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Del Rios return to Jacksonville elicits fond memories
FBN--Jaguars-Del Rio file pic
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has returned to Jacksonville this week. He spent nine years with the Jaguars before he was fired 11 games into the 2011 season. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio has no idea what kind of reception he’ll get in Jacksonville on Sunday.

It’ll probably a mixture of love and loathing. After all, the final few years of his near-decade tenure with the Jaguars were far from ideal. Then again, Jacksonville might welcome Del Rio back after the franchise’s recent struggles.

“I would say there’s always an appreciation to go back to a place you spent a good portion of your career,” Del Rio said Wednesday. “A lot of fond memories, a lot of good people there, a lot of friends, and our family gets back there quite a bit. So from that standpoint, it’s always good to go compete against the people you went up against.”

Del Rio spent nine years in Jacksonville, notching three winning seasons (2004, 2005, 2007) and two .500 seasons (2006, 2010). He was fired after 11 games in 2011, let go the same day owner Wayne Weaver sold the team to Shad Khan.

Del Rio landed in Denver as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator for three years (2012-14) and then got another head-coaching job with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, a second chance he believed he would eventually get.

“I thought that I had done a good job in a lot of areas and somebody was looking for a guy with experience and that I would get another shot,” Del Rio said.

He said he’s changed just about everything from his time in Jacksonville, including how he assembled his staff, how the team meets and practices, how he deals with the media and how he handles game-management situations.

“You learn from your experiences, and certainly a second time around is a whole different perspective,” Del Rio said. “Your first time being in that chair, you understand the volume of work and the number of decisions that need to be made. Regardless of your preparation, there’s an adjustment, and having that experience under my belt now certainly makes me, I think, a better head coach.”

It helps to have a franchise quarterback like Derek Carr.

A second-round draft pick in 2013, Carr has 65 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions, clearly outperforming Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles during the stretch. Bortles, the third overall selection in 2013, has 54 TD passes, 42 interceptions and 120 sacks.

“Don Shula talked about the difference between having a quarterback or not,” Del Rio said. “Being unlucky is not having a quarterback. I think you can have great design and all that, but the triggerman really makes it all go. So having a good, young quarterback is certainly an exciting thing for our franchise.”

It’s pretty much what doomed Del Rio in Jacksonville. He failed three times to find the right guy, missing on Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert.

The Jaguars went 23-36 in Del Rio’s final four years. While it may have felt like a rough patch at the time, it looks like a relatively smooth ride compared to the rebuilding years since. Jacksonville is 18-56 since Del Rio was fired and hasn’t been .500 this late in any season since 2010.

The Jaguars (2-3) have a chance to even their record against the Raiders (4-2), who are 3-0 on the road.

With a game at Tampa Bay up next, Oakland will remain in Florida for a week and practice in Sarasota. The layover likely means Del Rio will get to see his son, Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio, play against Georgia next Saturday in Jacksonville.

“I’m working on the details to get over there,” Jack Del Rio said. “I’d love to be able to watch him play. Obviously, we spent a lot of time playing catch before the games down on that field. Very cool memories. We’ve got a lot of pictures, a lot of memories of us spending time together there.”

Only three players remain on Jacksonville’s revamped roster from Del Rio’s tenure: defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, tight end Marcedes Lewis and linebacker Paul Posluszny. They all had good things to say about their former coach, and everyone inside the building knows Del Rio will want to win in his return — regardless of the reception.

“I think it is special,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “There is something to be said for going back where you put time in and you put a lot of energy into it. Then to have the opportunity (to return), it gives you a little extra juice.”


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