Jack Del Rio was 40 years old when the Jaguars hired him in 2003. Successful stints as the Ravens linebackers coach and the Panthers defensive coordinator paved the way for his first head-coaching gig in Jacksonville. Eight year later, the Jags are 3-8, a team without an identity, and Tuesday Del Rio was fired, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman confirmed.
Assistant Mel Tucker will take over for the rest of the season.
Del Rio went all in when he cut David Garrard days before the regular-season opener (and weeks after he had already named Garrard his starter) and installed Luke McCown at quarterback. The results were predictably disastrous. Even though Jacksonville beat the Titans in Week 1, they have the worst offense in the league, according to Football Outsiders' efficiency metrics.
Clearly, much of that has to do with the decision to start McCown, and then replace him with rookie first-rounder Blaine Gabbert. But it's not like Jacksonville is the only team playing a young, inexperienced quarterback this season. The Panthers, Bengals, Vikings and to a lesser extent, the Broncos all have had success using that strategy.
Also not helping: Del Rio appearing to mail it in long before he was fired. During Week 11's eminently winnable game against the almost-as-hapless Browns, last-drive play-calling sealed the Jags' fate. Afterward, Del Rio explained the decision to throw near the goal line instead of giving the ball to their best player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew:
“Our offensive coordinator [Dirk Koetter] calls the plays. I can’t speak to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him.”
As we wrote in last week's Coach Killers, Del Rio's remarks roughly translate to: "I checked out of this job in September and I'm just going through the motions until I'm officially canned. I almost forgot we had a game Sunday."
We were kidding, obviously, but sources told Prisco that Del "Rio was coming into the office this year at around 9 a.m. most days and leaving early." That's straight out of the Steve Spurrier NFL coaching guide and we all know how that ended.
In his eight-plus seasons, the Jags were 68-71, making the playoffs twice, and winning once. His best season came in 2005 when Jacksonville was 12-4. Prior to the 3-8 start in 2011, the Del Rio's worst seasons came in 2003 (his first) and 2008, both 5-11 finishes.