Gene Frenette asked an excellent question about Wayne Weaver’s press conference Tuesday: Where was coach Jack Del Rio?
It seemed natural that at a state-of-the-team address on a day in which it was established that Del Rio would remain in place, an appearance by the coach to say he’s pleased to be around and to touch on the USC stuff once, officially, would have been prudent.
Accountability was perhaps Weaver’s biggest theme, and in that light the press conference included this exchange:
In talking about accountability, do you think you could get Jack to come out here and talk to us?
Wayne Weaver: I think right now Jack, he had his day planned. He’s really in some deep meetings with his staff. You’ll have a chance to get with him.
Do you think it’s important that he repairs his image publicly?
WW: I think Jack will be in front of you as he always is and he’ll answer any of your questions, but I think right now with what he’s got on his plate, on his agenda today … Personally I didn’t feel like it was a press conference for Jack and I to sit together, (singing) Kumbaya.
Don’t you think the fans would like to hear Jack say he’s here and he’s committed?
WW: That’s what he will say when he gets in front of you.
I think Del Rio could have altered his schedule pretty easily to make an appearance, and since he didn’t, he needs to be very visible, just once, very soon.
After reviewing the transcript of Weaver provided by the team, I thought it sounded like general manager Gene Smith is almost under more pressure than Del Rio.
Weaver ran through the failures of the team and said any blame should be pointed first at him, but clearly it was also another indictment of former personnel chief James “Shack” Harris.
“We’ve had some good seasons but if you look at the body of work we’ve been average,” he said. “And I think you have to go deeper than that and much of that responsibility belongs right on this guy’s shoulders, is that when you look at missing first-round draft choices in multiple years, it hurt this football team; it set us back.
“Had we hit on two or three of those draft choices, we’d be a different football team than we are today. So I have to accept responsibility for that along with Jack and Gene Smith, but I have to tell you sitting here today I feel good about my meeting this morning. I feel good that Jack and I are on the same page, I feel good that the team of Gene Smith and Jack Del Rio is going to take this franchise to an elite level. I’m energized with what I saw in our last draft and the way our young players played. We’ve got a core of veterans and young players here that we can build around. I think (with) another meaningful draft in 2010 that my expectation is this team will compete for the playoffs next year. “
Smith had a great first draft and there is no reason to expect he won’t do as well in 2010. But drafting isn’t an exact science. Harris resigned in December 2008, Smith was put in place and has gotten good reviews.
It’s Del Rio’s 58-57 record which started that conversation about being average, and he’s been the constant in the power mix.
Weaver suggested accountability and personnel are the two big issues.
It will be interesting to see how Del Rio’s able to make any changes in the team’s culture on the first issue, while he chimes in to help Smith on the second.
Thanks to the Jaguars for a transcript of Weaver. Here are some other highlights:
On accountability: People have to be accountable and they know they have to be accountable and there has to be a standard that you set, and that standard has to be adhered to by everybody in the building.
On fan discontent with Del Rio: I have the greatest respect for our fans. I do think that our fans aren’t as close to the decision process as I am, and I think I have to make sure that I weigh all of those things and I don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and do something that really doesn’t make sense and will set this franchise back any more.
On whether money was a factor in not making a change: Money is never a factor. I mean, it’s a lot of money, I’m not going to say it’s not but money was not a factor. I want to win. I shouldn’t say this publicly but I’m going to turn 75 this week, and you know, I want to win. I want one of those rings.
On David Garrard as quarterback: "I think that David Garrard can win for us. And I think we have to do some things differently there in terms of preparation, in terms of getting … I tell a story about Peyton Manning when they drafted Pierre Garcon and Peyton Manning drove three hours twice a week because this kid couldn’t come to the OTAs and train because of his graduating class. He drove three hours twice a week to throw to this kid, to teach him how to be a pro, how to work. We need to do more of that here. David just needs to do more of that with our young receivers.
On the team’s identity: One of things on that agenda was what kind of team do we want to be? And once we all coalesce around what kind of team we want to be -- do we want to be a running team? Can we be more dominant as a running team than a passing team? That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to throw the ball around; you do. You can’t win in this league unless you have a reasonably good passing attack. So their job is to tell me what kind of team that we want to be and then let’s be true to that mission and draft around that concept and build a team around that concept.
On the ticket woes: In 2009 we lost almost 20,000 fans. Anybody that doesn’t get it, the economy had a big effect in that. Did winning and losing have some of it? Did a 5-11 season play into that? Absolutely it does, but it was not the only thing. We blacked out seven games out of 20 in the National Football League last year. Now if you think that I’m happy about that, do you think I’m not embarrassed to walk into a room with my peers and see that? Sure I am, but I get it. We’re in a small market, we’ve got to do things differently. We’ve got to make sure that what we do is make it affordable where we can for fans to be a part of this.
On playing in Orlando and London: Orlando, I honestly believe that once we get behind, get past this collective bargaining agreement that we probably will go to an extended regular season, whether that’s 17 or 18 games. If we do, then I think it might make sense to take a little pressure off the market, to keep our prices reasonable for our fans, to play a game out of market. Well if you think about it, what is the logical out of market? It’s Orlando. Well unfortunately Orlando doesn’t have a facility that we can play in that would support NFL. Would I consider London? We’re not going to play in London this year. They’ve got a great facility.
On re-energizing the fan base this offseason: First of all what we’ve got to do is internalize the message, and I’m saying the community has to internalize the message, ‘do you value NFL?’ I personally think a community is very fortunate to be an NFL city; there’s only 32 of us. I believe that Jacksonville is a great NFL city. I think we have passionate fans. … I believe we’ll have a full stadium next year.
On whether he wishes the Los Angeles talk would disappear: I wish it would.