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O-Zone: Trifecta

Posted Feb 12, 2018

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Evan from Section 37 and Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I have a very simple question. Has any quarterback in the NFL achieved elite status or become a very good quarterback after four sub-par years? Just curious as to how long it can take a quarterback to become good enough to carry a team.
John: Your question actually is far from “very simple.” That’s because you’re asking to assess quarterbacks over the entire history of the NFL – or presumably over at least a few decades – and you’re also asking for a consensus on what is meant by elite, very good and sub-par. People’s definitions of “sub-par” vary widely – and definitions of “elite” and “very good” do, too. Let’s assume for example that your question is about Blake Bortles, which seems a relatively safe assumption. While most agree his rookie and third seasons were sub-par, opinions vary widely on his second and fourth seasons. Many observers, for example, initially believed his second season was very good before redefining it as sub-par after he struggled in his third season. Many observers apparently believe his fourth season – this past season – was sub-par, when many close to the team would not define it as such. So, has Bortles actually had four sub-par years? Two? Three? Has he been very good once or twice? It depends on your point of view. As for quarterbacks improving dramatically after a difficult start to their careers … yes, it has happened: Jim Plunkett struggled for a decade with the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers before winning two Super Bowls with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders – and players such as Terry Bradshaw, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Alex Smith have had struggles early in their careers before varying degrees of success later. Can Bortles eventually “carry” a team? Who knows? But be careful parting ways with a quarterback because “he can’t carry a team” or because he is “only OK.” Make sure the guy you’re going to get is better – and particularly make sure he’s not worse.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
What areas on the roster do you see a need to draft or acquire in free agency? I think maybe a guard, offensive tackle, linebacker and maybe corner and safety. Am I close?? Thank you.
John: Needs in order: guard, tight end, perhaps right tackle, wide receiver, nickel corner. I expect the Jaguars’ foray into unrestricted free agency this offseason will be pretty limited – one offensive lineman and/or wide receiver tight end along with a multiple reserves with an emphasis on special teams.
Henry from Jacksonville:
Zone, it’s a great time of year ... March Madness soon, pitchers and catchers report, NHL, NBA playoff runs, a lot to .... Oh, heck... who am I kidding we still shoulda won that game!!!
John: Yeah …
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, my last thoughts on AFC Championship game: I don't put the loss on the players. The coaches had their worst day of the year. Doug Marrone, Nate Hackett, and Todd Wash. They went timid in second half. If we were to lose, go out with a bang – not meekly into the night. The defense went into zone in the second half. The offense went into Leonard Fournette up the middle, 1.2 yards and a cloud of dust. Taking a knee with 55 seconds and timeouts left in first half. Did Corey Grant go into witness protection the second half? We played not to lose, not to win. Yes, bad calls but we were the better team that day and should have won. Thanks for the forum. Go Jags '18.
John: Look, I get that history is going to view the Jaguars’ loss in the AFC Championship Game this way; I really do. And I also know it has been said often enough that the Jaguars went too conservative in the second half of that game that few will accept any other interpretation; the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots two weeks later in the Super Bowl with what an aggressive approach only supports the theory. After reexamining the title game, though, I just don’t see it that black and white. I saw the Jaguars struggling to run and protect in the second half against the Patriots, and I saw the receivers struggling to get open. Remember: the Jaguars tried to get aggressive with a gadget play in the third quarter and the protection forced Bortles to scramble to escape a sack; this was not an offense that was inspiring confidence at the time. I also saw the Jaguars playing pretty much the entire second half backed up against their own goal line. Those situations make it very dangerous – perhaps even foolish – to “play aggressively.” And while the defense switched to zone in the second half, I doubt many would have noticed had the pass rush been remotely effective in the second half – or had the secondary been in the right position on the critical third-and-18 play by the Patriots in the fourth quarter. I’m not saying there weren’t some plays in the second half the Jaguars could have approached differently with a first-down pass or a well-timed blitz. But to say the coaches had their worst day of the year when they lost the AFC Championship Game by a play or two? Even if history views it that way, I can’t see it.
Bill from Danville, NY:
Keep two-tone helmets please. I can't believe more fans aren't asking for the gold jerseys. That's the color I want to see more of.
John: I like the gold, too. Then again, I like burlap underwear.
Sid from Sidsonville:
What do you think the over/under will be for the number of prime-time games the Jags will have next season? More or less than two?
John: I believe the Jaguars will have three prime-time games next season – one at home. I believe this will occur despite my constant petitioning the league for the Jaguars to play 16 one o’clock home games. #allaboutme
Chad from EverBank:
Do other readers see their name on the question list and get excited, then only to remember they didn't ask a question? Just me? Dang. I fall for it all the time.
John: It’s just you.
Chris from Las Vegas, NV:
No question. Just a little advice for our fans/readers. Maybe you can expand on it: A decent portion of Tom Brady’s success is owed to the fact that he has had THE SAME OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR for the better part of a decade. Hands down. Now, Jags fans: apply that to BB5. Consistency cannot be inconsistent. Same applies to Breesy, Baby. In essence, give him more time with Nate. Almost guarantee improvement upon this season in future seasons. We have all the parts we need.
John: Continuity between quarterback and coordinator is ideal, but difficult to achieve. Luck, circumstance and patience – or some combination of the three – often are needed to make that happen. A quarterback and coordinator must be fortunate enough to have early success and therefore be allowed to mature together, and then the coordinator must stay with the organization rather than move on for a head-coaching position. An organization also sometimes must have patience to allow the pair to grow together even if results are slow to come. It’s a difficult formula to find. That’s why it’s relatively rare to see quarterback and coordinator have extended tenures together.
Chris from New London, CT:
l admit I have had my moments of panic in the weeks after this past season ended of "We need Kirk Cousins if we want to have ANY kind of chance." But after thinking about it, why not roll with Bortles? In your opinion, do you think we would be able to re-sign A-Rob, sign a guard (like Norwell or Pugh) and then draft a tight end in Round 1 (like Andrews or Goedert) if we didn't fork over money to Cousins? I think that would be a pretty great offseason and then maybe you draft a quarterback in Round 2 with the intention of sitting them for a year unless they end up being a total stud.
John: Hmm … this sounds like one fer Bortles.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I do not understand the need to upgrade at quarterback everyone sees. We don’t have much cap room. Anyone in free agency we will have to pay more than the $19 million to Blake and wouldn’t be a huge upgrade. I do think we should draft a quarterback to develop just in case. The Eagles staying aggressive is what we really need to do. Blake is capable of playing at Nick Foles’ level maybe even better.
John: Wow. Big day for Bortles.
Bill from Melbourne, FL:
I can't believe anyone would think that Kirk Cousins would be a significant upgrade over Bortles, especially at $25 million-plus per season. He is below .500 in the regular season and o-fer in the playoffs. Keep Bortles and draft a quarterback if they think a potential replacement is available. Blake was on quarter from the Super Bowl for goodness sake.
John: Hey, one more fer Blake – for goodness’ sake!

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