JACKSONVILLE – They saw it coming, which made it no easier.
So, when the news spread through the Jaguars locker room Monday morning that the Jaguars had parted ways with General Manager Gene Smith – beginning an offseason in which many players expect significant change around the organization – it wasn't met with surprise.
Regret, yes. Disappointment, yes.
But after a 2-14 season that began with hopes far higher, players said change was indeed expected.
"It's just part of the business," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said Monday, a day after the Jaguars' 2012 regular season ended with a 38-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
"It's nothing we haven't seen before. It's tough to see it happen, but when you don't produce, there are going to be changes."
Said middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, "When you're 2-14, anything can happen."
That was the overall mood in the locker room on the day NFL players call "getaway day."
Players packed their lockers. Some talked amongst themselves. Others talked to the media, and the topic was disappointment over a season they expected to be far better.
Among many players, particularly those who had been drafted by Smith, there were parting words of admiration for a man who had been with the organization in some capacity since 1994, the year before the team's expansion season.
"It's definitely the ugly part of the NFL business," Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, said. "Gene Smith being the guy who brought me in, I'll forever be indebted to him, because he took that chance on me. I'm blessed to be here and have this opportunity."
Alualu, Smith's second first-round draft selection, said he was surprised the Jaguars didn't have more success under Smith's guidance. The team went 7-9 in 2009, 8-8 in 2010, then went 5-11 before slipping to 2-14 this season.
"We didn't think we'd be in this position now," Alualu said. "We just have to prepare for better days. There are pieces we're going to add to this team that are going to help us. That's what we're looking forward to right now."
Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, the player Smith selected with his first first-round selection – the No. 8 overall selection in 2009 – agreed.
"It's unfortunate," Monroe said. "I have a lot of respect for him. He had faith in me drafting me with his first pick that year. I'm forever grateful for that. But changes have been made and that's just how this business is."
Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey remembered Smith as a general manager who "believes in people nobody believes in."
"Gene gave people a chance," Mincey said. "I hate it happening to Gene. It's ironic that the situation happened to him, but that's the nature of the business. Jacksonville's looking for a new start. That's the nature of the business, but I'll forever love Gene. We have to keep the ball rolling."
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said in a statement early Monday that the team will begin a search for a new general manager immediately.
Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars' quarterback to start this past season and the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, also expressed appreciation for Smith.
"Gene gave people a chance," Gabbert said. "He's very talented at what he does, and he gave me a chance. I owe it to him and I thank him for that."
Of the immediate future, Gabbert said, "There's so much limbo. You don't know what's going to happen. We're going to find things out in the next couple of weeks, and move on."