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Passionate beginning


It wasn't a press conference, it was a pep rally, and the several hundred Jaguars fans in attendance cheered Jack Del Rio's every word.

The theme of this evening's presentation of Del Rio as the Jaguars' new head football coach was a "return to passion." It oozed from Del Rio's and team owner Wayne Weaver's lips.

"We will bring passion back to this stadium," the 39-year-old Del Rio told the throng that assembled in Alltel Stadium's East Touchdown Club, where the Jaguars presented a welcome party that included cheerleaders and confetti.

"Our goal is to reach the tournament (playoffs). We want to do that every year," the new coach added.

And that quest began last night when the last cheer died. Now, Del Rio begins the task of rebuilding a football team that had qualified for the NFL playoffs in four consecutive seasons, but has missed the last three "tournaments."

Weaver was adamant in casting his faith in Del Rio, who bowled over the Jaguars owner in an interview earlier this week. Weaver was quickly overwhelmed by Del Rio's enthusiasm and his potential for becoming a fan favorite.

"We're going to recapture the buzz and the electricity we had in this community nine years ago," Weaver said.

The Jaguars owner charmed those in attendance with promises of a more aggressive style of play with Del Rio at the helm. "It's not going to be this three yards and a cloud of dust," Weaver said. And that drew the loudest cheer of the evening.

Weaver spoke of his original intention to find a coach with previous head-coaching experience, and then of his change of heart when careful examination revealed the majority of coaches in this year's playoffs came out of the assistants ranks.

"It opened my eyes that you have to look beyond experience. Some people would say we made a bold move in selecting Jack Del Rio. I would say we made the right move," Weaver said.

Prior to the official "press conference" in the East Club, Del Rio addressed a gathering of Jaguars staff employees. Quarterback Mark Brunell was in attendance; the only player present.

"It's a new era. It's exciting. I wanted to be here from day one," Brunell said following Del Rio's address to the staffers. "I was real impressed. You can see why Mr. Weaver is so captivated by him. He was real impressive. He handled himself well. He's the guy."

Brunell reiterated that he wants to remain the Jaguars quarterback in 2003, though there has been speculation the team could opt to trade or release Brunell in favor of the major salary cap relief he would provide.

"I'll be here Monday," Brunell said. "I'd like to spend some time with him. I'm not going to ask him what his intentions are. I'm the quarterback and I'll treat it that way until I'm told differently."

When asked if he would retain Brunell as the Jaguars' quarterback, Del Rio was somewhat evasive. "I'd hate to speculate," he said. "I'm anxious to dig into film and talk to Mark and see where he's at. I think he'll be excited about what we're going to do on offense. We will bring an exciting brand he will be a fan of."

Del Rio was much more to the point about the style of offense and defense he will install. He is a clearly an attack-style coach.

"We're going to be an aggressive, attacking team; one that challenges wide receivers with our defensive backs," he said of his defensive philosophy, which he revealed as the rookie coordinator of the NFL's second-ranked defense this past season.

"What are my thoughts on offense? Don't get caught up in nicknames. My philosophy is to use multiple formations and to attack the defense," he said.

The best guess is that he also likes special teams that attack, too.

Del Rio said Jimmy Johnson had the greatest influence on his football philosophies. "I believe in the speed and the aggressiveness," said Del Rio, who played for Johnson in Dallas.

"You build trust with your players. You build a system that allows them to play fast," Del Rio added.

He said he will have his coaching staff assembled before the Super Bowl is played. "We want guys who can teach, who can motivate and who can maximize our talent," he said.

Del Rio was asked what was decided between he and Weaver as far as authority in draft decisions. "I think Wayne said we're going to arm-wrestle," Del Rio said, referring to Phil Savage, who is expected to be announced as the team's new personnel boss tomorrow morning.

"We promised you a new era," Weaver said. "That new era begins now."

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