JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jack Del Rio spent nearly nine full seasons as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. He had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances in that time, before he was fired during the 2011 season.
He hadn’t been back to Jacksonville in a professional capacity since, but returned Sunday with a new team ready to face his old one.
The Raiders head coach publicly downplayed the impact of this return, and did so again Saturday in a speech to the team. He wanted players to locked on the game, not storylines surrounding the head coach.
“Jack said to focus on being a great teammate and having each other’s back,” Raiders cornerback David Amerson said. “With him coaching here before, we definitely wanted to have his back. We wanted to get him this ‘W,’ it was big for him and our team.”
As much as Del Rio wanted to turn attention away from his return, coming back to Jacksonville was a big deal.
His family united at EverBank Field on Sunday, a place where they had so many memories as the children grew up. He has friends in town and within the organization. He brought the Jaguars back to relevance, and it has fallen on hard times since he left.
The Jaguars are 18-57 since Del Rio left, mark set after the Raiders’ 33-16 victory on Sunday afternoon.
His players understood the moment and honored it once victory was secure. Quarterback Derek Carr gave Del Rio a game ball after his triumphant return to old stomping grounds.
Jacksonville’s a place Del Rio will remember always fondly.
“(There were) a lot of great memories here,” Del Rio said. “It was a great place to spend nine years raising the family and being blessed with the opportunity to lead the Jaguar franchise. I was very appreciative of that time. I met a lot of good folks here; a lot of good memories, a lot of good friends. It is good to come back here and get a good effort in this stadium.”
That’s as reflective as Del Rio would openly get during this process, which comes as no shock to the players who work with him every day.
“Coach is cool, calm and conservative,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “The motto is the same each week, even here (in Jacksonville). We want to come out and dominate. That was the whole focus for him. He didn’t worry about coming back. Everybody knew he had history here, but we were concentrated only on getting that win.”