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Time to be logical


Put yourself in his shoes.

You're Jack Del Rio and you're about to begin your first training camp as a head coach. What are your emotions for that responsibility?

Your team is coming off three consecutive losing seasons and, clearly, the roster needs to be upgraded. Anxious?

And you're being billed as the man who is going to change the fortunes of this franchise. You'll turn losing into winning. You'll sell tickets. You'll entertain fans with a wide-open offense and an attack-style defense. Fair expectations?

So, the moment is nearly at hand. Back on that chilly night in January when Del Rio was presented to Jaguars fans as Tom Coughlin's successor, training camp seemed so far away. Promises were made. Expectations were created. Seldom was the word "patience" included in the hype.

Now, it's time to put on the pads. The time for talk is over. It's time to walk the walk, as the Jaguars take to the field this Saturday morning for their first practice in this first training camp of this new era of Jaguars football.

It's a time of excitement. The air is filled with optimism. There's an energy at Alltel Stadium that has been lacking in recent years. All of this is as it should be.

But what about simple logic? Are Jaguars fans as capable of common sense as they are of boundless enthusiasm?

Yes, this franchise needed a shot in the arm when it announced Del Rio as its new head coach. The Jaguars needed to re-create the kind of excitement that existed in Jacksonville when this team was an expansion baby. The promise of something new and better was appropriate. That Del Rio was presented to the media at a pep rally was even allowable. What's wrong with enthusiasm?

But that enthusiasm must be tempered by the cold, hard logic of the situation. It is this: To expect anything more this season than for Del Rio and his staff to establish the foundation on which the future of this football team will be built would be unrealistic and unfair.

Consider what lies in front of him:

• A defense that last season ranked 20th in the league overall and 25th against the run must be rebuilt and re-tooled to fit the style of a coach who wants to make defense the Jaguars' trademark.

• An offense that finished 25th in the league overall and 28th in passing must be taught a new system and improved without the aid of significant new personnel.

• One of the toughest schedules in the league. Three of Del Rio's first four games as a head coach will be played on the road and the final three games of his rookie season will pit the Jaguars against postseason favorites.

He's a young coach with a promising career. He can be an abundantly successful and popular coach. But the task he's facing requires our patience. This isn't January any longer.

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