'Dude, you got a Del (Rio)'
New Jaguars coach meets with media, fans for first timePosted: Friday January 17, 2003 9:22 PM
Updated: Friday January 17, 2003 9:45 PM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Jack Del Rio's introduction to Jacksonville came Friday at a news conference that seemed more like a pep rally.
With about 2,000 fans cheering him on, the new Jaguars coach promised an aggressive offense and defense, a new and needed era of pro football in Jacksonville.
"We will bring passion back to this stadium," Del Rio promised.
It was passion that was missing as the Tom Coughlin regime came to a close after eight years. Attendance dropped by about 11,000 per game in the three losing seasons that transpired between Jacksonville's last trip to the AFC title game and 2002.
After one especially disheartening loss to Houston this year, Coughlin was spit on by a fan.
Del Rio, who reportedly signed a five-year contract that will pay him between $1.2 million to $1.3 million a year, gave no hints about who he will hire as assistant coaches or the future of quarterback Mark Brunell.
The 39-year-old coach, the second-youngest in the NFL, was greeted to chants of "Del Rio," "Del Rio," "Del Rio!" after he was introduced by Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver. Del Rio sheepishly walked to the stage, holding his wife's hand.
"We are going to be aggressive on defense," he said, adding that on offense, "We are going to attack the defense."
Del Rio, the defense coordinator for the Carolina Panthers last season, said he had no plans to play conservatively as Coughlin did last season with an talent-poor team that couldn't afford to make mistakes.
In a way it worked. Despite a 6-10 record, the Jaguars were blown out of only one game.
But scintillating it was not, and close-to-the vest doesn't fit Del Rio's personality.
"That's not my style," the former NFL linebacker said.
Weaver said he interviewed five candidates for the position -- Dennis Green, Mike Mularkey, Kirk Ferentz, Nick Saban and Del Rio.
"Any one of them could have been a great football coach, but we weren't looking for a great football coach, we were looking for someone special. We were looking for our guy," Weaver said.
In Del Rio's single season as coordinator for the Panthers, he helped them improve from 31st in the league to second on defense. He was largely considered one of the brightest young coaches in football.
Del Rio said he learned the most from coaches Jimmy Johnson in Dallas, Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, and Brian Billick in Baltimore.
Players said they are looking forward to playing for a new coach.
"If Jack brings the same intensity to coaching as he did on the playing field, then we're going to win some football games and be successful," Brunell said.