O-Zone: Ask the experts

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville

What matters more? The player or the "scheme?" Was it the West Coast offense that made Joe Montana and Steve Young Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks or was it the quarterbacks that made the offense successful? I think this question will soon get answered with former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being in Tampa now and separated from Head Coach Bill Belichick. It will really illustrate which was the reason for all the success. Was it scheme/coaching or the player's raw talent? Personally, in this case of Brady (and man I am choking on these words), I think it his talent more than coaching. Outside of Peyton Manning, I don't think there is a quarterback I have loathed – and respected – more. I really hope new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's system makes quarterback Gardner Minshew II shine.

You're seeking a crystal-clear answer to an answer that fundamentally demands subtlety. No NFL player achieves the levels achieved by Montana, Young and Brady purely because of a certain system. If the West Coast offense was a fail-safe way to get quarterbacks playing at a Hall-of-Fame level, do you know what all teams would do? Run the West Coast offense. An average or below-average player will be average or below average whatever scheme he runs, and a good player tends to be good regardless of scheme. At the same time, certain players obviously fit certain schemes; Montana's skill set – quick feet in the pocket, excellent quick-decision-making and outstanding intermediate-to-short accuracy – fit perfectly in San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh's West Coast scheme. It also helped both Montana and Young that the 49ers teams on which they played were typically very deep and very talented on both sides of the ball. Regarding your second point, I doubt the Brady-Belichick question will fully be answered next year – or ever. Brady, remember, is at the end of his career; if he continues the inevitable slide that some believe began last season, age will be a far more logical reason for his decline than separating from Belichick. As far as Minshew, I believe he will be a good fit for Gruden's West Coast offense. But if he shines, will that be because he's taking a second-year jump or because of the scheme? Perhaps a bit of both. Remember: Football is the ultimate team sport, and nothing happens in a vacuum. It's what makes it fascinating, and it's what makes crystal-clear answers elusive.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, when Jaguars Owner Shad Khan and the other owners ask for your opinion on whether or not they should pipe in fake crowd noise in the event they have to play without fans, I'd appreciate it if you could let them know it's a bad idea and instead let the drum line play?

I am skeptical about the idea of the NFL piping in fake crowd noise, too. At the same time, there's a good chance games could feel antiseptic and even eerie if there are no fans in the stands. Other sports leagues apparently are going to try piping in sounds to counter that. If it works and feels remotely right, my sense is the NFL will copy the approach.

Zac from austin, tejas

Dead Zone Q: What rule, if any, would you take out of the NFL?

Offsides. Let 'em lineup wherever.

David from Miami, FL

Why do you continue to think defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will be a Jaguar next season?

Because he's with the team now and because the Jaguars didn't get much of a sniff regarding a trade for Ngakoue before the 2020 NFL Draft. And because they don't seem inclined to trade him. Considering that – and considering Ngakoue won't get paid if he doesn't play for the Jaguars next season – that's quite a lot of incentive for him to show up at some point and play.

Jim from Jagsonville

Did I just hear an interview with former Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles admitting he was a natural fit for tight end in the NFL? And to think you mocked me for even suggesting the idea! Put me through to the front office, I have some other great ideas to pass along.

Did I mock you for suggesting Bortles should be a tight end? Well, if not, I probably would have mocked you for something else.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

This is going to be the weirdest NFL season ever. The team that makes it to December and avoids an outbreak of coronavirus at the end of the season will be most likely to win the Super Bowl. Like how flu spreads a lot more in the colder months, coronavirus too is going to spread a lot. I'd be surprised if coronavirus doesn't knock out a contending team or two.

This offseason has been the oddest in recent NFL memory – perhaps the oddest NFL offseason ever. The league has had to adjust on the fly more than at any time in its history. I expect the regular season to be more of the same – maybe much more.

Adam from Wescosville

If I were in the stands this year, I would kneel during the anthem, too.

OK.

Jason from Suffolk, VA

In response to John from Jacksonville, I was always taught differently. You do not have to say the full Pledge of Allegiance or say "Under God." However, at the very least you stand up out of respect for the flag, all that it represents, and for those who have fought and died for the freedoms that we receive. I feel that many people in the country were taught the same way. That's why it's such a big deal to those who are saying that by kneeling is disrespectful to the flag.

OK.

Mike from Neptune Beach, FL

I realized while reading your column recently that our defensive coordinator was innovative and installed a social-distancing defense against the run. With a one-year head start on the league we can expect great things this year.

You're right: the decline in defensive talent and aging of the Jaguars' defensive talent had nothing to do with the Jaguars' decline against the run the past two seasons. It was all coaching. Because it's always coaching in the NFL. Always.

David from The Island

Sometimes, I drink. And sometimes I write you after I've been drinking. I always hope you don't answer those questions. Can you tell when I've had a few?

I barely read your questions, David, much less analyze them for hints about what you do when you're alone.

Tony from St. Louis, MO

O, just because Mike Glennon knows the system doesn't mean he is good. If Gardner Minshew II goes down in the offseason, what do you think the Jags' record will be under Glennon? You said you think .500 is attainable record under Minshew. And if you think the record would be bad, why go with him when we know the Jags were looking to sign Andy Dalton? Can't that money go to Cam Newton and wouldn't the Jags be better off with Cam if Minshew goes down? It's almost like they are looking to get fired.

I imagine the Jaguars' record with Glennon rather than Minshew would be rough – really rough. But no one's looking to get fired. What the Jaguars looked to do this offseason is sign players they can afford, and who want to be here. The perception, rightly or wrongly, is that the Jaguars are going to struggle this season. If you're Newton, and you're going to be a backup, do you want to take a low salary to play for a team people believe will struggle – or do you want to get paid more to play for a team that people believe will be good?

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

Once again, sports media is associating the Jaguars as one possible landing site for Colin Kaepernick. Politics aside, how willing would you be to take a chance on a quarterback that has not thrown a pass in an NFL game for nearly four years? The only quarterback I can think of that came back after an extended absence was Michael Vick, but Vick was out two years, and was three years younger than Kap is now.

If you're signing Kaepernick, you're almost certainly signing him to compete for a backup job. The question on that front isn't as much being "willing to take a chance" on him physically, but how much you have to pay for the opportunity to take that chance. If it's affordable – i.e., something close to minimum, then sure … why not?

Dan from Cary, NC

I find myself confused at times about defensive strategy, plays, and schemes. Even in Madden I'm phoning it in. John, is there a resource or two you could suggest to learn more about these topics?

Email a few of my readers. They're apparently experts on the topic.

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