Jack Del Rio won't admit to being the coaching equivalent of a riverboat gambler, but he is clearly very aggressive in his game-day decisions, and Byron Leftwich says that's just fine with him.
"I love it," Leftwich said of his coach's bold ways. "It just gives you more opportunities than you'd have with another coach. We just have to take advantage of it."
At times, the Jaguars have taken advantage of their coach's confidence in them. At other times, in fact, quite often in short-yardage situations, the Jaguars have rolled snake eyes.
In the Jaguars' thrilling, 27-24 win in Indianapolis on Sunday, Del Rio sent rookie kicker Josh Scobee onto the field to attempt a 53-yard field goal with 38 seconds left on the clock and the game tied. Scobee split the uprights as though he was a 15-year veteran.
What's with Del Rio? Why would he have risked a miss that would've left the Colts needing only 20 yards to jockey Mike Vanderjagt, arguably the league's best long-distance kicker, into game-winning range? Is the Jaguars' coach clairvoyant?
"You had an opportunity to win the game. I'm not sure the high percentage way to win that game is to punt, pin them down there and give it to Peyton (Manning)," Del Rio explained.
Had he pursued that strategy, of course, Del Rio would've risked losing the overtime coin toss, so there's merit in what he did. The bottom line is his strategy worked; Scobee made the kick and the Jaguars won.
"I knew he was going to make it," Leftwich said. "I knew distance wasn't going to be the problem with him."
Such is the bold and positive attitude the Jaguars have maintained through the first seven games of the season, which have them at 5-2 and atop the AFC South standings. A year ago, the Jaguars were 1-6 on their way to 1-7, and they looked the part. The Jaguars have executed the league's most dramatic one-year turnaround, and Del Rio gets the credit. His bold and aggressive style of coaching has rubbed off on his players and the result is his team is brimming with confidence.
"He has total confidence in us and it shows by the things he does on Sundays," Leftwich said.
What Del Rio does on Sundays is "go for it" on fourth down a lot. He has ordered 12 fourth-down tries, of which his team has converted seven. Meanwhile, the Jaguars' opponents have yet to attempt a fourth-down conversion.
Del Rio smiled sheepishly when confronted with that statistic at Monday's press conference.
"We're going to make plays. We're not going to sit back and hope things fall our way. We're going to be proactive," Del Rio said of his bold decisions.
The Jaguars attempted one fourth-down conversion in Indianapolis and it failed. Given the circumstances, Del Rio's decision to go for the first down was probably the logical choice.
His team trailed the Colts, 14-10, midway through the third quarter. The Jaguars faced a fourth-and-one at the Colts' two-yard line, but it became fourth-and-inches when Colts defensive tackle Larry Tripplett was penalized for attempting to lure the Jaguars into a false start by flinching. On the fourth-and-inches try, with rookie power back Greg Jones in the game in place of Fred Taylor, center Brad Meester botched the snap exchange with Leftwich and the Colts recovered.
"Indianapolis has an explosive offense. Being able to make a statement and push it in was worth a risk," Del Rio said of the thinking that caused him to nix a field goal attempt.
Call it "Del Rio Ball." It boldly goes where no opposing coach has gone this season, and it seems to be working.
In other news from Monday's press conference, Del Rio announced that Scobee and Tommy Hendricks got game balls for their special teams play. "All day long we enjoyed field position because of our coverage teams," Del Rio said, referring specifically to Hendricks' star performance on those coverage units.
Taylor, who reached the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time this season, got a game ball on offense, and safety Donovin Darius, who forced a fumble and recovered a fumble, got a game ball on defense.
"It's time to get ready for the Texans," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' next opponent.