Typically the decision to fire a head coach and extend the contract of a general manager are the type of process actions after a professional football franchise has been sold. However, on Tuesday the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League shocked the league with a flurry of managerial and ownership changes.
Current owner Wayne Weaver, 77, who purchased and brought pro football to Jacksonville in 1995, sold the franchise to Pakistani-born, American automotive parts billionaire Shahid Khan, 61, for an estimated $760 million dollars. The NFL owners will vote to ratify the deal on December 14th and the transaction is expected to be completed by January 4th, 2012. The emotional owner Wayne Weaver was believed to be seeking a buyer who will keep the team in Jacksonville for a few years now. The franchise has had notable issues with ticket sales, causing speculation over possible franchise relocation despite being locked into a stadium lease deal that runs through the 2029 season.
Weaver said there would be no contractual agreement preventing relocation, however.
“You have to trust individuals’ integrity” he said of Khan possibly moving the franchise. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that this team will be in Jacksonville.”
Weaver was highly emotional in his announcement to the press of the agreed upon transaction, fighting back tears all throughout the conference.
Shahid Khan, who earlier this year tried (and failed) to purchase the majority share of the St. Louis Rams football franchise, will join German-born Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi Wilf as the only non-American born owners currently in the league.
“Wayne’s legacy will be lasting,” said Khan. “I will always be grateful for Wayne’s trust and confidence in my commitment to the Jaguars, the NFL and the people of the Jacksonville community.”
The odd part of the transaction is that the Jaguars fired the football team’s head coach Jack Del Rio, one of the longest current tenured coaches in the league, prior to completing or even announcing the sale of the franchise. Del Rio had been on the coaching hot-seat for roughly two years now and the threat of being relieved of his duties always looming. The Jaguars made it official and the belief is that the decision was made because the team was “all-in” to make it to the playoffs this season and with a 3-8 record, that simply was not going to happen. Del Rio leaves the only head coaching job he’s ever had with a 69-73 regular season record and 1-2 record in playoff appearances. Jack Del Rio was only the second coach the Jaguars franchise has ever had. He is owed roughly $5.6 million for the remaining year on his contract.
The decision was also believed to have been made in large part due to botched personnel decisions and Del Rio’s lack of consistent year-to-year success.
Del Rio was widely regarded as a players-coach. Someone members of the team respected and appreciated for his activity and involvement in the players’ improvement off the field, as well as on it.
“We feel like we let him down,” said star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had a close relationship with Del Rio. “It’s a sad day.”
Del Rio told the press he was “blessed with nine good years” as Jaguars head coach.
Taking over as the team’s interim head coach will be defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. It was the logical decision as Tucker’s defensive unit has been one of the lone bright spots for the team this season. Wayne Weaver confirmed that Tucker would get an opportunity to interview for the full-time head coaching job after the season, as well.
Also, the Jaguars opted to extend the contract of the team’s general manager, Gene Smith, by 3 years, keeping him in Jacksonville through the 2014 season. Smith earlier this season turned down an extension with the organization. The highest ranking member of the team’s front office under new owner Shahid Khan, Smith will lead the search and interview process for the hiring of a new head coach.
Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny capped the whirlwind of movement off nicely.
“I don’t know what else can top a day like this.”