JACKSONVILLE – They saw it coming, which made it no easier.
So, when the news spread through the Jaguars locker room Monday morning that the Jaguars had parted ways with General Manager Gene Smith – beginning an offseason in which many players expect significant change around the organization – it wasn’t met with surprise.
Regret, yes. Disappointment, yes.
But after a 2-14 season that began with hopes far higher, players said change was indeed expected.
“It’s just part of the business,” Jaguars running back
“It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s tough to see it happen, but when you don’t produce, there are going to be changes.”
Said middle linebacker
That was the overall mood in the locker room on the day NFL players call “getaway day.”
Players packed their lockers. Some talked amongst themselves. Others talked to the media, and the topic was disappointment over a season they expected to be far better.
Among many players, particularly those who had been drafted by Smith, there were parting words of admiration for a man who had been with the organization in some capacity since 1994, the year before the team’s expansion season.
“It’s definitely the ugly part of the NFL business,” Jaguars defensive tackle
Alualu, Smith’s second first-round draft selection, said he was surprised the Jaguars didn’t have more success under Smith’s guidance. The team went 7-9 in 2009, 8-8 in 2010, then went 5-11 before slipping to 2-14 this season.
“We didn’t think we’d be in this position now,” Alualu said. “We just have to prepare for better days. There are pieces we’re going to add to this team that are going to help us. That’s what we’re looking forward to right now.”
Jaguars left tackle
“It’s unfortunate,” Monroe said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He had faith in me drafting me with his first pick that year. I’m forever grateful for that. But changes have been made and that’s just how this business is.”
Jaguars defensive end
“Gene gave people a chance,” Mincey said. “I hate it happening to Gene. It’s ironic that the situation happened to him, but that’s the nature of the business. Jacksonville’s looking for a new start. That’s the nature of the business, but I’ll forever love Gene. We have to keep the ball rolling.”
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said in a statement early Monday that the team will begin a search for a new general manager immediately.
“Gene gave people a chance,” Gabbert said. “He’s very talented at what he does, and he gave me a chance. I owe it to him and I thank him for that.”
Of the immediate future, Gabbert said, “There’s so much limbo. You don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re going to find things out in the next couple of weeks, and move on.”