A former college recruiting coordinator, college area scout and college scouting director is likely to place a decided emphasis on rebuilding the Jaguars through the college draft.
Gene Smith, who's been with the Jaguars since 1994, takes over the team's top personnel position following the resignation on Tuesday of James "Shack" Harris, and Smith told jaguars.com: "My vision or my mindset toward building a team is doing it through the college draft. That's the best way to sustain success and manage your salary cap."
Smith, 44, has worked under Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio and earned the trust of both. Coughlin praised Smith's work to owner Wayne Weaver as Coughlin left the team following the 2002 season.
Having risen slowly through the football personnel ranks from college recruiting coordinator for Division II Edinboro State in the late 1980's to a job as an area scout with the BLESTO scouting combine that brought Smith to the Jaguars, Smith was a strong candidate for the top personnel job with the Atlanta Falcons last winter. His promotion to vice president/player personnel for the Jaguars came as no surprise.
"It's unfortunate the way things worked out this season. We had high expectations and those expectations weren't met. We're in a bottom-line business. I embrace this opportunity Wayne has given me and I'm going to do my best to right the ship," Smith said.
He inherits a roster he helped shape and he knows where repairs are necessary.
"The NFL is year to year. It's not last year, it's what you're going to do next year. I think the 2009 season can get the Jaguars back to the 2007 season. We need to get our football team back to the playoffs," Smith said.
What is his draft philosophy? Draft the best available player or draft for need?
"Best available player," Smith said without hesitation. "I want to take advantage of the system that is afforded to every team in the league. If you don't win a lot of games, you pick higher and the emphasis should be on getting the best available player.
"When you're taking a player, you're taking a calculated risk. It's our job to reduce the risk," Smith added.
The Jaguars' priority need heading into next spring's draft is expected to be at left tackle.
"Your building of your football team starts up front. I'm a believer in you build inside out," said Smith, who is the first building block in the Jaguars' reconstruction efforts.
"I feel I've prepared a long time for this," he said.
Smith, 44, has served in several roles in the Jaguars' personnel department since 1994. One of 15 current staff members who joined the organization in its first year, Smith came to Jacksonville as the team's scouting representative for the BLESTO scouting organization. He became a Jaguars college scout in 1996, and was promoted in 2000 to director of college scouting. Last January, Smith was promoted to the position of executive director/college and pro personnel.