m going to ask him why we don’t have a football team. I didn’t come here to fool around.”

And with that he walked off to give Tagliabue a piece of his mind.

I saw a determination in Weaver that I’d never seen outside of a sports competition. Thirty days later, Jacksonville became the 30th franchise in the NFL, against all odds. And we owe that to Wayne Weaver. His determination, his professionalism, and maybe most importantly his charm and vision convinced the NFL membership that he should be part of their club. They invited him in, and we went along for the ride.

He wanted to win in the worst way. He paid players, changed coaches, tried to do whatever it took. And that’s why he says it’s bittersweet selling the team having never brought a championship home.

We’re indebted to Wayne and his wife Delores for how they’ve transformed our town. Knowing Wayne all he’d ever expect is a simple thanks.

So thanks Wayne.

Shahid Kahn has big shoes to fill.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Decision-Making

On a team with Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry as the coordinators, you might think the head coach would operate in relative obscurity. But Jim Lee Howell was well respected as the Head Coach of the New York Giants, getting them into the NFL Championship game three times in his seven years as head coach.

In the 1990’s, when asked about the defensive prowess of his Gators football team, then Head Coach Steve Spurrier always said, “You’ll have to ask coach Stoops,” referring to Defensive Coordinator Bob Stoops. Current Gators Head Coach Will Muschamp did the same last week when asked about the offense, deferring to Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator.

So when for a few weeks now Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio has referenced Dirk Koetter, the offensive coordinator when asked offensive questions, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I still don’t have to like it.

No matter what your specialty, the head coach is just that, as Del Rio has reminded us over the years, a coach of all phases of the game and generally the face and the voice of the franchise. Early in the 2011 season, Del Rio said he’d like to see the offense “mix it up a little bit” yet didn’t do anything about it while the game was going on. He admitted the plays go through him via his headset on the sideline, but he didn’t speak up.

After Sunday’s Jaguars loss to the Texans at home Del Rio gave us some insight as to how things work, or don’t work, in the Jaguars hierarchy.

Down by a touchdown, Luke McCown (who had replaced an ineffective Blaine Gabbert at quarterback) completed a third down pass for 25 yards to Marcedes Lewis brining up a 4th and two with just over a minute to play. With one timeout left, it seemed that would be the logical thing to use at that time. Get everybody together, call your best two-yard play and get the first down. But instead the Jaguars ran to the line of scrimmage and threw a quick slant to Mike Thomas that fell incomplete and the game was over.

More than a minute to play and the clock runs out with the Jaguars holding a timeout in their pocket.

“We had a play we liked and the coverage we expected, we just didn’t execute,” said McCown in a quiet Jaguars locker room. And that’s what you expect the quarterback to say. But when asked about it, Del Rio said, “I asked Dirk if we wanted a time out there and he said no, so we didn’t call it.”

So at the most crucial point of the game, the head coach relinquishes the decision making to one of his assistants? That’s why I was trying to give Jack an out when I asked him if he had made the decision to change quarterbacks in concert with Koetter. “No. I did,” Del Rio quickly answered. Which makes no sense at the most basic “Who’s in charge” level.

The head coach let’s the assistant decide if they’re calling a time out yet unilaterally changes quarterbacks? The head coach has to be the final arbiter of any kind of decision like that and even if he’s not he can’t sluff it off on one of his assistants. You’re on the sidelines; you have to have a feel for what’s going on in the game. There’s not a person in the stadium that wasn’t thinking, “Nice play. OK, call a time out here and get organized to get the first down.”

Maybe they were trying to catch Houston off-guard, maybe there are a thousand reasons not to call time out.

I just wanted to hear one.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

What Kind of Fan Are You?

There are many cliche’s involving sports and life.

“Sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

“Sports imitates life.”

But perhaps the truth is how sports gives us a chance to gain perspective on what might be going on around you.

As the tragedy at Penn State continues to unfold, it’s much more a story about responsibility, accountability and how an organization works (or doesn’t) as it is about sports. The time-honored ideas of loyalty and leadership, so valued in a sports oriented situation, play a big part in what happened and how it was handled in State College.

Here in the state of Florida, we’ve been lucky to witness the domination of college football by Miami, FSU and Florida in the last 20 years. If one of those teams didn’t win or play for a National Championship, they had some say on who did. It’s heady stuff, knowing your team is going to be good year after year.

There’s a whole generation of fans who don’t know anything but winning when it comes to their teams. That shapes your thinking, shapes your actions and especially shapes your expectations. But somewhere along the way, that changes, leaving fans with a couple of choices going forward.

Do I now hate my own team? Do I chastise them for letting me down? Do I affix blame from the ownership on down and demand they all be fired?

How fans react in those situations is a pretty good indicator as to how they’ll react when it really counts.

Fans of the “U” used to have a swagger that bordered on the absurd. Now they’ve been forced to retreat from that stance, as Miami is a mid-level team in their own conference.

FSU’s fall from grace forced Seminole fans to make their own decisions about their icon, Bobby Bowden. How they reacted to that will give them a future lesson on a changing of the guard in their own lives.

We often joke that the most important three words in the University of Florida football media guide are “Since Nineteen Ninety.” A great many Gator fans don’t even know what you mean when you allude to the one-time rallying cry of “Wait ’till next year!” Nonetheless, while the 2011 season seems like only a bump in the road, it is giving a lot of Gators a taste of how it felt to their opponents in the last twenty years with the Orange and Blue were on the other side of the line.

While the Jaguars, Bucs and Dolphins have had their moments of excitement, it’s been a test of patience for their fans all over the state recently.

Some people can probably learn a lot about themselves by reflecting on what kind of fan they are. Loyal, fickle, fair-weather whatever.

What’s that say about you?