“Accountability” was the theme Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver brought to the press conference this week. He rarely sits down in front of the media and cameras and answer questions “en masse” but Weaver thought it was important to do so after all of the speculation regarding his Head Coach Jack Del Rio.
Don’t get me wrong, Wayne never hides, but he doesn’t like to get in front of the camera and he likes to stay in the background. That’s one of the reason the fraternity of NFL owners picked him to head up the Jacksonville franchise. He fits their mold. But he’s always good in that situation and this week he was better than ever.
Weaver is a solid guy, self-made and very earnest when it comes to getting things right. I spent a lot of time with him during the run-up to getting a team (we went for a run in Chicago together the morning of the announcement) and he’s always been very straightforward. So when he talked about being “self-critical” and being accountable, I’m sure people sat up and listened. I know I did.
Weaver had taken more than a week to go through his organization to see what could be fixed. “The last seven years have been average,” he said. “And average is not acceptable.”
I tried to extrapolate that out to the conversation he had with Del Rio that morning (“all morning” according to Weaver) and came up with Wayne asking Jack to look around, be introspective and see what he personally could do better to get the team back on the way toward a championship. “I believe Jack is the right man to take us to the elite level,” Wayne said. “Fans will just have to trust my judgment when it comes to this decision.”
So I asked Wayne if he was talking about “accountability” that perhaps he could get Jack out there to talk to us. “Jack has a full schedule today,” was Wayne’s response. I pressed him a bit but it was obvious Del Rio was going to make himself available when he was ready. (Apparently he did talk to the Jaguars news partner, Channel 47 that evening, but with all due respect, their audience doesn’t encompass a big part of the Jacksonville community.)
So Del Rio wasn’t going to be around, the story still was Wayne’s vote of confidence in Jack and Weaver’s denial that money played any part in it. I was very surprised when Weaver said the USC job “never came up,” and pressed that issue saying that it had been reported that the process had gotten so far as Southern Cal sending Jack a contract. “I can assure you, he’s not going to Southern Cal,” was Weavers terse response. (It was funny that the Trojans moved directly to Lane Kiffin right after Wayne said Jack wasn’t available.)
So I went to the “Team Teal” event on Tuesday night at the stadium wondering what was next. Weaver was there, Carl Cannon, the head of the new Touchdown Jacksonville, Jaguars GM Gene Smith, local businessman Ed Burr and Mayor John Peyton. As the evening developed (a lot of fans stayed in the Bud Zone because it was a chilly night) I started to think that the whole thing might be a setup. Wayne was going to stop in the middle of his speech and re-introduce Jack as the man who was going to “take us to the elite level.”
But that didn’t happen.
Del Rio was nowhere to be found and if that wasn’t a big mistake it at best was a missed opportunity.
Del Rio’s popularity might be at an all time low here in town and he had a chance to come out and show his commitment, thank the fans and give a rallying cry for the upcoming season.
But that didn’t happen either.
I still can’t find the reasoning for Jack not showing up. I know the Jaguars communications staff was really pushing for Jack to do some kind of presser or at least make an appearance. But he refused. It’d be nice to give Jack the benefit of the doubt here, but without any information from him, besides some stonewalling and vanilla gloss-over, he shouldn’t get much of a pass here.
Bite your lip and put on a happy face for five minutes.
Didn’t think it was important?
Arrogant and misinformed.
Sometimes you’ve just got to trust the people around you to help you make decisions that are important. Jack didn’t do that.
And it cost him.