The Monday morning firing of Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith was expected.
What isn’t as certain: The future of Mike Mularkey as the team’s head coach.
Smith was dismissed following a 2-14 season that was the worst in the franchise’s 18-year history. Smith was promoted from a role in Jacksonville’s front office to general manager in January 2009.
“Now it is time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a new chapter,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a team-released statement announcing Smith’s firing. “We’re not looking back. I’ve made it clear from Day One that we pledge nothing less than to deliver the first Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville. Our fans have been remarkably loyal over the years and they were truly outstanding this past season. We simply must do better for our fans.
“Our organization’s business unit had an extremely impressive year and I anticipate even better days ahead in 2013 and beyond. But we all understand this is a football business above all else. With that, I’m determined to find the right man to lead our football operations, someone who shares my vision, understands the commitment we will demand, and is qualified and ready to seize this opportunity. That search begins today.”
It’s believed the new general manager will have the ability to decide whether to retain Mularkey as head coach. Like with Smith, a source told FOXSports.com that Mularkey has two years remaining on his head-coaching contract as well as two other option years that can be used at the team’s discretion.
The Jaguars were among the NFL’s most injured teams in 2012. Players lost for the second half of the season included three of the club’s top offensive players – quarterback Blaine Gabbert, wide receiver Laurent Robinson and 2011 NFL rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew.
Smith, though, didn’t help his cause with poor free-agent signings, unorthodox draft picks and Jacksonville’s inability to post a winning record under his watch.
One of his controversial personnel moves was using a third-round pick last April on a punter (Bryan Anger) when the Jags had more pressing priorities that needed to get addressed, like the pass rush. The Jaguars finished last in the NFL in sacks with 20.
The jury remains out on whether Smith erred with the 2011 selection of Gabbert with the No. 10 overall pick. Gabbert showed some improvement in 2012 from a dreadful rookie season under previous head coach Jack Del Rio but there is not much else to indicate he is a bona fide franchise quarterback.
The Jaguars hired Mularkey in hopes that he could help develop Gabbert in the same fashion as quarterback Matt Ryan in Atlanta when he was offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011. Chad Henne started the final six games when Gabbert went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
Khan decided to retain Smith after purchasing the Jaguars last year from Wayne Weaver. The Jaguars announced the team would honor the final two years of Smith’s contract.
Jacksonville has the No. 2 overall selection in April’s draft behind Kansas City (2-14).