NEW ORLEANS—Jack Del Rio wasn't expecting this. He wasn't expecting to be ambushed by middle-of-the-night misbehavior by two young players. He didn't expect his starting left tackle to cause a third problem less than 36 hours before Sunday's kickoff. Del Rio knew he was facing a daunting task against the red-hot New Orleans Saints, but the Jaguars head coach certainly wasn't expecting his proud defense to be torched for 538 yards.
This was the kind of a weekend that turns a young coach old. Del Rio won't forget this one and now he needs to make sure, without question, that his players won't forget it, either.
"Both of these men were out way beyond a reasonable time," Del Rio said of second-year offensive tackle Richard Collier and rookie linebacker Justin Durant, both of whom were arrested in the wee hours of Saturday morning. "I was extremely disappointed to wake up Saturday and have two of my young players involved in the situations they were involved in," Del Rio added.
In separate incidents, Collier was arrested for driving under the influence and Durant was arrested and charged with resisting arrest. As a result, neither player made the trip to New Orleans; Collier was officially suspended.
Del Rio's Saturday morning, however, was just beginning. His starting left tackle, Khalif Barnes, misbehaved in such a way that Del Rio decided to bench Barnes for the start of Sunday's game. Del Rio did not divulge what Barnes' violation was, but Del Rio made it clear a violation had been committed.
"It was an in-house measure," Del Rio said of Barnes' benching. "To have these things happen within 36 hours is not a good indicator for your football team."
There should be no surprise then that, given these occurrences, the Jaguars were blown out by the Saints, 41-24. Though Jaguars players, to a man, claimed they were not distracted by Saturday's doings, Del Rio's "good indicator" description is appropriate. Simply put, winning is usually not a byproduct of misconduct.
"When you are the head coach and when you have people making mistakes, it puts you in tough situations. To even have the situation come up that the coach has to make decisions is ridiculous, especially when it's less than 36 hours before our game. Inexcusable," Del Rio said.
This will be one of the most important weeks of Del Rio's coaching career. It could become the most important week of his career. This is the week he has to take disciplinary action that will be lasting. This is the week he has to seize control of a very good football team from a growing faction of careless players.
"There will be discipline and when you don't act the right way, you'll pay the price," Del Rio said.
That's the message he'll attempt to drive home this week. His success in doing it could determine how high this team reaches this year.
Forget about the score. Forget about Drew Brees' record-setting 445 yards passing. Those failures can be fixed, but only if the Jaguars' roster of players dedicate themselves to winning.
Rubs with the police at five in the morning aren't the things of which wins are made. Arriving late for practice and missing meetings won't get you in the playoffs.
Wayne Weaver pays his players handsomely and it's not too much to ask that they spend 16 weeks in the fall dedicated solely to the notion of winning football games. A few must not be permitted to distract the many.
That's the challenge Del Rio faces this week. He must eliminate those few.