Jack Del Rio reached the limits of his tolerance today. An otherwise meaningless Titans field goal drive that numbered 17 plays and consumed 11 minutes and 14 seconds of the fourth-quarter clock lit Del Rio's fuse, causing the rookie head coach to lash out at his defense in his postgame press conference.
"What I saw I won't stand for here," Del Rio said, moments after he told the Jaguars Radio Network his defense's fourth-quarter collapse was "a sign I do not want to see again."
They are his harshest words as a head coach, and they were the result of his team's most lackluster performance of the season. No one in the Jaguars' postgame locker room -- only a few players remained by the time the media entered -- denied the latter, nor did they contest Del Rio's remarks.
How could they? They were coming off a bye week. They were at home against the team they profess to be their most bitter rival. This was a game that would be used as a measuring stick, as to where this franchise was and how far it had to go. How could the Jaguars not be at their best on this day, which was originally planned as the official "Take Back Our House" game?
Enough of that. The situation has become far too serious to waste time on frivolous slogans. This team is at a crossroads. It needs to prove its commitment to winning. It needs to prove it has building-block players on whom Del Rio may lay a foundation for the future. In today's 30-17 loss to the Titans, there was only disappointment.
"Very, very disappointing," Del Rio called it, then cited "two main reasons" for the disappointment. "We had talked about not turning the ball over; not losing the turnover battle, and we did that again today. The second thing is the 11-minute drive at the end of the game. You won't see that happen here. I won't stand for it. We'll identify the guys who are not getting it done and find guys who can, because that's embarrassing," he added.
In that drive, the Titans gained 62 yards rushing on 15 rushing plays. Quarterback Steve McNair threw only one pass, for eight yards and a first down. The 17th play was a 33-yard field goal by Gary Anderson.
"There was a lack of execution we teach. We had too many guys not doing it right. It was ugly," said Del Rio, who was asked if "mad" would be an accurate description of his mood. "I think that's fair," he said.
But the 11-minute drive was just the tip of the iceberg. It provided Del Rio with the perfect example on which to vent his frustration. But he could've cited examples from almost any point in the game.
How about the first play of the game, which resulted in an illegal procedure? After two weeks of practice?
"The tone of the game was set when in the first couple of plays we didn't execute plays, formations and assignments we practiced all week," Del Rio said.
So, what will he do? Will he threaten players with loss of jobs?
"It doesn't have to be a threat," he said, but "there's no doubt we're going to look for the people who can help us win. That's an ongoing process that started the day I got here."
And that sounded every bit like a threat.
"We're going to play good football. At 1-6 it's not happening soon enough for me," he said. "I really, really felt confident in this team's preparation going in. That's what I'm mad at."
So, at 1-6 and coming off the most disappointing performance in the "new era's" young history, the Jaguars and their rookie coach are at an early crossroads. In modern-day vernacular, the coach was calling out his players. He was drawing that line in the sand all coaches must establish at some point early in their careers. Will they heed his message and toe his line?
What's to follow will become a defining moment for this team.