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O-Zone: All over the place

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Craig from Jax

O-machine. Clearly, I don't know more than Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke and the professionals in the organization. But you have to win now in this league. Trying to save salary cap space for the next year, as in preparing for quarterback Trevor Lawrence's big payday, was a mistake in retrospect as nothing happens as expected. More activity in free agency or one aggressive trade last offseason may have made a one-game difference.

This view is commonly held and sounds terrific in theory – and in O-Zone questions. Remember, though: The Jaguars guaranteed big money and salary-cap space to multiple free agents in the 2021 offseason and followed that by guaranteeing more money and cap space to free agents in the 2022 offseason than any team ever guaranteed in one offseason. The Jaguars had 21 of 22 starters returning in 2023 and appeared to be ascending, and I don't know how many NFL teams realistically would have been that much more aggressive in the Jaguars' situation that offseason. Also: When you have a quarterback you believe is your long-term starter, it's OK to look to the long-term future when assessing what moves need to be made in a particular offseason. Maybe one free-agent move or one aggressive trade in the 2023 offseason would have made a one-game difference. Or two. But maybe staying healthier at season's end would have made that difference, too. Or getting one more break earlier in the season. You must win now, but you also can't grossly outspend the cap every offseason and expect to compete over the long haul.

Jake from Cary, NC

I agree that it's normal for injuries to impact performance. In the NFL, it feels like almost all players in the league must play through injuries at some point in the season. The struggle is that to be a truly elite quarterback, you seemingly need to be able to perform despite injuries. See Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes beating us with one ankle. In one sense, injuries can be an excuse. But in another, they can't be an excuse – franchise quarterbacks are paid to perform.

A couple of thoughts on this thought. One is that players do need to be able to play effectively through some level of injuries and pain. Lawrence, remember, played quite well following a toe injury at the end of the 2022 season and he played well again following a midseason knee injury this past season. He didn't play so well after multiple injuries late in the season. Another thought is while it's easy to say injuries can't be an excuse, there are different degrees of injuries and injuries eventually will affect any player. A final thought is that your statement essentially is saying Lawrence isn't an elite quarterback on the level of Mahomes. This is true. He's not. He joins a very long list of really good quarterbacks in NFL history about whom that can be said.

Adam from Round Here

So much angst that the Jags haven't "made a move" with outside linebacker Josh Allen or wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Aren't there over 200 about-to-be free agents in the NFL and I haven't heard of any real re-signing yet? Doesn't that normally happen after the Super Bowl around the league?


Eddie from Section 104

Is there any discussion of hiring an interior offensive line blocking coach?

Phil Rauscher is the Jaguars' offensive line coach and I expect the Jaguars will announce the hiring of an assistant offensive line coach. I don't expect a coach to be assigned specifically to "interior offensive line blocking," though Rauscher and whoever else coaches the area will focus on that area.

Chris from Roseville

The 1985 Chicago Bears pretty much had two head coaches (Head Coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan). It didn't last long, but they did get a Super Bowl victory.

Pretty much.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Can you help me better understand the push for NFL teams to move their stadiums out of downtown areas? As someone who lives in Minneapolis, Minn., now, I can't imagine U.S. Bank Stadium not being a part of our city skyline. All four major sports have their stadium in the downtown area and it's incredible.

In traveling to most NFL cities, I haven't noticed a push for teams to move stadiums out of downtown areas. It's possible I'm wrong on this front. My sense has been that the opposite is true, and I've always sort of assumed that stadiums outside of downtown are there more for financial or logistical reasons as opposed to preference.

Zac from Austin, Tejas

I'm not as football smart as these other general managers in your thread. But if I didn't have Calvin Ridley last year, drafted a wide receiver in the second round, and then he put up Calvin Ridley's statistics - I would be incredibly pleased. And I would want to retain him. So that seems like what the tradeoff is and it would be worth it. What is the counter argument to this?

I see it your way. My accompanying thought is that if you opt to not re-sign Ridley this offseason, you better be really confident that you can replace his 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns – and his ability to force defenses to account for him. And the key interference penalties he drew. Ridley didn't fulfill his 2023 offseason thought that he would have 1,400 yards receiving. But he was productive and dangerous, and this franchise has had a lot of seasons without dangerous and/or productive receivers.

Rob from St Augustine, FL

I completely agree with your answer and explanation of a head coach's role compared to the roles and abilities of a coordinator. That's essentially what my original question was getting at. I guess my intended question was, why don't owners (and followers of the league in general) know this? That one has nothing to do with the other? Every time a team plays well on one side of the ball during a given season, that coordinator suddenly becomes a "great head coach" option overnight (then dismissed just as quickly). Why do you think this is? When and how do you ever see it changing? Reminds me of something along the lines of a comment made by Mike Florio, that there's no test for someone to become an owner of a team. You don't need to be able to know what you're doing. The only test to own an NFL team is to have money. The year after year coaching changes show that they really have no clue.

Why don't owners, fans and observers realize this? Good question. My theory: A combination of laziness, and an unwillingness to defy "conventional wisdom." Hiring a head coach for many owners takes on an element of when you were buying a stereo as a kid in the 1980s. The true quality of the stereo didn't matter. What mattered was whether your friends thought it was cool. So you bought the flashiest stereo with the biggest speakers, not the best speakers. Fans and observers often think the quality of a coach – head coach and otherwise – is about the coach's players statistics the previous season. Many owners therefore chase the coach with the best statistics instead of the good coach. It would all make so much more sense if they just bought the best speakers. Then again, those big Pioneer speakers looked damned good on my roommate's loft.

Fred from Naples, FL

Dan Quinn got a second chance at head coaching opportunity when he recently signed with the Washington Commanders. It is great to see candidates getting second chances. Do you ever see a time when Gus Bradley gets a second chance at a head coaching position?

I would like to see this, and I expect Bradley would fare fine as a head coach in the right circumstance. I suspect his record as the Jaguars' head coach would prevent this.

Don from Marshall NC

If I was playing for the Jaguars, I would remember when the NFC Champions 49ers stole your manhood and ended your season last year. It's hard to grasp how they never recovered from that game. Go Jaguars!

Don remains all in, but methinks he's wrong here. The Jaguars played well and won their two games immediately after a Week 10 34-3 loss to the San Francisco. From this view, the Jaguars never really recovered from losing wide receiver Christian Kirk and Lawrence sustaining a high-ankle sprain in a 34-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

David from Ada, OK

Running play gets stopped at the line of scrimmage. Fans: See? We always run in (x) situation. We are too predictable! Fire the offensive coordinator because we like the head coach. Defense collapses second half of season. Season ends. Fans: How dare you fire the defensive coordinator. We liked him. Time goes by. Fans: O-ZONE says all the coaches should STAY? Hmm. Maybe fans like the wrong guys?

I am the king of all funk.