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Monday, December 31, 2012
New GM's No. 1 charge: identify talent

By Paul Kuharsky

Shahid Khan’s choice of a general manager to replace Gene Smith, who was fired Monday morning, is a gigantic decision that has to shape the franchise for years to come.

Under James “Shack” Harris from 2003 to 2008 (as vice president of player personnel) and Smith from 2008 to now, the Jaguars simply failed to draft with a consistent batting average needed to stock an NFL roster.

Smith didn’t bring in a single Pro Bowler. He was became enamored with some small-school guys, and even ones who panned out, like William and Mary cornerback Derek Cox, had issues. Cox is too often injured, not that Smith could have foreseen that when he identified and drafted the player.

Smith loved character guys, team captains and straight arrows. That’s hardly a bad thing, but it can be overemphasized. Sometimes it seemed he fell in love with storylines and potentials over actual talent, athleticism and football acumen.

I think he was a good executive as a top lieutenant, but clearly he didn’t fare nearly well enough as a general.

His replacement needs to be able to identify talent above all else. Whether he’s identifying it to be coached by Mike Mularkey in his scheme or for a new coach he gets to hire, he’s got to provide an influx of players who can change the fortunes of this team.

Smith is a good man who deserves a job on someone’s staff where a GM sorts though his evaluations -- some of which can help a team. He gave a lot of his life to the Jaguars from the organization's birth. He deserves the franchise’s thanks for that.