Jack Del Rio's assistants in flux

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
5:12
PM ET
From the sympathetic sorts, the presumption is that Jack Del Rio must be really having a hard time with a proverbial ax over his head.

Those sorts would be focusing on the wrong people.

[+] EnlargeDirk Koetter
AP Photo/Rick WilsonJacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was a candidate for the Denver head coaching job and coveted by the Rams as an offensive coordinator this past offseason.
Del Rio might not have a job next season, but he’ll still be paid $5 million just as he will be this year.

It’s his staff that’s facing doom.

It’s easy to say if they’d done better jobs they would have forced the Jaguars to extend them and they’d have no issues. But the fact is contracts for assistant coaches usually run a year less, or just as long as, the one for the head coach they work for.

I know some of JDR’s staff better than others. There are some good coaches there no matter the results they are getting. If you think house should be cleaned, so be it. Perhaps it should.

The only change you might see this season is an early exit for JDR, and an interim stint for one of the coordinators, Dirk Koetter or Mel Tucker, or linebackers coach Mark Duffner.

No matter who’s in the big office, assistants with expiring contracts will be working the phones in the last quarter of the season, when some college jobs start to come free. Hopefully they can compartmentalize and give the Jaguars their best while also looking out for their futures.

Koetter nearly got the Denver head coaching job last winter, and St. Louis wanted him as its offensive coordinator but the Jaguars wouldn’t let him go.

His offense in Jacksonville certainly has not gotten it done to this point this season. A good share of that has to fall on the coordinator. But he’s got a rookie quarterback, very few weapons and a boss who seems to handcuffs him and has thrown him under the bus for not opening things up more in the loss at Carolina.

Part of the reason I am on record as a fan of Koetter as a coach is he’s a straight-shooter.

He was asked about job uncertainty going forward last week and, to his credit, he didn’t evade the topic.

"That's a good question,” he said. “I'm fighting my honest policy right now. My personal honesty policy is under attack. What am I going to say to that question?''

"…It's in the back of your mind, okay. You can't deny it, but again it happens to coaches at all levels all the time. It's not like something bad happens and you are never going to work again.''

He also said, "I've got mortgage payments to make.''

Even off a bad season, the good coaches on Del Rio’s staff will be on a football field somewhere next year.

In quiet moments well after dark, when they flick off the film on their TV screens or computer monitors and shuffle to their cars, they’ve got to be daydreaming about just where that might be.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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