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The waiting game

Posted Jan 2, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars players – like nearly everyone else – waiting to learn direction of franchise

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars’ time of uncertainty is certainly at hand.

And to hear middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and other players tell it, the curiosity, tension and nervousness is as real for them as it is for the front office, coaches and fans. In some cases, more so.

“On a personal level, there’s concern,” Posluszny said this week.

He’s far from alone. The Jaguars on Monday parted ways with General Manager Gene Smith, a move that came after four years on the job and left the franchise in a very real state of limbo that won’t begin to be resolved until his replacement is hired.

Until then media, coaches, players and fans wait and speculate, which is all there is to do until the new direction for the franchise is made official.  

And make no mistake:

The players? A group here almost exclusively because Smith at some point made a decision they were right for the franchise?  Well, they’re waiting, too – and very, very curious.

“Everything is up in the air,” quarterback Chad Henne said. “We’ll just have to wait and see, be prepared for whatever happens in the offseason and just come in next season wherever we’re at and just play ball again.”

Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, scheduled to become a free agent come the end of the league year in March, said change was inevitable, and now anticipation is about what’s next.

“That’s what we’re waiting to see,” Knighton said. “It will make its way down.”

How far down the process will go remains to be seen, as does the direction, but when the process officially began is certain.

That was Monday around 8:09 a.m., when Jaguars Owner Shad Khan released a statement announcing the Smith decision. That came hours after a 38-20 loss at Tennessee in the regular-season finale left the Jaguars with a 2-14 record, the worst in franchise history.

After that, Khan moved quickly, reportedly interviewing Atlanta Falcons Director of Player Personnel David Caldwell for the general manager position Monday and San Francisco 49ers Director of Player Personnel Tom Gamble on Tuesday. The Jaguars also will reportedly interview Arizona Cardinals Vice President of Player Personnel Steve Keim for the position.

Other names mentioned in recent days: Arizona Cardinals Director of Player Personnel Jason Licht and New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Cesario.

“There’s so much limbo, so much going on, that you can’t really make your mind up, can’t make any decisions,” quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re going to find things out here in the next couple of weeks.”

Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said he and Khan didn’t discuss Mularkey’s future when the two discussed Smith’s departure Monday, and Mularkey said he planned to evaluate coaching staff and players as early as next week.

“I try not to think about it – just control what you can control right now and take it day by day,” defensive tackle Tyson Alualu said. “I think we’re closer than people think. We just have to leave it up to the people on the front office, the coaches, and trust he’ll do a good job bringing in the right people.”

There have been reports that Khan will leave the future of the coaching staff to the general manager. Mularkey said Monday he and Smith each reported to Khan directly, and that he is the Jaguars head coach “until I’m told otherwise.”

“We just want to know,” Posluszny said. “Is Coach Mularkey able to stay? Is Mel (Tucker) going to be the the (defensive) coordinator? Will I still play for (linebackers) coach (Mark) Duffner? You want to know who you’re working with.”

Whoever the general manager is, he faces rebuilding and retooling a roster of a team that finished 29th in the NFL in total offense and 30th in total defense. The team showed significant improvement at wide receiver, with the emergence of rookie Justin Blackmon and second-year veteran Cecil Shorts, but most position groups struggled with injuries and inconsistency.

“Regardless of whether a new GM came in or not, you knew there were going to be changes just based on how the season went,” Knighton said.

At quarterback, Henne played the final six games of the season, with second-year veteran Gabbert starting the first ten. Neither player appeared to claim the starting position entering the offseason, and Mularkey said Monday every position will be evaluated.

“I’m pretty sure there will be a whole new locker room full of players come April when guys check in,” Knighton said. “We just have to prepare ourselves.”

Knighton is among several front-line players scheduled to become free agents. Others include linebacker Daryl Smith, cornerback Derek Cox, running back Rashad Jennings, cornerback Rashean Mathis, offensive guard Eben Britton and fullback Greg Jones.

“I’ll be interviewing for everybody,” Knighton said. “Either way it works out... I want to be in Jacksonville. If not, I’ll have to move on.”

Deciding on free agents will be among a new general manager’s early objectives, but Polsuszny said the reality is most players will be evaluated closely. A new general manager means a new philosophy and new schemes. That may nor may not mean major roster overhaul.

“I’m here because that general manager wanted me here,” Posluszny said. “The reality is that may not be the case with the new guy. That’s the reality of the NFL. It’s nothing personal. There are guys who gave everything they had for the 2012 season for the Jaguars, but when new management comes in, they might like a different style of player. It’s nothing personal. It’s part of the deal.

“Management has a certain style, a certain frame of what they want in a player. If you don’t fit that frame, there are other guys out there who will.”

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