Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Coach Jack Del Rio tried to point the finger at himself at his season-ending review of the Jaguars miserable season. But a coach who has often changed up his staff is likely to do so again and his opening comments, the part of his press conference where he was sending his message, sounded to me like it passed too much blame.
Here's the piece I am talking about:
"We went into the year with high expectations and didn't realize those expectations, really didn't even come close to it. On the whole the year was unacceptable. It was disappointing and we're all accountable. Certainly accountability is something I believe in and it has to start with me. I think it's very important that we learn lessons from this past year; that we continue to improve, that we recognize some of the places where we came up short. I myself recognize the need to do a much better job with my staff, and we as a staff need to do a much better job with our players in maximizing the ability our players have and putting out a much better product. I feel like we left some things out there in 2008. It's up to me to lead the way, show this organization the vision that I have for us getting things back in order and getting back to the postseason, which is what I'm hired to do is to get this team into the postseason, get us back to the postseason in 2009 where we can contend for a world championship. I think for me, for us, there's really a need for us to get back to the true identity of who we are as a football team. I believe in smart, tough football. I believe in having a physical football team. I believe in having a team that can stop the opponent from running the ball and that can hassle the quarterback and harass the quarterback. I believe in having a locker room full of unselfish players, a staff of unselfish coaches, and that together we can accomplish great things. I don't believe we had enough of that togetherness and unselfishness this year, and it's something that I very much want us to get back to and am very determined to see that that is the case."
He says it starts with him, then his first example is that he needs to do a better job with his staff. And he confirmed that he's dismissed Mark Asanovich and Les Ebert, his strength and conditioning coaches.
I understand a staff is an extension of a head coach, but I think if your big theme is accountability and you want to show that you are holding yourself to the same standard you have for everyone else, there is room to talk more about your own failures before saying you need to do a better job with your staff. He touched on it again, but even as he claimed ownership, what he claimed ownership of was the need to get the staff back on track.
"I think it's my responsibility to provide the direction for the staff," he said. "It's my responsibility to get them back on track if I see us getting off track, and so I take ownership in that."
I give Del Rio credit for acknowledging a lot of what led to the team's failures -- acquisitions that didn't pan out, the Mike Peterson story, contract issues, chemistry problems. But he's a pretty powerful coach who had a say in those additions, knows the contract status of everyone on the roster and has to anticipate chemistry.
His comments at the press conference recognized all those issues.
"We took a swing and I guess you could say missed with a couple of the free agent acquisitions that didn't quite pan out the way we had hoped. Certainly there was the incident where Mike (Peterson) and I had a disagreement. There were some contract issues that were part of the climate that created a selfish atmosphere rather than an unselfish atmosphere. Those are not conducive to having the type of team that I desire to have here in Jacksonville. I acknowledge those are all out there, but I don't chose to dwell on that. I think they're there. They're part of the past. It's my belief that you acknowledge the things that are part of the reality, but you don't have to sit there and dwell on that forever. I think for us the most important thing is to acknowledge what they were, learn from the mistakes that have been made, and go forward with renewed energy."
They don't need to dwell on them forever, but they do need to dwell on them for a while.
You can't resolve the issues of the past merely by saying they are in the past. They have to be dissected and solved. Whether Del Rio has taken his share of the blame for them, I guess we'll find out as they attempt to resolve them.
Maybe I am being too nit-picky.
What do you think, Jaguars fans? Feel free to chime in with comments here or in the mailbag.