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O-Zone: A year oddly spent

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Keith from Jacksonville:
Hey, John: Don't you think it's time for a new defensive coordinator? It's been obvious, and Bob Babich saying on Thursday that he takes full responsibility for the lack of communication with the defense this late in the season speaks volumes. He should have had that part worked out! His scheme isn't working; players believe in it, but it's not working. Sure, they make mistakes – but overall, that scheme has to go. Don't you think we need a coach that specializes in coverage with special packages with blitz? And with a new defensive coordinator? Gus can be the assistant on defense. That will lay out the ground rules to whoever comes in for an interview. Right?
John: I get that dDefensive Coordinator Watch is going to be a thing until next week, and perhaps there will be a change at the spot. That seems to be the consensus of fans and even media – and who knows? Perhaps it will be the case. But a couple of thoughts on your question. First is that of course Babich is going to take full responsibility; he's not going to blame the players publicly. Second, the whole It's-All-On-The-Coordinator place we've reached in the NFL overall is so overblown as to border on ridiculous. Think of this: at this time last season no one – or least very few people – were talking about replacing Babich or changing the defensive scheme. That's because the defensive front last season played well for the most part, and it's because the coaching staff did a good job dialing up pressure, schemes and blitzes. At the same time, remember the coordinator many fans wanted out? Besides Jedd Fisch? Mike Mallory, special teams coordinator. Well, guess what? The Jaguars' pass rush struggled this season, and the Jaguars' defense struggled overall; meanwhile, Rashad Greene had a few big plays, the players made fewer mistakes and all of a sudden the special teams improved. Now, people want Babich out and Mallory is fine. Is Mallory a better coach now than last December? Is Babich worse? Is the defensive scheme worse? The answer to all questions is probably not, but hey: it's the NFL. That's how the whole thing works.
Bill from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
John, the idea that a coach should be retained because "players play hard for him/her" is ridiculous. Players played hard for Will Muschamp at Florida; he still got fired, and it's proven to be the right move. Because a player likes or respects a coach doesn't mean the coach is any good at their job. Shouldn't the "culture" that's being created here be one of winning? Isn't that what's most important? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: Comparisons between the NFL and college football are pretty much pointless in any discussion; the sports are dramatically different. As far as the Jaguars' culture … yes, the culture should be and is about winning. That's what's most important. Owner Shad Khan and General Manager David Caldwell believe that the culture is in place and winning will become more common when the team becomes good enough overall to win. There are many fans who disagree with that approach and considering the Jaguars' record, that's understandable. I know the Jaguars are better and look like they're much closer to being a consistent team week in and week out than they were two years ago. They have to show that more next year than they did this year.
Jerry from North Lauderdale:
If you were in the Texans' shoes and had starters that could use rest would you do that? Even though they haven't clinched, what's the likelihood of nine teams winning to allow the Colts to overtake them?
John: If I were running the Texans, I'd play my guys until I was absolutely certain I was in the playoffs.
David from Broward County:
O-Man, now we know Gus Bradley is staying – and from Mr. Khan's statement, Gus is on the hot seat in that Khan expects them to be well above where they are now in wins. The only way to know for sure Gus stays beyond 2016 is at least 10 wins and the playoffs, no? I'm sure with all that will happen in the offseason to improve the roster and current player development, the players know it is on them to mature, learn how to play 60 minutes and finish off games. God knows they had enough lessons in that area this season. Thoughts?
John: Ah, the hot seat … I don't know what that means, but I know there remains an expectation of improvement around the Jaguars. Khan wants improvement. Bradley wants improvement. Caldwell wants improvement. The Jaguars improved this season, and the expectation will be more improvement next season. The only improvement will be winning. Does that mean 10 victories? Nine? It means winning more, and I continue to believe and say Khan won't change the leadership/coaching until he sees that this regime isn't improving the Jaguars each season. So far, he hasn't seen that.
Josh from Lynchburg, VA:
I'll be at the game Sunday and I'll tell you what ... I sure as heck don't want the Jags to lose for any reason – at all, whatsoever. Just win, baby. Everything else will come together with time. Just win.
John: #DTWD
Mike from Des Moines, IA:
I have a problem with the talk about how Marks and Fowler are going to help the pass rush next year. That is what was said about this year's pass rush. We all said that the return of Marks with the addition of Fowler would significantly help the pass rush. Well, did they? I am not saying that they both stink; it's just that neither of them were on the field to help the pass rush and what we got was a pass rush that was terribly ineffective. If we go into next year saying the return of Marks with the addition of Fowler will help the pass rush we would risk having the same issue we had this year. I think "I Got you Babe" keeps playing on my alarm in the morning.
John: I don't doubt that the Jaguars will sign more players to rush the passer next season, but guess what? If they get hurt, they're going to have the same problems helping the pass rush that Fowler and Marks had this season.
Ronnie from Jacksonville:
Allen Hurns says the game Sunday is an opportunity to show where the team is heading for next year. If this silly premise were true, what would it mean if they get smoked with another double-digit loss? I'll hang up and listen …
John: I don't quite get why it's a silly premise. Hurns said it's a chance to show where the team is heading for next year, and of course it is. If they "get smoked" – which only has happened twice this season, incidentally – then you move forward and get ready for next year.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
For the entire tenure of Bradley and Caldwell you have been saying winning at the end of the season matters – and yet what has it done to help the next season? With that being said, the wins don't seem to have hurt the Jags. It may have saved them from drafting Clowney with the top overall pick over Bortles, but then again they may have gotten more draft picks by trading down if they were picking in the Top Two of the draft. What I am trying to say is, 'Let's beat the brakes off of the Texans and go out with a win.'
John: The Jaguars haven't won their regular-season finale in David Caldwell and Gus Bradley's two seasons. I honestly don't know how much – if any – momentum carries over with a victory. I do know I don't like seeing teams going into games playing not to win and I believe the Jaguars will play to win Sunday.
Thomas from Jacksonville:
Do you think the NFL has caught on to the Seattle style defense? Can Bradley evolve it into something else? It seems extremely personnel dependent.
John: Every NFL scheme is personnel dependent.
Cory from Madison, WI:
I'd like to add to the recent discussion about continuity. It isn't always a good thing; see Del Rio. He was the longest-tenured NFL head coach in history to finish with a losing record. Sometimes you just have to admit mistakes and cut bait. What's also sad is the Del Rio years are looking pretty good by comparison.
John: All true, and after the Del Rio years were done the Jaguars needed to start over from what in retrospect was pretty much bottom. The idea with this building process was to improve and grow out of that place. If and when Shad Khan determines that the Jaguars aren't improving and not moving in the right direction I have little doubt he will make a change.
Strnbker from Dothan, AL:
I began 2015 by tracking all the questions you answered in your daily O-Zone for the calendar year. What I found out is you do an amazing amount of writing. Interviews, writing, questions, more writing, editorials, add more writing, video mailbag, now write a script and all while dealing with J.P., Sexton – and, of course, Boselli. Well done, O-Man. Oh, yeah … you answered 5,753 questions. I'm done. Happy New Year!
John: I worry for you.

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