Del Rio’s job security had been tenuous since Weaver said the coach needed to make the playoffs to secure a 10th season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars were essentially eliminated with Sunday’s 20-13 loss to AFC South-leading Houston.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “Change is good sometimes. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate situation. … This is the NFL and unfortunate things happen sometimes.”
The timing of the move made sense since the Jaguars are struggling to sell tickets and host a Monday night game against San Diego. The team needs to sell about 9,000 tickets to avoid a local television blackout for a prime-time game.
Making a coaching change could boost sales.
Del Rio leaves with a 69-73 record, including 1-2 in two playoffs appearances. The Jaguars didn’t win the AFC South in any of his nine seasons.
Weaver gave Del Rio a four-year extension worth $21 million after Jacksonville won a playoff game following the 2007 season. The team stumbled to a 5-11 finish the following season, and Weaver overhauled the roster but decided to keep Del Rio.
Weaver considered firing Del Rio again after last season, but kept him partly because of the uncertainty surrounding the NFL lockout. Weaver refused to give contract extensions to any of Del Rio’s assistants, putting everyone on alert that this was a win-or-else season.
Del Rio told The Associated Press in a text message that his family was “blessed with nine good years” in Jacksonville.
Fans would disagree.
They will remember Del Rio’s tenure as one that lasted too long and was filled with quarterback chaos, inconsistency, staff turnover and late-season collapses. There also was the decision to place an ax and a wooden stump in the locker room to remind players to “keep chopping wood.” It backfired miserably when punter Chris Hanson accidentally hacked into his leg and was placed on injured reserve.
This season, Del Rio released veteran quarterback David Garrard five days before the season opener, then benched journeyman Luke McCown after two games. He turned things over to rookie Blaine Gabbert, who has panicked under pressure, misfired on short throws and shown little progress in nine starts.
Del Rio also botched quarterback decisions involving Mark Brunell and Byron Leftwich in 2003, and Leftwich and Garrard in 2007.
Equally troubling, Del Rio showed a penchant for throwing players and assistants under the bus. Del Rio fired 19 assistant coaches during his tenure, creating enough tension that could make it tough for him to get another job in the league.
The Jaguars owe Del Rio about $5.6 million for the final year of his contract.
Del Rio met with Weaver early Tuesday and then held one final team meeting.