Jacksonville Jaguars: Why Embattled General Manager Gene Smith Must Go
It’s not every day that you hear almost every local sports media member in the city of Jacksonville say they drank the Kool Aid the Jaguars offered them and were left with a bad taste in their mouths.
On Monday, it seemed that was the case, at least from listening to television and sports talk radio.
If there was ever a low point in the history of this franchise (in terms of belief in the product on the field), Monday’s comments by fans and radio show hosts alike spoke to the disapproval of the direction their team was headed.
Admittedly, I was one of them.
Sometimes, it is hard (as we have discussed in the past) separating my role as a reporter from that of being a fan of this team. Many instances have come up over the last two seasons in which pushing the keyboard away and distancing myself from this team has been a sore spot. On Monday, there were more Jaguar fans who wanted a refund on their “support” card than I had heard in years.
In the past 23 regular season games, this team is 6-17 overall, and three of those wins have come over the Indianapolis Colts.
Without Peyton Manning.
There is a perception in this city that Gene Smith should be relieved of his duties as general manager immediately, and owner Shad Khan should break the team apart and start again from the ground level. The theory has its merits and could be a consideration if the Jaguars finish below their 5-11 record of last season.
Khan has been more than generous with his wallet, paying to bring in free-agent defensive help both in 2011 and 2012, then sanctioning Smith's decision to draft a stud receiver in this past April's draft. Yet the Jaguars still toil below mediocrity.
Their fans, meanwhile, have seen the rich get richer.
Teams like New England lose players to injury or another team and then stockpile more key components for a playoff run. Losing Aaron Hernandez and then signing Kellen Winslow is a prime example.
Years ago, this team was run by two people: owner Wayne Weaver and head coach/general manager Tom Coughlin. While Coughlin’s eventual downfall was the fact he could not do both jobs and maintain a winning organization, he knew talent and filled this team in its infancy with the likes of Kyle Brady, Tom McManus, Don Davey, Dave Widell and others. He gave this team an identity.
After an inconsistent tenure from Jack Del Rio and the uncertain start of the Mike Mularkey era, we all see the difference in how things are and how things were.
Smith is responsible for the majority of the players on the field with a some exceptions (Brad Meester, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis and a few others). A general manager is supposed to find the threshold that helps separate an NFL franchise from being an also-ran and one that is elite.
Right now, Jacksonville is neither.
I suspect at the end of the season, Shad Khan will reassess the team and make changes. I don’t think a 4-12 season or worse will allow Smith to remain in the same capacity he now holds. But a change of Smith’s role or his ouster could mean more changes throughout the organization. General Managers have a habit of wanting their own head coaches, and if that is the case, what does that say about Mike Mularkey's future in Jacksonville?
Does the coaching staff, which was lauded before the regular season, get broken up? Does the team give up on the Blaine Gabbert experiment and look at Matt Barkley or Geno Smith in the draft? And do the fans put up with the garbage and empty promises they have been given over the last two seasons?
Remember, Shad Khan said upon taking over as owner that one of his goals was to make a “splash” with this organization. So far, there hasn’t been a splash or even a ripple in the shallow end of the pool.
And fans are starting to get out of the pool. If Khan does not make a move to replace Smith after a dismal season (which appears to be the likely result for this team), then he cannot expect the fans to believe in the product Smith and the Jaguars organization are putting on the field.
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