The future of the Jaguars front office and coaching staff is uncertain, but owner Wayne Weaver made it clear before the season that he wanted to keep Gene Smith in place as the general manager.
Gene Frenette of the Times-Union reports that Smith was offered an extension of his contract, which expires after the season, during the offseason.
Smith, in an exclusive interview with the Times-Union, said he turned it down because he felt uncomfortable adding years to his contract when Jaguars’ scouts and other employees were either not getting extensions or subjected to salary freezes. Smith’s original contract that he signed after being promoted to GM in January 2009, expires after this season. He did not divulge specifics about the length of the extension offer, adding that the NFL’s uncertain labor future at the time also impacted his decision to pass on an extension.
“A contract was extended to me and I declined it,” Smith said. “I did not think I deserved an extension based on the conditions. Our scouts and other employees weren’t being extended. I didn’t think I deserved it. However, I do appreciate that Wayne [Weaver] offered me one.”
Coach Jack Del Rio is the only coach or member of the front office with a contract that runs beyond this season. His deal runs through 2012 and pays him $5 million this season and next.
Smith is as sincere an executive as can be found in the NFL, and surely scores with the people who work for him with what he did here -- not that he had that as an objective.
Weaver confirmed to Stellino that an offer was made and turned down. It's unclear what the owner's plan is going forward, but I suspect a guy slow to change will make Smith another offer after the season.
The verdict on Smith as a personnel chief is still out, and will largely be determined by whether Blaine Gabbert pans out as the Jaguars' quarterback. Smith traded up to take Gabbert 10th overall in April, and so far Gabbert has struggled.
The GM and QB are tied together and it would make little sense for the Jaguars to make a change from Smith so long as they believe in the rookie as a long-term solution. A new GM would have a new judgment on Gabbert, and if he doesn’t like him, then the team’s clock would be reset again.
Smith has been with the organization since the very beginning, and Weaver clearly feels a loyalty to him. The question is if he would chase a new coach who would want personnel power.
“I’d like to be here long-term, I’d like to finish what we started,” Smith said. “I feel like I work for one of the best organizations. I’ve invested a good part of my life here, but I also realize transition is a way of life in the NFL.”