ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – If Sunday’s game against Jacksonville means more than most to Jack Del Rio, he’s not showing it.
It is the first coaching opportunity for Denver’s defensive coordinator against the team that fired him in 2011 after 8 1/2 seasons as its head coach.
The Jaguars have gone 4-22 since his departure.
Asked Thursday what facing Jacksonville meant to him, Del Rio said, “It’s an opportunity to get our sixth win. That’s really what we’re after. Sunday can’t get here quick enough. I feel like defensively we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Because of a porous pass defense, the Broncos (5-0) rank 29th overall in the NFL after Del Rio guided Denver to a No. 2 defensive ranking last season.
Del Rio was fired by the Jaguars in 2011 after going 69-73 in Jacksonville, including 1-2 in the playoffs.
“It was an honor to be the head coach there. It was a terrific place to raise my family, to live and to be the head coach. A lot of great memories,” Del Rio said.
“I’m very grateful for (former owner Wayne) Weaver for giving me that opportunity. … Now I’ve moved on. I’m here in Denver. I enjoy doing what I do, and that is helping this defense be as good as it can be and helping this football team win games.”
Del Rio’s name has surfaced at USC, which fired Lane Kiffin earlier this month, but Del Rio has declined to discuss any interest he may or may not have in returning to his alma mater and coaching in the college ranks after his contract with the Broncos expires in February.
Del Rio spoke glowingly of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the few bright spots for the winless Jaguars (0-5), who are a record four-TD underdog Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“He’s pretty special. I remember in evaluating him, were in the dome in Indianapolis for the combine and I just saw him explode on the field in a drill. It was like, `Wow. If we could end up with a guy like that, it would really help us and this guy could be special,” Del Rio said.
He turned out even better than Del Rio anticipated.
“The thing that nobody really knew about MDJ is Maurice is a terrific blocker. Nobody really understood that,” Del Rio said. “You thought when you got him he was a scat back. He’s so much more than that. He’s a fine football player and a good man. He’s had a tremendous career, so I’m proud of him.”
The admiration is mutual.
“The one thing we always respected about coach Del Rio is that he’s always going to put you in a situation to be successful,” Jones-Drew said.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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