The first name is in on Black Monday, and the first NFL person officially fired is Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith. The team announced Smith's termination on Monday morning.
"I met with Gene Smith this morning to inform him of my decision to go in a new direction and thank him for his dedication to the Jaguars since the inception of the franchise," team owner Shad Khan said in a statement. "I am personally appreciative for his efforts during my first season of ownership in the NFL.
"Gene is a good man with a long career ahead of him in football, and I know this season was as difficult for him as anyone with our organization. I sincerely wish Gene and his family the very best, today and always.
"Now it is time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a new chapter. We're not looking back. I've made it clear from Day 1 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."
The Jags couldn't do much worse -- they went 2-14 in 2012, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert, selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by Smith, was rarely effective through his first two seasons. When Gabbert was injured in October, journeyman Chad Henne stepped in and performed at a higher level. However, and due in large part to the lack of talent brought to bear in Smith's team-building efforts, the team had no hope of success, especially after running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed the final 10 games of the season with a sprained foot.
In the end, it wasn't one bad quarterback pick, or one injured running back, that set Smith on the wrong path. It was a long history of questionable draft picks, especially high draft picks, that didn't work out. Smith, who had been with the franchise since its official inception in 1994, was named GM in January of 2009, but he was part of a front office that pulled the trigger on regrettable picks like Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey, and Quentin Groves. None of Smith's hand-picked picks have ever made a Pro Bowl.
With his name on the gavel, Smith picked decent talent too highly all too frequently, and that was his undoing. Gabbert, tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, receiver Justin Blackmon, and end Andre Branch are among those first- and second-day picks who haven't lived up to their selection numbers. The most embarrassing selection came in 2012, when Smith picked a punter -- Cal's Brian Anger -- with the 70th overall pick in the third round. That pick came with some interesting talent (Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, Arizona's Nick Foles, and Florida International's T.Y. Hilton) coming off the board in the rest of that round.
The Jaguars have not had a winning season since 2007, and it is believed that the fate of first-year head coach Mike Mularkey will be in the hands of Smith's replacement. Smith does have a good reputation as a personnel man and scout, so it's possible that his phone will be ringing soon and he'll find other work in the NFL in a different capacity.
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