Jags finally tie can to Del Rio

Jack Del Rio talks with wide receiver Cecil Shorts during a game against the Panthers in Charlotte,...

Jack Del Rio talks with wide receiver Cecil Shorts during a game against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sep. 25, 2011. (CHRIS KEANE/Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:56 PM ET

TORONTO - Jack Del Rio once hauled an axe and a stump into the dressing room to make a point, and ended up with one of his players cutting himself.

Let’s just say success and Del Rio have not been buddies. So, Tuesday, it was Del Rio who got the chop.

The Jacksonville head coach had survived four years without a winning record, and countless errors in judgment from both a scouting and strategic point of view. There has been a public outcry for Del Rio to be fired for years but owner Wayne Weaver proved loyal. Perhaps, loyal, to a fault.

But when Weaver made his move Tuesday it was of seismic proportions. With this team struggling to fill seats, as well as the win column, he fired Del Rio, announced he was selling the team to Shahid Khan, but not before giving general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker takes over as interim head coach.

The sale of the club to the Pakistani-born Kahn once again resurrected rumblings of a potential move by the franchise to Toronto. But both Weaver and Kahn released statements Tuesday saying the club would stay in Jacksonville.

Weaver called Khan, owner and CEO of Flex-N-Gate Group, in Urbana, Ill., “a great American success story.” Khan had been a candidate to buy a controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams last year. No purchase price was announced but Forbes Magazine said Khan paid $760 million for the Jags, who have one of the NFL’s smallest markets and a fan base grown cynical after missing the playoffs eight times in the past 10 years.

The Jags’ surprising news, eclipsed early tremors in the Colts’ organization which Tuesday tied the can to defensive coordinator Larry Coyer for an 0-11 season, while head coach Jim Caldwell also announced Dan Orlovsky will replace Curtis Painter as the starting quarterback.

So the first dominos have fallen as the NFL begins its annual season-end finger pointing exercise.

Del Rio’s firing wasn’t surprising, although perhaps the timing is. He hadn’t had a winning record since 2007 and Weaver warned he had to win this year to keep his job. The Jags are 3-8 with Del Rio once again on the hook for mismanaging a quarterback situation. The Jaguars have been inept with 10th over-all draft pick Blaine Gabbert.

It’s just his latest gaffe. In 2003 he announced he was benching Mark Brunell and giving rookie Byron Leftwich the job. But he didn’t bother to tell the players. Not a good move to foster team unity, etc.

In 2007, he insisted Leftwich was his starter, then cut him days before the season opener. He did the same thing to David Garrard this season, cutting him five days before the opener and naming Luke McCown the starter.

McCown was benched after two games.

Which has left them with Gabbert, who hasn’t adapted to pressure and has proved an inaccurate arm.

All the while, Weaver has been watching Tim Tebow, who Del Rio and Smith talked him out of drafting, endear himself to west coast fans the way he did to folks in his native Florida. Tebow in a Jags uniform would’ve pulled fans into those empty seats at EverBank Park. “The game is such an important part of this community, and Tebow is such an iconic figure that people would legitimately think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if he was a Jaguar,’” Weaver mused in 2009. “I’d be silly to sit here and think that’s not going to be a huge thing.”

So, if nothing else, Tebow’s success, helped sealed Del Rio’s downfall. “We deserve better, this community deserves better,” Weaver said. “We’ve been very average the last few years.”

In Indianapolis, Coyer may just be the first to leave with Caldwell’s own survival a legitimate question as the team struggles on both sides of the ball. Since losing Peyton Manning to neck surgery, Painter has completed 54.3% of his passes, including six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He replaced Kerry Collins, who began the season as the team’s starter before being injured.

After going 14-2 and winning an AFC title in his rookie season, then winning another AFC South crown last season despite debilitating injuries, Caldwell is staring at a winless season and calls are growing louder from fans for dramatic changes.

DELHOMME’S A TEXAN

It’s official. The Texans are in desperate mode.

The team Tuesday signed quarterback Jake Delhomme, last seen playing saboteur with the Browns.

Houston worked out Jeff Garcia and Delhomme with coach Gary Kubiak saying he wanted a veteran who has “been in a few rodeos” as a fall-back plan to rookie T.J. Yates, who starts Sunday, and newly signed Kellen Clemens.

The Texans lost Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart to injuries. The 36-year-old Delhomme had been working on his horse farm in Louisiana, which with a 2:7 TD-to-INT ratio and 5.9 yards per pass average with the Browns in 2010, seemed like a good decision.

Garcia is a four-time Pro Bowl veteran and played in the UFL and CFL but he is 41 years old, which was just a few too many “rodeos” even for the Texans.


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