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Don’t Point Fingers at Del Rio Just Yet

miller-article1I support the philosophy that football is a young man’s game.

Sure, one can play after age 30, but a team should consist primarily of 20-somethings.

In the NFL, most successful teams are built through the draft. Acquiring free agents or trading for picks is fine as long as those chosen are young.

Even with the Jacksonville Jaguars at 0-2, I see numerous positives, especially in what has been deemed a rebuilding season.

Still, when any team starts as poorly as Jacksonville has, a fan base typically points fingers.

Those fingers have recently been directed towards head coach Jack Del Rio, which I find harsh and unfair.

To me, it’s much easier to say that James “Shack” Harris, Jacksonville’s vice president of player personnel from 2003 until 2008, is the one who should be seeing most of the index fingers.

If I had to blame anyone, it would be Harris.

His record of selecting quality first-round draft picks is more than questionable.

For example, the Jaguars’ first three Harris first-round draft picks are no longer with the team.

Byron Leftwich (2003) is starting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Reggie Williams (2004) and Matt Jones (2005) are out of the league.
First-round choices from 2006 to 2008 haven’t done much to garner any national attention either. Of course, that omits stories on dropped passes, roaming the open field aimlessly or not being a sack machine.

If you didn’t get the hints, I’m referring to tight end Marcedes Lewis (2006), safety Reggie Nelson (2007) and defensive end Derrick Harvey (2008).

I’m not attempting to be inconsiderate or scathing, but that’s the truth.

In my opinion, the most telling number while Harris was in Jacksonville is the No. 1. No, Harris didn’t invent the foam finger. Nor am I illuminating the one playoff win over six seasons.

No. 1 stands for the total number of Pro Bowls his draft picks have been selected to play in.

That one player is cornerback Rashean Mathis. During the 2006 season, he had a phenomenal year recording eight interceptions in 16 starts.

Now, that is production one wants to see from a high-round draft pick.

I will give credit where credit is due. Harris drafted three players who have created a young and impressive linebacking corps. It consists of Daryl Smith, Clint Ingram and Justin Durant. Bravo!

I’ll still continue to say it’s the best unit Jacksonville has.

But, it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to Harris’ blown first-round selections.

I hate to point out who Jacksonville missed out on in the first two rounds from 2003 until 2008; however, it must be done.

The focus will be on quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive line. Those are just some of the questions Jacksonville has had to answer in the last three years, if at all.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings was chosen two picks after Leftwich in 2003. He has been one of the best at eating up space and wreaking havoc.

In the second round that year, wide receiver Anquan Boldin dropped to the 54th overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals. I remember his catching three balls for 30 yards on Arizona’s first drive Sunday. Do you?

In 2004, even though Jacksonville drafted well with Daryl Smith and Greg Jones in the second round, the first round could have gone better than Reggie Williams at No. 9.

Two picks after Williams, quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger is currently polishing his two Super Bowl rings.

At No. 13, wide receiver Lee Evans was chosen by the Buffalo Bills. Well, he could have been the deep threat Jacksonville desperately needs.

In 2005, it could have been much worse than Matt Jones. Jacksonville could have gone after so-called quarterback Alex Smith or Pacman (oops…Adam) Jones.

At the end of the first round, the Steelers wisely selected tight end Heath Miller. He’s only missed one start in four seasons, and is a major threat in the redzone. Miller has 21 career touchdown passes.

Marcedes Lewis has six in one less season.

Instead of selecting Lewis with the 28th overall pick in 2006, Jacksonville had an opportunity at defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. The former Boston College sacker currently leads a stacked New York Giants defensive line. He, too, possesses a Super Bowl ring.

I’ll give safety Reggie Nelson a few more years before I conclude that he is a “bust.”

Even though the 2007 Draft produced Shack Harris’ best class, in terms of players chosen who are still with the Jaguars (six), two pass catchers were overlooked.

Tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez ran by the Jaguars like a Colt or Cardinal might. In two seasons, Olsen has more touchdowns (seven) than Marcedes Lewis. That’s what happens when a player becomes just another blocker.

Ignoring Gonzalez’s knee injury to start the season, he has the ability to be a 70-catch receiver. An answer for that dreaded Jimmy Smith-replacement question? But, it makes for such interesting sports talk radio!

The 2008 NFL Draft, Harris’ last, contained two game-changing running backs in the first two rounds. Jacksonville instead went for pass rushers Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves, who combined for six sacks last season. It would have been more had Harvey not held out for 33 days.

Jacksonville had a shot at backs Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans and current Chicago Bear Matt Forte. Each player ran for at least 1,200 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Imagine another explosive complementary back along with Maurice Jones-Drew.

I’m not attempting to scrutinize the Jaguars organization for missing on at least three first-round picks. Nor do I wish for fans to think “what if?”

However, I feel it’s necessary to critique a club if there are more swings and misses than homeruns.

I can’t say for sure. But, if the Jaguars had Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball to Anquan Boldin and Anthony Gonzalez, I believe that more fans would fill Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

And, as you entered Downtown, Jaguars’ billboards showing off the elite backfield of Jones-Drew and Matt Forte would be a welcoming sight.

So if you feel the urge to point a finger and to place blame for the results seen on the field, avoid Jack Del Rio and owner Wayne Weaver. Just point north to Shack Harris in Detroit.

7 Responses »

  1. It is just so frustrating to watch (I mean listen) to the Jaguars being beaten over and over. Like a King on the throne, we just want someones head. Just give us anyone. But, start winning games. That is what it is all about. The stadium seating issue will resolve itself with wins - even in a bad economy. Greenbay has a waiting list thousands deep.

    Someone told me when the Jaguars started and people bought season tickets that this is how it would go:
    First few years: people buy lots of season tickets
    Next few years: people buy fewer season tickets
    Then: people start selling their season tickets
    Later: people have to give away their season tickets
    Soon: people have to leave tickets on the window of their car at the mall to get people to take the tickets
    Finally: When people return to their car at the mall, more tickets than they started with are under their windshield wipers

    I think I've seen the overloaded wipers with season tickets . . .

    GOOD COLUMN. YOU PUT SOME TIME INTO THIS ONE.

  2. Very interesting article. Gives us something to think about as we point fingers. Certainly want to blame someone. Actually, after hearing the results of the game last weekend, I am glad I did not invest the time to see the game at the stadium or on television. If they are going to play that poorly, blackouts are good. At least it minimizes fan suffering. Hope the team can pull it together for this weekend.

  3. I agree with you. Hey, good coverage of the game on Sportingnews.com and on 1320 AM yesterday for what to look for on the field this weekend.

  4. I don't think that Jack Del Rio is at fault. There are many others involved and a lackadaisical attitude among the players. They still get their paycheck, so what the heck!

    Richard, that was a fantastic broadcast yesterday on 1320 AM! I would encourage all readers to tune in to hear what you have to say on radio in the future. You seem to "hit the nail right on the head'!

  5. It's unfortunate that the Jag football players can't be paid in accordance with their performance in their last game. Foul up, fumble, drop a pass, miss a tackle, throw an interception, or do nothing--your pay is less. Catch a pass, make a toudchdown, make a good block, throw for a good gain--you get your full pay. With financial incentives, like in the real world, there would be an improvement in the performance of the players.

    • Hey, Charlie, you have a superb plan. How much would the total bill have been for last weekend's game. Ha. Not much. Share with the fans and give tickets away!!!

  6. Byron leftwich is 3nd ranked QB in the league in TD's and yards. He is ranked top 5 in redzone.

    Byron bailed JDR's WCO out with the spread when the opponent took the lead. Now without Byron JDR sucks, because there is no one there at QB to bail him out with the deep passing game now that his dink and dunk crud has been exposed.

    The WCO is dead, no team in 6 years has done squat with it as far as SB's go.

    JDR has run off so many good players. Fred Taylor, Mike Peterson, Deon Grant, Marcus Stroud. and my favorite Byron Leftwich.

    When your a coach you have to make your players shine, you can't use them as an excuse as to why you suck.