Jags hire Del Rio


Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 2:25 a.m.
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Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, left, watches from the sidelines with head coach John Fox during the Panthers' game against the Detroit Lions in Charlotte, N.C.

Facts

AT A GLANCE

  • New Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio inherits a team that went 7-9, 6-10 and 6-10 in the past three seasons. They have not qualified for the playoffs since 1999. A look at their opponents for the 2003 season:
  • HOME: Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, San Diego.
  • ROAD: Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, New England, New York Jets, Atlanta, Carolina, Baltimore.

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars were looking for a coach who could relate to the players and put fans back in the seats. They hired Jack Del Rio, a whirlwind of a guy who once played linebacker in the NFL and sometimes looks like he wishes he still did.
    Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver made the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator the second coach in team history Thursday, team spokesman Dan Edwards said.
    The 39-year-old Del Rio is considered one of the brightest young minds in the league. He'll be the second-youngest coach in the NFL, just behind Jon Gruden.
    Del Rio was a surprise candidate, but one Weaver couldn't resist after a four-hour interview with him earlier this week, at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
    "When you look a guy in the eye and the chemistry's there, you know you've got your guy," Weaver told WJXT-TV in Jacksonville.
    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, however, came on opening day.
    Pumped up when an interception by Dan Morgan sealed a 10-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Del Rio did more than jump up and down on the sideline, like most coaches would. He ran onto the field and jumped into the pileup with Morgan, defensive end Julius Peppers and the rest of the celebrating Panthers.
    It's that kind of fire Weaver sought when he released Tom Coughlin on Dec. 30 and went searching for a new coach.
    Weaver wanted someone who could win back the locker room, reconnect with the community and help boost ticket sales. The Jaguars averaged 56,277 fans this season, down more than 11,000 from 1999, when the team made the AFC title game.
    "He's what you call a shooting star in this business," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said.
    So excited is Weaver about showing off his new coach, he decided to make Del Rio's introductory news conference a public event. He'll hold it at the stadium in Jacksonville at 6 p.m. today, and is inviting fans to attend.
    "I think he really wants the community to meet him and embrace him and make it a welcoming event," Edwards said.
    Soon, Del Rio will be joined by a new personnel executive. Phil Savage, college scouting coordinator for the Ravens, is the shoo-in to get the job over the weekend.
    When he fired Coughlin, 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 retired after the 1995 season, and went almost straight from the field to coaching. He spent 1997-98 with the New Orleans Saints and the next three seasons with the Ravens. He was with Billick and the Ravens as linebackers coach during their run to the 2001 Super Bowl.
    Pairing Del Rio with Savage, a 37-year-old draft expert, the Jaguars will have one of the youngest front offices in the league.

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