As the Jaguars embark on another season, it’s anything but just another season.
On one day, Wayne Weaver fired the coach and sold the team, all before breakfast and changed the course of Jaguars history. Firing Jack Del Rio was long overdue (hard to believe Del Rio was the Jaguars head coach for 9 years with only one playoff win) and selling the team was somewhere on the horizon. The timing of the sale seemed a bit abrupt until the facts revealed that Weaver and Shad Khan had been working on it for a while.
“It’s a one owner at a time league,” Khan said in December as the wheels of the sale were grinding away. Everybody was anticipating some changes, but Khan was prudent, waiting until the sale was complete on January 4th before making any changes. When he started, he showed immediately he meant business. Changes in the front office and the hiring of a president of the club were his first moves. That was followed by the hiring of three VP’s to make the Jaguars run a bit smoother on the business side.
“Corporate cultures grow for different reasons,” one Jaguars observer said. “Sometimes they are planned, sometimes they grow by necessity and other times it’s just organic. They go in a certain direction.”
The Jaguars had gotten to a point where it seemed the same leadership was going to take them in the same direction. That’s where Khan’s ideas shifted the team’s direction. All but the leadership in the IT and Communications departments has changed. Fresh ideas abound at Jaguars headquarters.
After spending time with Gene Smith, the Jaguars General Manager, and checking on his reputation around the league, Khan threw his full support behind the long-time Jaguars personnel man. That lead to Smith selecting Mike Mularkey as the Jaguars head coach.
Having a chance to attend OTA’s, mini-camps, training camp and pre-season practice, I can tell you the on-field situation is completely different. Mularkey has a plan, he tells the players what he’s looking for, and is seeing if they can perform at a high level with that kind of expectation.
“We want the players to succeed and they need to know we’re going to put them in situations to succeed,” Mularkey said recently after practice. Mularkey is a no-nonsense coach that the players appreciate. “We know what we’re doing, when we’re doing it and how we’re supposed to do it,” one Jaguars player said after a recent practice. “Last year, we didn’t know what we were doing,” he added.
It’s hard to predict what kind of success the Jaguars will have on the field. There are so many factors that go into winning in the NFL, not the least of which is staying healthy. But there’s no question they’re vastly improved over last year and now have a chance to win.
“That’s all you want,” one local reporter recently told me. “To have a chance to win. Last year you knew in most games they didn’t have a chance. This year, they have a chance.” They’ve upgraded almost across the board on offense and still have a championship-worthy defense.
Shad Khan has designs on the Jaguars winning championships and becoming the international face of the NFL. To quote one Jaguars insider, “The Weavers did a great job setting the stage and establishing the Jaguars franchise. Now they’ve passed the baton to a faster runner.”