Jaguars hire Del Rio as coach

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 4:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 4:04 p.m.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Panthers defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio as their coach Thursday, two sources within the NFL told The Associated Press.

The 39-year-old former NFL linebacker will be introduced at a news conference Friday, according to a team source who spoke on condition of anonymity. Contract details haven't been fully worked out, but Del Rio has accepted the job, that source said.

In Del Rio's single season as coordinator for the Panthers, he helped them improve from 31st in the league to second in defense.

His signature moment came on opening day, when he ran onto the field and got in the middle of a celebratory pileup with the players during their 10-7 victory over Baltimore.

It's that kind of fire owner Wayne Weaver was seeking when he released Tom Coughlin and went searching for a new coach, someone who could reconnect with the community and help boost ticket sales, which dropped dramatically the last two years.

Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards confirmed that the Jaguars had offered the job to someone and he had accepted.

Edwards said no offer has been made to a new personnel executive. Phil Savage, college scouting coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, is expected to get that job.

Weaver initially said he wanted someone who has head coaching experience. Del Rio doesn't, but the owner also said he would consider anyone who impressed him enough in an interview.

Del Rio will certainly be a commanding presence on the sideline. He played 11 seasons with New Orleans, Kansas City, Dallas and Minnesota, and made the Pro Bowl in 1994.

He went right from the field to coaching, spending two years with the New Orleans Saints, then three with the Ravens. He was Baltimore's linebackers coach during its run to the 2001 Super Bowl.

Del Rio will be the second-youngest coach in the league, just a few months older than Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden.

If he teams with Savage, a 37-year-old draft expert, the Jaguars would have one of the youngest front offices in the league.

They've got their work cut out for them. The team went 7-9, 6-10 and 6-10 over the last three seasons and are in the middle of a rebuilding process that could take another year or two.

They must build through the draft more than free agency, and Savage is an expert on college personnel.

Del Rio will focus on defense and probably will hire an offensive coordinator. One of his first decisions will be whether the future includes quarterback Mark Brunell, who has two years left on his contract but could be traded or released without major damage to the salary cap.

Del Rio's hire came after a three-week search in which Dennis Green, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey were interviewed.

The Jaguars also had thought about Steve Mariucci, fired Wednesday by the 49ers. But when Mariucci showed no interest in Jacksonville, Weaver went back to Del Rio, whose knowledge and enthusiasm he admired.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top