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Del Rio issues strong year-ender


Jack Del Rio issued a strong season-ending address to the media on Tuesday, in which he revealed that recently-promoted personnel director Gene Smith will have final say in personnel matters.

"Gene has the con," Del Rio said. "Gene has the final say in personnel matters and I have the final say in coaching matters."

The announcement indicates a strong shift in the operating philosophy Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver announced when Del Rio was hired as head coach and James Harris was hired as personnel director in January of 2003. Del Rio and Harris were part of a shared-voice plan until last week, when Harris announced his resignation and Smith was simultaneously promoted to the personnel department's top spot.

Del Rio's season-ending address was a proclamation of a return to the values that helped the Jaguars earn their first playoff win in eight years in the 2007 season. Del Rio said those values were not evident in '08, as the Jaguars slumped to 5-11.

"(It) was not a good year. We went into the year with high expectations and didn't even come close to them. We hold ourselves accountable and it has to start with me. I need to do a better job with my staff to put out a much better product. It's up to me to lead the way and get back to the postseason, which I was hired to do," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said his number one priority in the offseason is "re-establishing our identity. Football is the ultimate team game. It's about mindset. That's number one on my list," he said.

"I believe in having a physical team; in being able to stop the run, harass the quarterback. I believe in having an unselfish team and unselfish coaches. We must get back to that," Del Rio said. "We'll come back with a lot of resolve. We must have a very strong offseason."

Del Rio wouldn't divulge whether or not he'll cut players who are thought to have damaged team chemistry in '08, but he did announce some rather bold changes. Chief among them, training camp next summer will be more physically demanding and attendance in spring conditioning and practices will be expected.

"Everybody who wants to be a Jaguar will be here. Anybody who wants to be a Jaguar will be working out with the team," Del Rio said of spring conditioning.

"I think it's safe to say there'll be a little more of an edge to our camp this year. It'll be more difficult. There's a mentality you build in camp. There's something about it that's good for the team," he added.

Del Rio touched on several subjects in a press conference that lasted 45 minutes.

"We took a swing and missed with a couple of free-agent acquisitions. There was the incident where Mike (Peterson) and I had a disagreement. There were contract issues that created a selfish atmosphere," Del Rio said of negative factors that contributed to the Jaguars' decline.

"In 2007 we had it and last year we did not. What I believe in is the unselfish, team-first approach," he said. "How do you lose your way? It's hard to put your finger on. I have a very clear vision of where we want to go."

Del Rio said he will not fire any of his assistant coaches, though a couple of them are weighing other opportunities. He formally announced that strength and conditioning coaches Mark Asanovich and Les Ebert had been fired, the result of a rash of injuries that plagued the Jaguars in '08.

"That's the goal," he said when asked if the intent of a new conditioning program is to decrease injuries.

"From the time I arrived in '03, we were steadfast in being a team that smacked you in the mouth and ran the ball. I take pride in being a smart, tough football team. I thought we got away from that this year. Smart and tough football wins. We're going to collect those types of people," Del Rio said. "There's a lot of work to be done. There's a ton to be done."

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