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O-Zone: Competitive advantage

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Carter from Seal Beach, FL:
Mr. O, what positions or notable free agents do you see the Jaguars targeting this offseason? Will they spend big again this offseason?
John: I do believe the Jaguars will be aggressive in free agency this offseason because there is a belief within the organization the team can win quickly – and because the Jaguars will have salary cap room this offseason. Right tackle is a position that could be considered, as is left guard. I don't think it's absurd to think the Jaguars will pursue adding a veteran pass rusher for a couple of reasons. One is you can't have too many pass rushers. Another is the team lacked a veteran edge presence last season. Yannick Ngakoue produced at times, and Dante Fowler Jr. showed flashes, but the Jaguars didn't have veteran players they could count on to get consistent pressure in big situations. The over-riding issue is the over-riding issue every offseason when it comes to free agency. As Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell accurately said this week, you can't invent players – and teams usually re-sign great, impact players. Hence, the importance of drafting well – particularly at the quarterback position.
E Nuff from Banner Elk, NC:
I keep reading on the forum how Tom Coughlin was a terrible general manager here. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he was never the general manager for the Jaguars. That was Shack Harris' job.
John: You're indeed wrong, so I indeed will correct you – but the forum is wrong, too. You are wrong because Coughlin indeed was the Jaguars' general manager – in fact if not always in publicized title – from 1995-2002. Shack Harris was hired as general manager after that. The forum is wrong because Coughlin was not a terrible general manager. He built the Jaguars into four-time playoff team that made two AFC Championship Games and had Pro Bowl or elite players such as Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, Leon Searcy, Kevin Hardy, Tony Brackens, Keenan McCardell, Mark Brunell, Gary Walker and Tony Boselli and so on. He also drafted Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. He knows talent. Now, it is true that the Jaguars spent aggressively enough during that time that they found themselves in serious cap difficulties at the end of Coughlin's time there. That history needn't repeat itself.
Mark from Jacksonville:
I'm quoting you here ... "I truly believe Caldwell is a good, competent general manager and I believe he has laid the foundation for a team that can begin winning soon." He's preparing for his fifth draft with a team that has won a combined 15 wins under his leadership. I believe that your "competent" enough to throw a dart at a board and do just as well.
John: I have the remarkability to remember what I write – for a day, anyway – so there's not technically a reason to quote what I write back to me. Unless you want to quote back that one really, really funny thing I wrote once. Wait. That was a while back. I can't remember it.
Cliff from Orange Park, FL:
Dak Prescott has earned a lot of love. But I wonder how things might look if Blake Bortles had been as fortunate to play behind that line with that running game and Dak was in Jacksonville?
John: I think it's fair to say that Bortles would have been better behind Dallas' line and with Dallas' running game. Dallas had perhaps the NFL's best offensive line and best running game this past season; when those two elements play at that level, it helps everything: coaching, defense, quarterback play … everything. So, yes, Bortles would have benefitted. Would he have shown Prescott's ability to make correct decisions and play with patience to avoid costly turnovers? I think Bortles would have been better in those areas behind a better line, but it would be unfair to Prescott to say that Bortles would have matched his performance. I don't think we can call Bortles an efficient, mistake-free quarterback until we see more consistent examples of him being that guy.
Paul from Jacksonville:
We fans have a tendency to make blanket statements about things that are too complex to be described in simple black-and-white terms. I'm never doing that again about anything, ever.
John: You might. Or you might. It actually depends.
Mark from Jax Beach:
Do you think the organization is a "stubborn" organization? As a fan base, this is the perception and perception is reality regardless of the classic O-Man's spin.
John: Apparently you're not going to believe my answer. What a relief, seeing as this saves me from having to waste time, you know … answering.
John Section 409 Since Day 1:
Kurt Warner first-ballot Hall of Fame? When I think of the quarterbacks playing in his era, I don't ever think of him. Asking because of the overbearing man crush his colleagues have for him on the pregame, and how far over the top they are going in promoting him.
John: Kurt Warner has been on the Hall of Fame ballot the past two years. He is not in the Hall of Fame. I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame because he quarterbacked in three Super Bowls, led one of the best offenses of the last two decades with the St. Louis Rams and proved himself not a fluke when he took the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl late in his career. I don't think it would be a crime against all the NFL holds holy if he doesn't get in, but he's deserving.
Vishwa from Jacksonville:
Hi O, Coughlin mismanaged the cap, not the selection of the players. In fact he was very good at identifying talent. But the salary cap at that time meant that he had to release some very good players. Since cap is not an issue any more, I am more optimistic about what he can do.
John: It has been a decade and a half since the Jaguars got into the salary-cap constraints that crippled them in the early 2000s. Your point that such cap crises are rarer now is a pertinent one, but are cap difficulties impossible to create? Of course not. Either way, Coughlin is an intelligent, capable football man more than capable of learning from experience. Just because something happened once does not mean it will happen again.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Re: the old saw about "you can't just go in the backyard and pick a new quarterback off the quarterback tree," do you see anything of worth on the "quarterback tree" this offseason? Any in the draft intriguing? Any interesting free agent options? I'm not seeing any, but I'd be interested in your thoughts.
John: There's no easy pick on the ol' quarterback tree. That basically means there's no quarterback who seems a prototype front-line Top 5 selection. That in no way means you can't find a capable quarterback, but it does mean there's not going to be a consensus player in the draft who the Jaguars will draft and who will come in and beat out Blake Bortles. There's also not such a player available in free agency. Brian Hoyer. Ryan Fitzpatrick. A.J. McCarron. Jay Cutler. Tyrod Taylor. I personally like Cutler, but he's a high-risk option. Those are the names you hear when discussing quarterback options. That's not the healthiest tree, but it doesn't mean you can't find something edible. The question is whether the players available are better enough than Bortles to be worth the price. That's a legitimate question that remains unanswered.
Ryan from the Southside:
Isn't Tom Coughlin a needs-based guy when it comes to drafting? Wouldn't that conflict with Caldwell's best available player strategy? I need answers John!
John: Caldwell has hardly been a best-available-player purist – even in the Top 5 … and whatever Coughlin's strategy he has final say on draft-day decisions. I don't see a whole lot of conflict happening.
Scott from Jacksonville:
What benefit would there be for the team to announce details about offensive and defensive schemes for next season? Wouldn't we be better off keeping things close to the vest, and doesn't that approach seem much more likely with Coughlin in charge? Being upfront and transparent in all things didn't make the team better the last few years.
John: I absolutely believe the Jaguars may keep some information close to the vest and Coughlin's older-school approach might not be overly transparent. Not that transparency realistically has much to do with on-field results, but NFL folks aren't always at ease with outward information flow. As for the offensive and defensive scheme, I don't expect the full details but I do expect the coordinators and/or Marrone to address the direction moving forward in enough detail to have an idea of what to expect.
Chris from Mandarin:
It seems pretty likely right now that Blake Bortles will be the starting quarterback next season. If someone is brought in to compete and Bortles wins the job, I imagine he will have a very short leash, like two-to-three games short. What do you think?
John: Who's the competition?

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