Jack Del Rio echoed most of owner Wayne Weaver's comments to the media on Monday, during Del Rio's season-ending press conference at EverBank Field on Tuesday morning.
Weaver announced Monday afternoon that Del Rio would be retained as the team's head coach for a ninth season, effectively making Del Rio the longest-tenured coach in Jaguars history. Tuesday, Del Rio agreed with Weaver's decision.
"I believe it was a wise decision to stay the course," Del Rio said.
The "course" to which Del Rio referred is a rebuilding project that enters its third season in 2011 under General Manager Gene Smith. The first two years have yielded records of 7-9 and 8-8 but no playoff berths, despite being in the lead for a playoff spot both years when December began.
Del Rio came to the press conference prepared to address the question of the team's 1-7 record over the final four weeks of the last two seasons. In 2009, the Jaguars lost their final four games; they lost their last three in '10.
"That's basically a complete rebuild," he said of the '09 roster, which he said included 33 new faces. "We maximized everything we had. Our talent base was not playoff-worthy but we would never concede that. It was an achieving 7-9," Del Rio said.
"This year we were a better team; had a chance to clinch a division crown and did not get it done," he said.
A 34-24 loss in Indianapolis in week 15 turned out to be the game that cost the Jaguars the division title; they would not have made it into the playoffs had they won their last two games. A loss to the Redskins in week 16 in the home finale, though meaningless in the playoffs race, inflamed fans and likely produced the defining moment of the season when a David Garrard pass was intercepted in overtime and directly led to the game's deciding field goal.
"We struggled to score points against a depleted defense. I've got to do a better job. I'll shoulder that one. I should be able to do enough to win that last home game. Put that one squarely on my shoulders," Del Rio said.
The coach spent much of his 45-minute press conference talking about the expectation for making it into the playoffs in 2011 and what it'll take to accomplish that feat.
"We're disappointed we're not in the postseason tournament this year. Everybody wants more. What I want is a ring. This is not about survival. This is about winning. This is about winning championships and we're committed to doing things the right way. We feel we have a solid foundation we can build upon," Del Rio said.
Most of that foundation would appear to be on the offensive of the ball. The running game was third-best in the NFL. Quarterback David Garrard set a franchise-record with 23 touchdown passes and finished with a very respectable 90.8 passer rating that was 13th-best in the NFL.
The offseason emphasis will, again, be on the defensive side of the ball. The Jaguars were 28th in the league in defense. Six of the league's 12 playoff teams have a defense ranked 10th or higher.
"Defense is the area we have the most work to do," Del Rio said, who then referred to young defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu as the building blocks of future Jaguars defenses, much as Del Rio referred to Marcus Stroud and John Henderson as cornerstone players when Del Rio was a rookie coach in 2003.
"It's rare a coach is offered the opportunity to rebuild a team a second time," Del Rio said. "This is a draft-and-develop organization."
On defense, the play-caller will change in 2011 from Del Rio to Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker, who came to the Jaguars in '09 to help install principles of the 3-4 defensive concept with which Tucker was familiar.
"I think he's groomed and ready for the opportunity to call our defense in the 4-3 concepts that were a little new to him when he got here," Del Rio said. "I can be a more effective head coach as someone who can oversee the entire operation."
Del Rio's comments on Garrard will no doubt please and displease opposing factions of the fan base. The coach confirmed Weaver's comments that Garrard will remain the team's starting quarterback, though Del Rio also acknowledged the need to draft a quarterback and begin the development process.
"We've not been aggressive enough to bring in talent at that position," Del Rio said of quarterback; the Jaguars haven't drafted one since 2003 when they made Byron Leftwich the seventh pick of the draft.
"He's been a very good quarterback," Del Rio said of Garrard. "He's not been elite but I've seen guys late in their careers, like Rich Gannon, become elite. David has done good things here."