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Del Rio and '10 things'


The new era in Jaguars football officially begins Sunday in Carolina. In keeping with that theme, it was a perfect time to ask: What qualifies Jack Del Rio to be a head coach? Will he be successful? Is he ready?

So, I turned to one of my sportswriter friends, Rick "Goose" Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, for answers to those questions. "Goose" is one of the profession's most respected members and his Dallas roots allowed for an early study of Del Rio as a prospective head coach candidate.

"Look at the trend; defense wins championships," Gosselin said. "The next trend is to find the bright young defensive assistant. Going back, Bill Cowher, Dave Wannstedt, Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy and Jeff Fisher all fit the bill. More recently, Dick Jauron, Herman Edwards, Butch Davis, John Fox, Marvin Lewis and now Del Rio have been the hires.

"The NFL is in a league-wide youth movement. Del Rio has polish, having played at Southern Cal and (in Dallas) during the resurgence of the Cowboys in the early 1990s. He's no stranger to the spotlight. Today's NFL head coach has to be the front man for an organization and Del Rio is comfortable in that capacity," Gosselin continued.

"Credential-wise, he was the linebackers coach on the best defense since the 1985 Bears (2000 Ravens) and, as a coordinator, he took the Carolina Panthers from 31st in the NFL in defense before he arrived in 2001 to second in 2002. He's earned his spurs as an assistant," Gosselin said.

"How do you know when an assistant is ready to be a head coach? Was Mike Ditka ready? Mike Holmgren? Joe Gibbs? Andy Reid? You don't know until you hire him. But on and off the field, Del Rio fit the profile of a man you wanted running your football team. Will he be a success? This is a third-round draft pick who stuck around for 11 years, starting on playoff teams and achieving a Pro Bowl. He made it on brains more than ability. He was very good at the X's and O's part of football as a player. As a coach, he has shown he can diagram it as well as he did play it," the Dallas scribe said.

"I knew he'd one day be a head coach in this league. Enough NFL people told me that. The only question was when. Jacksonville answered that. He's what you're looking for as a person and as a football mind," Gosselin concluded.

That's good enough for me, "Goose," and thanks for writing my column.

Now, here's the 2003 season debut of "10 things" (the Jaguars have to do to beat the Carolina Panthers).

  1. Stop the run--This one could sit in the top spot on most weekends, but it especially applies to this game because the Panthers were 30th in the league in passing last season and didn't make any significant changes to their pass-offense personnel during the offseason. But they did acquire Stephen Davis, and he's a premium running back who can dominate a game. For the Jaguars, it begins with stopping Davis.
  1. Block Julius Peppers--That task falls on offensive right tackle Maurice Williams, and Williams has the ability and the pedigree to get the job done.
  1. Run the ball--The best way to combat a fierce pass-rush is to run the football; make them play the run. Pass-rushers don't like to do that.
  1. Rally around Brunell--This could be a swing performance for Mark Brunell. He's going to be under the gun all season, so, if he truly is the best man for the job, his teammates need to give him everything they have.
  1. Hold your own on special teams--My radio buddy Jeff Lageman says the Panthers' special teams are out of sight. The Panthers have a dynamite returner in Steve Smith, a big-leg punter in Todd Sauerbrun, and a veteran placekicker in John Kasay. Jaguars special teams will have to elevate their game.
  1. Fight for your colors--All right, whose shade of eye shadow is best? The Jaguars' teal or the Panthers' imitation Carolina blue?
  1. Stop laughing--A story published this week compared the Panthers' front four to the "Steel Curtain" of 1970s fame, and Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner to "Mean Joe" Greene.
  1. Follow these directions--I-95 north to I-26 west to I-77 north to Charlotte: Tickets still remain for Sunday's game and the Jaguars could use some fans.
  1. Look at the schedule--OK, for all of those wily veterans who were saving their games for the start of the regular season, this is it; you can start playing now.
  1. Back up the hype--We've had eight months of "A new era begins." Now it's time to prove it.
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