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In a move that was no surprise, the Jaguars began their offseason revamping Tuesday when James "Shack" Harris resigned as the team's GM and owner Wayne Weaver promoted from within to fill the vice president of player personnel post, naming Gene Smith.
As the Jaguars' season went south, the end for Harris was a foregone conclusion. He and head coach Jack Del Rio endured a power struggle that was resolved in 2007 and went in Del Rio's direction as he named David Garrard the starting quarterback over Byron Leftwich and convinced the organization to part ways with Leftwich. Del Rio got a contract extension after the Jaguars advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs last year, and the deal is costly enough to ensure Del Rio at least one more season.
While Harris did not have autonomy on draft picks -- the Jaguars always talked of consensus -- his title put his name on the picks, which started with Leftwich. The team did well with players like cornerback Rashean Mathis, guard Vince Manuwai, fullback Greg Jones and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. But the overall draft record during Harris' term has to rate as average and the veterans added for this season -- receiver Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson and cornerback Drayton Florence -- count as busts.
Smith is a change, but will it be the dramatic one the team needs and can he win when he finds himself at odds with Del Rio considering how Weaver has backed the coach?
Here are the quotes from the team's news release:
Weaver: "I want to thank Shack for his contributions and his hard work in helping us rebuild this team. When he and Jack Del Rio joined us six years ago we were coming off three straight losing seasons, and Shack helped build a strong roster that returned us to the playoffs. Though this season has not been what we all hoped for, there have been many great moments over the last six years. I want to wish Shack all the best in the coming year and beyond."
Harris: "I want to thank Mr. Weaver for the opportunity he gave me and for the support he always showed. I also want to thank the personnel staff. They are one of the best staffs in the league and have done a good job. Thank you also to the players and coaches, football operations and the entire organization for everything they've done. I wish the team well and I wish them success."
Del Rio: "Shack and I have known each other and worked together for a long time, and I'm sorry to see him leave the Jaguars. I respect Shack, as do many people in the league, and I appreciate his hard work and his efforts to help us build a winner here in Jacksonville. I also have great respect for Gene Smith and the job he does. I congratulate Gene and I look forward to working closely with him in his new role."
Smith, 44, has served in several roles in the Jaguars' personnel department since 1994. He is one of 15 current staff members who joined the organization in its first year. He 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.
"Gene Smith has been with us since the inception of this franchise, and he has steadily been groomed for this kind of responsibility," Weaver said. "I'm excited about Gene taking on this role and helping us develop and grow our roster to compete at the highest level in this league. He has established himself and worked tirelessly in his profession, and Gene is very much deserving of this promotion."
Del Rio is expected to make changes to his coaching staff, including finding a third defensive coordinator in three years as he lets Gregg Williams go after a one-year marriage didn't work well. Mike Smith left after the 2007 season to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.