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Jaguars fire Del Rio after 3-8 start in 9th year

By Mark Long
AP Sports Writer / November 29, 2011
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday after a 3-8 start, parting ways with the franchise's second coach during his ninth season.

Del Rio's job security had been tenuous since owner Wayne 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.

The timing of the move made sense since the Jaguars are struggling to sell tickets and host a Monday night game against San Diego. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was named the interim coach. The team scheduled a noon news conference to discuss the move.

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 considered firing Del Rio 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 refused to let offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and linebackers coach Mark Duffner interview for lateral positions. He couldn't stop quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, whose contract ended, and receivers coach Todd Monken, who returned to a college job at Oklahoma State, from bolting.

Given the situation, the pool of coaches wanting to come to Jacksonville was small, so Del Rio had few options while rebuilding his staff. Del Rio hinted this season that his hands were tied in terms of what he could to assemble the best staff.

Fans have been clamoring for his departure for years, with many calling for him to be fired following a 5-11 finish in 2008. Instead, Weaver parted ways with personnel chief James "Shack" Harris and selected Gene Smith the general manager.

Smith has rebuilt the roster over the last three years.

But the Jaguars have shown no progress under Del Rio's leadership.

Del Rio's tenure will be remembered for putting an ax and a wooden stump in the locker room in 2003, settling up a situation in which punter Chris Hanson hacked into his leg, and for repeatedly failing to properly handle quarterback situations.

He announced he was benching Mark Brunell and giving rookie Byron Leftwich the job in 2003 before talking to the players. He insisted Leftwich was his starter in 2007, and then cut him days before the season opener. He did the same thing to David Garrard this season, cutting him five days before the opener and naming Luke McCown the starter.

McCown was benched after two games.

The Jaguars have been inept most of the season with Blaine Gabbert under center. The 10th overall pick in April's NFL draft has been rattled under pressure, has been inaccurate on short throws and doesn't appear to be making much progress.

Del Rio said Monday he was sticking with the rookie.

It turned out to be the coach's final decision in Jacksonville.

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