JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed in a completely new direction.
And Los Angeles doesn’t appear to be the destination.
Team owner Wayne Weaver fired longtime coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday after a 3-8 start and agreed to sell the Jaguars to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan. Weaver named defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the interim coach and gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension, putting him in charge of the coaching search.
The moves marked the most significant changes for the small-market franchise since its inception in 1993.
“It’s the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons,” Weaver said. “We deserve better; the community deserves better. We’ve been very average over the last few years. I take responsibility for a lot of that, making mistakes in some personnel things, but look positive ahead that this team is not far away from being a very competitive football team.”
Forbes reported the sale to be worth $760 million.
Weaver, who will turn 77 in January, had been looking for an “exit strategy” for years, wanting to find someone to buy the team and keep it in Jacksonville. He had tears in his eyes several times as he announced his impending departure.
“It’s a little bittersweet, honestly, that it came as soon as it did,” Weaver said. “But the main motivation for the exit strategy was to find someone that has the same passion about the NFL, had the same passion about football in Jacksonville as we do, and I found that person.”
Khan, 61, believes he is the right choice, too.
“Wayne’s legacy will be lasting, and 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,” Khan said in a statement.
Born in Pakistan, Khan left home at age 16 to attend the University of Illinois. He graduated in 1971, a year after he started working for Flex-N-Gate Corp. in Urbana, Ill. He purchased the company in 1980. Today, Flex-N-Gate is a major manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles built in North America.
Khan tried to buy controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams last year.
His purchase of the Jaguars is subject to NFL approval. League owners will vote to ratify the deal Dec. 14, and if it passes, would become official Jan. 4.
The Jaguars could have a new coach in place before then.
“There’s a lot of good things that will happen in the future,” Smith said.