JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed in a completely new direction.
And Los Angeles doesn’t appear to be the destination.
Team owner Wayne Weaver fired longtime coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday after a 3-8 start and agreed to sell the Jaguars to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.
Weaver named defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the interim coach and gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension, putting him in charge of the coaching search.
The moves marked the most significant changes for the small-market franchise since its inception in 1993.
“It’s the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons,” Weaver said.
Forbes reported the sale to be worth $760 million.
The 77-year-old Weaver had been looking for an “exit strategy” for years, wanting to find someone to buy the team and keep it in Jacksonville. He had tears in his eyes several times as he announced his impending departure.
Khan, 59, believes he is the right choice.
“Wayne’s legacy will be lasting, and I will always be grateful for Wayne’s trust and confidence in my commitment to the Jaguars, the NFL and the people of the Jacksonville community,” Khan said in a statement.
Born in Pakistan, Khan left home at age 16 to attend the University of Illinois. He graduated in 1971, a year after he started working for Flex-N-Gate Corp. in Urbana, Ill. He purchased the company in 1980. Today, Flex-N-Gate is a major manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles built in North America.
Khan tried to purchase controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams last year.
His purchase of the Jaguars is subject to NFL approval. League owners will vote to ratify the deal Dec. 14, and if it passes, would become official Jan. 4.
The Jaguars could have a new coach in place before then.
“There’s a lot of good things that will happen in the future,” Smith said.
Del Rio’s job security had been tenuous since Weaver said the coach needed to make the playoffs to secure a 10th season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars were essentially eliminated with Sunday’s 20-13 loss to AFC South-leading Houston.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “Change is good sometimes. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate situation.”