NFL Nation: Shack Harris

During four years as the Jaguars general manager, Gene Smith developed a reputation as a personnel man who liked small college guys.

He didn’t do it early on. His four first-round picks were out of Virginia, Cal, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

But later in drafts he turned to places like William and Mary, Liberty, James Madison, Murray State, Wyoming, Lehigh and Nevada.

And he left us looking up schools like Nebraska-Omaha, Mount Union and Ashland.

Yes, he found a players like receiver Cecil Shorts, cornerback Derek Cox and offensive lineman Will Rackley from those places. But he seemed to fall for a good story from a lesser school too often. Smith’s overall hit rate was not high enough, and his small school hit rate was certainly in line with that.

No SEC players for a team in SEC country was a bone of contention for a lot of fans.

The man who replaced Smith is unlikely to plot a similar draft map.

“I always believe in drafting and acquiring toward what the norms are,” David Caldwell told John Oehser of the Jaguars website. “If 93 percent of the players in the NFL are playing at Division I-A programs, that’s the norm. I’m not saying I would never draft a small-school player, but they would have to dominate that level. I wouldn’t say absolutes, but I’m a believer: big school, big competition.’’

The Jaguars have done their share of failing in the draft from major college programs, too.

The guy doing the drafting before Smith, Shack Harris, fared terribly with SEC guys at the top of the draft: in 2008 in Derrick Harvey (Florida) and Quentin Groves (Auburn) and with safety Reggie Nelson (Florida) in 2007, though Nelson is now playing an important role for Cincinnati.

I like Caldwell talking about the norms.

You're not going to be able to piece together a quality team thinking you can outsmart the rest of the league with small-school finds. One or two here and there are fine. But most of the best players come out of the best football programs, and that's where Caldwell and his staff will do most of their looking.
 
  Chris Gardner/US Presswire
  Jack Del Rio plans to be more of a teacher during training camp this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Jack Del Rio's on everyone's list of coaches on the hot seat. But sit down with him and you realize that he's not spending time pondering that position.

His 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars crumbled, first from injuries, then from locker-room division. Out went vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris, and owner Wayne Weaver promoted Gene Smith to general manager, giving him final say over all personnel matters.

Together, Smith and Del Rio combed through the roster, emphasizing character and leadership. In a division with three strong teams that finished ahead of them last year, the Jaguars can improve a lot and still have trouble getting out of last place.

But when they hit tough stretches, the odds that Del Rio's players will continue to hear him, to follow his voice, to give him what he asks, stand to be a lot higher.

"Two years ago we had the best locker room I've ever been around, and then last year it kind of spoiled on us," Del Rio said. "We'll get it back. That's coaching. I've talked to a few coaches and they say, 'Hey, there are years like that. Sometimes it all clicks and you've got a rabbit's foot in your pocket, and some years you have tough sledding.'"

Del Rio's early messages will come in the context of a tougher camp when players hit the field Monday morning. His training camps in years' past haven't been especially difficult, but the reviews this time around might be different as he tries to mold a team loaded with new, young players.

"I think there will be a little more edge to it; that comes with having a rough year," he said. "Do it right, do it light. And we've got some work to do. We've got a young team, we've got a lot that we need to work through. At the same time, we've got some veteran guys we know we've got to take care of.

"If I grind Torry Holt through a camp like I will with the young receivers, then he's not going to have much juice for us when we get out of camp. So we'll be smart about it, but this team needs to work. We've got a team that needs to really get back and resharpen, refocus and have a good, hard, tough camp."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

  • Not much drama in the history of the Texans vs. Titans.

Indianapolis Colts

  • The 1986 Colts can relate to Detroit's 0-13, writes Mike Chappell.
  • Bob Kravitz says in an emotional and spiritual way, some Sundays are our bailout.
  • Marvin Harrison is closing in on Tim Brown and Cris Carter on the catch list, says Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • GM Shack Harris is focused on winning, not blame. But he does some dancing in a Q&A with Michael C. Wright.
  • Gene Frenette says Harris is and should be on the hot seat.
  • Like the Jaguars, the Packers feel like they've not missed by a lot, writes Jim Nasella.

Tennessee Titans

  • Bud Adams says Vince Young is still going to be the guy in the long run, writes Jim Wyatt.
  • Additional Adams on a variety of topics, including that Jeff Fisher was a big factor in the decision not to re-sign former GM Floyd Reese.
  • Smash and Dash get the hype, but the Titans also have a Bash in Ahmard Hall, reports Jessica Bliss.
  • A Q&A with Jason Jones.
  • Sunday morning quarterbacking with Joe Biddle and David Climer.

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