O-Zone: All the difference

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jason from North Pole, AK:
They say the NFL is a copycat league. Do you think we will see more teams following the Jaguars' model by doing significant upgrades to stadiums each year? Do you think it is getting harder for owners to get public money to build brand-new stadiums? If so, why is that the case?
John: The saying that the NFL is a copycat league is more about on the field than off. It's a copycat league on the field because coaches watch video during the season and offseason – and if a team is having success doing something, most coaches will do what most people would do in that circumstance: take what's successful and try to use it. That's infinitely easier than thinking for yourself and inventing something on your own. When it comes to owners copying other owners, that's trickier because every market is different. I don't doubt, for example, that Jaguars Owner Shad Khan would love to get a $750 million state-of-the-art stadium from Jacksonville without spending any of his own money. Who wouldn't? But Khan understands that the best approach in this market is to emphasize a joint private/public partnership and renovate/modernize EverBank Field gradually rather than approach the city with an or-else proposal. As far as whether it's harder for owners to get public money, that's hard to say. I've been covering the league more than two decades and following it from afar long before that, and it seems getting public money usually has been difficult – and that it often comes down to whether cities/areas prefer the pain of writing big tax-generated checks or losing their NFL franchises. Will other owners/cities execute significant upgrades on an annual basis as Khan and Jacksonville have done and continue to do? Possibly, but remember: Khan is a unique, innovative thinker who's operating in a unique market. His approach wouldn't be necessary everywhere and not every owner has Khan's vision. There's a reason he's one of the world's most successful men of his generation. He is, as I mentioned, unique.
Paul from Jacksonville:
I also remember the Coughlin years, but very differently than Michael from Orange Park. There was nothing boring about the football being played with Mark Brunell under center, and Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell on the field. The reason that few of us remember the other receivers from that time is less about talent, and more about not having to check down from those two very often. Damon Jones, Kyle Brady and Pete Mitchell, along with Fred Taylor (and James Stewart before him) filled out a well-rounded offense that was anything but boring. Coughlin wasn't fired due to fans thinking they ran him out of town, but because Wayne Weaver rightly understood that Coughlin's push for a ring landed the Jaguars in a very deep hole. If Jaguars football was boring for his last couple of seasons, it had more to do with not being able to replace core players. The perception of Tom being a "3.5-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" guy just don't hold true for anyone who remembers what his teams played like when they were built. Also, is there any kind of football more boring than the kind where longtime fans don't feel their team has a chance to win?
John: #DTWD
Kyan from Ludwig:
Doug Marrone said he didn't want to fill a circular hole with a square peg, then proceeded to say he wants Dante Fowler Jr. to be a down-linemen pass rusher. Fowler has expressed that he feels more comfortable being on just two feet rather than in a three-point stance. Isn't he kind of trying to put a square peg in a circular hole here?
John: Marrone said at the 2017 NFL Annual Meeting this week in Phoenix, Arizona, he believes the Jaguars' defensive personnel fits best with a 4-3 – and that that's how the defense is being built and will continue to be built. He did not rule out Fowler ever being able to rush standing up, and he did say the team would have a three down-linemen package to use on occasion. But I don't know that that's as much fitting a square peg into a round hole as it is taking a defense that played pretty well in a lot of spots last season and continuing to try to build on the strengths. Fowler has yet to show he's a player around whom a defense should be reconstructed. Perhaps when he does show he is that kind of a player, the Jaguars will build more of it around him.
Bill from Lakeland, FL:
What do you think about the Jags drafting a local kid, Nate Peterman from Pitt, in the second round?? Most reports say he is the most pro-ready of the draft-eligible quarterbacks and has a good upside potential. I am hoping Bortles fixes his issues, but if he doesn't it would seem like a kid like Peterman sitting for a year and learning the system and the NFL might be a good Plan B.
John: I like what I have seen from Peterman and wouldn't mind the selection at all. He's an impressive kid and he indeed seems to possess an NFL skill set. I've said often that it's possible one or a few NFL-caliber quarterbacks could slip to late in the first round or early in the second in this draft. Any of those players likely will need time and likely wouldn't start immediately, but the Jaguars could see something in one they like enough to take in Round 2? Peterman certainly fits that description.
William from Orlando, FL:
Do you think Bortles will be the Jaguars' quarterback of the future?
John: I honestly don't know. That answer isn't me evading the question; rather, it's me saying I believe Bortles must play better in 2017 and I don't know if he will do that. I think he can. I think he is physically capable. I think I have seen flashes that make me think it's possible. What I haven't seen is enough consistency to give me confidence.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on the extra practice time teams get when they have a new coach and the fact that teams who promote an interim do not get that extra time? I get the idea behind it, but I still feel like a team in that situation should get the extra time. It's not as if an interim can install his new system in a couple weeks at the end of a season ... he's basically just there to maintain course, get to the end of the year and maybe make some minor tweaks here and there.
John: This is the scenario the Jaguars face now that the Jaguars rescheduled the start of the offseason program. Teams with returning head coaches will begin their offseason program on April 17 and teams with new head coaches could begin April 3. With Head Coach Doug Marrone serving as interim head coach the last two games of last season, the Jaguars had requested – and been granted – permission to start April 10. The NFLPA challenged this and the Jaguars opted to begin April 17 to avoid further uncertainty. It's too bad for the Jaguars, and I do believe they should have been able to start April 3. A new head coach is a new head coach whether or not he served on the staff in some capacity the previous season or now. Still, my take is it's actually much ado about not a whole lot. The two weeks are valuable for install, but the work certainly can get done in the time allotted. And I can actually see the NFLPA's perspective in this case: the Jaguars are returning their two offensive coordinators and an interim head coach, so it does from the outside have the appearance of being the same staff. And from the league's point of view – and from the perspective of the players' association -- there is something to be said for preventing teams from promoting an offensive coordinator to head coach in the final six weeks of the season, then getting two extra weeks in the offseason. Either way, remember that figure: two weeks. It would have been nice for the Jaguars to get that time, but not getting it shouldn't derail the train.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I do believe Blake Bortles looked like a better quarterback the last two games of the year versus the first 14. I was trying to think why and looked at my recordings of Games 15 and 16. It then clicked: The difference was Bryan Walters. As Julian Edelman was Brady's "sure thing," it seemed that Walters was Blake's "sure thing". No, he won't win a footrace. No, he won't out-leap a defensive back for a 50-50 ball. However, that guy has great hands and always seems to get open. He was a chain-mover in those games. I'm glad Dave and Tom decided to re-sign him. I have no idea if he'll make the 53-man roster but in my eyes he deserves an honest shot. Any thoughts on this?
John: I think this one's going to take a while for me to process, that's what I think.

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