Jack Del Rio joined the nine percent today, the nine percent of Americans currently unemployed. The Jacksonville Jaguars fired their head coach in the midst of his fourth straight losing season. The Jaguars have a 3-8 eight record, one game better than the St. Louis Rams. And what does Del Rio's firing say about the future of the Rams lame duck head coach Steve Spagnuolo?
The situation in Jacksonville is, obviously, a little different than the one in St. Louis. Del Rio has been there for nine years, far longer than Spagnuolo's tenure with the Rams. His fate was pretty clearly stated prior to the start of the season, when the dreaded playoffs-or-pink slip ultimatum was given. General manager Gene Smith is not well regarded for his track record, and the decision to trade up for quarterback Blaine Gabbert is not getting many rave reviews right now.
There are plenty of parallels between the situations in St. Louis and Jacksonville, enough to stand out for even the casual fan.
Smith's drafting has been particularly bad. Since taking over as GM in 2009, the same year Devaney officially took the job, Smith's first-round picks have yet to pan out. Tyson Alualu anyone? The Rams have done a far better job drafting than the Jaguars, but that's not the standard a team wants to be held to. It's also worth noting that the Jaguars have failed to bring in offensive talent, playmakers to pair with a supremely talented running back in Maurice Jones-Drew.
But back to the head coaches. Fans and the media have criticized Del Rio harshly all season for his reticence to changing his formula, a mostly conservative approach. Not winning in and of itself is one thing, but holding steadfast to a losing formula is another thing all together.
In a truly surreal connection, Del Rio and his offensive coordinator found themselves confused and in disarray during their loss this week to the Texans. While some tried to paint the incident as Del Rio shifting blame, it was really more of a communication breakdown. Either way, it's the same kind of keystone kops routine the Rams pulled this week.
3k nailed the underlying problem with the Rams in his post yesterday, one of the better posts on the Rams' ample shortcomings that we've been covering since 2006. The whole organization is poisoned, right down to the roots, where losing is accepted and, worse, expected.
Tensions between Del Rio and Smith were visible, not to mention divisions with the Jaguars' leadership. Owner Wayne Weaver said prior to the season that Del Rio needed to win this year to stay out of the bread line.
Perhaps the most significant parallel between the Rams and the Jaguars is that same poison, the same middling expectations. Jacksonville has famously dismissed coaches like Tom Coughlin and Greg Williams, who have gone on to win championships in other cities. Sounds familiar, no?
Steve Spagnuolo was given tremendous leeway to put his imprint on the Rams, not just the roster but the entire organization. He's made determinations on everything from the team's equipment managers and non-football personnel to having a say in what pictures hang on the wall of the building, including moving pictures of the GSOT era to less prominent parts of the building.
The culture of losing at Rams Park is older than Spagnuolo, but the current head coach has certainly been able to reshape it in his own image. Fortunately, his 10-33 record fits in well with most of the team's history since moving to St. Louis.
Unlike Jacksonville, there have been no overt examples of tension between the various factions inside the buidling, between Spagnuolo and the general manager or even the newly acquired, strong-willed offensive coordinator. That doesn't change the fact that the Rams are still infected with the virus of losing, and short on answers for how to correct that.
Now, it's up to Stan Kroenke to instill a new culture at Rams Park. Until last season, Kroenke was a minority owner, albeit one with some say, in a family-owned franchise. There are conflicting reports of where Kroenke stands on changes to the leadership. Some say he's already looking for a new general manager or perhaps even a team president, others think he's in wait and see mode.
Personally, I'm torn on whether or not to change head coaches right now. With five games left to play, what difference does it make? However, full scale structural changes need to start happening in January. If he fails to act, the Rams will keep on losing, and we'll be comparing Kroenke to Wayne Weaver.