Questioning Gene: Smartest Kid in Class Syndrome

I’m about to do something that a lot of people aren’t big fans of. I’m about to question the ways of Gene Smith. The GM of the Jaguars and the man that everyone trusts is putting the Jaguars on the right track to a winning team. Do I like Gene Smith? Absolutely. However, I feel that there are flaws in his ways as there are with every GM in the league. Some more than others, of course.

I read an apt definition of “Smartest Kid in Class Syndrome” somewhere. It was defined as not only the desire to be right, but the desire to be more right than everyone else. For example, if I were to go back to 6th grade and was told to write a simple narrative, I’d probably not want to look stupid. I’d want to write a story that was so beyond simple that I would easily stand out as the smartest person in the class.

Now how does that relate to Gene Smith? I believe that Gene Smith is one of the better talent evaluators in the league. I also believe that Gene Smith thinks Gene Smith is one of the better talent evaluators in the league. After releasing just about every player from the Shack Harris era and replacing them with his own players, I have developed that opinion. Not a single one of his 15 draft picks have been released from the team so far.

So if Gene Smith believes he is one of the better talent evaluators in the league, how would he go about showing that? As smartest kid in the class he would want to not only be right, but be more right than everyone else. He would want to draft off the wall players that he still felt would be as productive as the mainstream prospects.

And why not when he drew so much praise for “finding” Temple DT Terrance Knighton and William and Mary CB Derek Cox in 2009? In 2010, he could draw similar praise by finding production in places no one thought to look. So instead of going the traditional route and drafting players like Michigan’s Brandon Graham or Texas’s Earl Thomas he went with Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick in the first round. Alualu was perhaps the most shocking pick by any team in the entire draft.

After Alualu, Smith drafted D’Anthony Smith from Louisiana Tech and four consecutive FCS players after that. Has the strategy of mining small schools for talent worked for Gene Smith and the Jaguars? You could probably argue that it has. With strong production from a majority of his draft classes, most would agree that he has done well as general manager during his two years at the position.

Whether or not he is maximizing the talent he can acquire in the draft or instead drafting players of equal or slightly lesser talent from small schools is a question that bears asking.