Jack Del Rio conducted his season-ending press conference much in the style of his football team: strong up front and forceful.
Del Rio was critical of his team's performance in the final month of the season. Its three consecutive defeats to close the year were foremost on the Jaguars coach's mind.
"Good football teams get hot in December and finish strong, and we did not. Our goal is always to make the playoffs; find a way to make it into the playoff tournament and compete for a championship. We did not do that either," Del Rio volunteered.
It didn't take much prodding from the media to stimulate Del Rio's commentary. He sat down in front of reporters with the information in front of him, and he offered it freely. The following are some of the most notable bullet points from Tuesday's press conference.
- Changes to his coaching staff will be forthcoming in the next day. Del Rio could announce those changes as early as Tuesday evening. "We're going to make some changes," Del Rio said.
- The Jaguars will pursue a contract extension with running back Fred Taylor, who has one year remaining on his current deal. "I feel confident we'll be able to work something out with Fred," Del Rio said.
- The passing game and special teams did not perform up to expectations. "The strength of this football team is our running game and our defense, and our passing game and special teams must improve," Del Rio said.
- Quarterback will clearly be a position of intense evaluation over the next two months and is likely to be addressed in one way or another, though Del Rio is not ready to make any significant comments about the position at this time.
"We like our three (quarterbacks)," Del Rio said of David Garrard, Quinn Gray and Byron Leftwich. "We're going to take our time and evaluate that position and not rush to make a decision. It's an important decision."
Del Rio also said his relationship with Leftwich is not such that Leftwich can't return to the Jaguars in '07, the final year of his contract.
"The only disagreement we've had is that I thought he was hurt and he didn't think he was hurt. He's had (ankle) surgery since," Del Rio said of Leftwich. Garrard replaced Leftwich for the seventh game of the season and Garrard was the starter in every remaining game.
Gray replaced Garrard at quarterback in the third quarter of this past Sunday's season finale in Kansas City. Del Rio reiterated that he sent Gray into the game with the idea Gray might give the Jaguars a spark.
"I'm not making any proclamations about the quarterback position," Del Rio said. "I think (Garrard) has the potential to play better, yes."
When asked if he believes he has on the current roster what he needs at quarterback for the Jaguars to become a championship team, Del Rio said: "Not by making the mistakes we made at the end of the year."
Del Rio obviously expects a better performance at the position in '07. He made particular reference to the failure to rally for a win in '06, citing losses in Indianapolis, Washington, Tennessee and against New England as games in which the Jaguars had a chance to rally for a win late in the game but failed to do so.
"There aren't any quarterbacks who do it all of the time. You have to be able to do it some of the time. We had four, maybe five opportunities to do it and did not," Del Rio said.
He was asked if the possibility exists that the Jaguars would trade for a quarterback.
"I wouldn't say I'm opposed to it. It's not a high percentage play," Del Rio said.
He then turned his attention toward the other half of the team's passing game, the receiving corps.
"I think he's made slow progress," Del Rio said of wide receiver Matt Jones. "He remains a very talented young man. He's new at his position and we need to have a great offseason from him."
About wide receiver Reggie Williams: "I think (he) was better this year. He's doing everything we ask him to do. I think his best football is in front of him," Del Rio said.
His team's record within the AFC South Division is one of Del Rio's major sources of irritation from this season.
"The one thing we've got to remedy is our division record. We simply have to do better. It's hard to imagine going 5-3 against playoff teams and having gone 2-4 against our own division," Del Rio said.
As a result of their division record, the Jaguars officially finished third in the AFC South, behind division champion Indianapolis and second-place Tennessee, which also finished 8-8.