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O-Zone: Confidently spoken

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Kenny from Toms River:
I've always believed a good indicator of a good-to-great head coach has been that the side of the ball they're familiar with is usually strong. Gus Bradley is a defensive-minded coach … granted, the talent on that side of the ball could be better, but the defense isn't even serviceable. Is it fair to say that Pete Carroll is the defensive mind deserving of all the credit for Seattle's defense being as good as it has been?
John: I've actually never been a big believer in your initial theory, because while it's sometimes true, there are also glaring exceptions – and success as a coordinator isn't a particularly good indicator of future success as a head coach, anyway. Bill Belichick is a great defensive mind and there have been times New England has had a great defense during his tenure. There also have been many times when New England's offense has been miles ahead of the defense. Tony Dungy is a great defensive mind, but his defenses in Indianapolis often struggled compared to the offense. Sure, Pete Carroll is a great defensive mind and deserves a lot of credit for Seattle's defenses, but remember: the Seahawks have a lot of very-good-to-great players on defense. A case could be made that that's not true of the Jaguars quite yet.
Ace from Duuuuuvvalll!!!:
Yo O, do you think Demarco Murray is regretting not taking that offer from the Jags now?
John: Maybe. Maybe not. Not sure I care.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Yes, this game matters. So far this year, this team has proven it can beat the Titans and Colts. Proving the Jags are also capable of beating the other team in their division would mean a lot to me.
John: Yes, that would matter – particularly with the Texans still playing for a playoff spot. I'm not holding my breath that that will happen because teams motivated by the postseason carrot at the end of a season usually beat teams out of contention, but hey: weirder things have happened.
Jamaal from Duval:
Hey, Zone: Jonas Gray showed some speed and power Sunday that most practice-squad players don't have. He's obviously a talented back and I think he could be a nice addition to the backfield for 2016, plus he's only 25. What are your thoughts?
John: I think we'll get a good look at Jonas Gray Sunday early and often, and I think there's a pretty good chance he's around come training camp next season.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Could not BE happier about the news Bradley will remain as head coach in 2016. I think it's the right move, although I also understand why many don't. Recently, the question rolled around Twitter as to why he should be kept; for those of us in favor of it to give a reason why. Of course, continuity was immediately dismissed out of hand, which was stupid – but continuity aside, do you have a good answer for that question?
John: Continuity absolutely should not be dismissed out of hand, and it's a very good reason for keeping a head coach. But there are a couple of reasons that outweigh the whole "continuity thing." One is that the Jaguars overall appear to be improving. They didn't improve as much this season as they wanted or perhaps as much as they should have improved. But they improved, and as long as that's the case there's a strong argument to be made for not changing course. Maybe the biggest reason, though, is the culture that Bradley has established. Many discount that, but to listen to Blake Bortles, Blake Bortles and Blake Bortles this week, Bradley's approach as a developmental coach and the culture he has created is a big reason they have improved dramatically during their time in the NFL. Discount that all you want, but it's a big factor in Bradley being the right coach for this franchise at this time.
Happy New Year from Jacksonville:
Wishing you a very Happy and Safe New Year! Next year at this time, I have no doubt we will be looking ahead to some playoff action. My question is odd, but I'll ask anyway. What does the NFL do when New Years Day falls on a Sunday (1/1/2017) and the bowl games usually dominate the New Year's Day schedule? I know what you are probably thinking...let's worry about this coming Sunday first.
John: The NFL plays its normal schedule of games on Sunday in that scenario. College football in that scenario typically moves bowl games off New Year's Day to make room for the NFL because, you know … NFL.
Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Caldwell and Bradley's plan is to build this team through the draft. This defense needs major help; drafting will not yield immediate results. With Coach Bradley in the last year of his contract, is there any concern they could go away from that plan and try to hit "home runs" in free agency?
John: I expect the Jaguars to have a fairly similar approach to free agency as they did last offseason, when they added eight players. Remember, they tried to hit "home runs" with Devin McCourty and Randall Cobb, then were smart enough to not swing at bad pitches once those players re-signed with their former teams. If there are players at positions of need – pass rusher, free safety in particularly – I imagine the Jaguars will spend this offseason in mind-blowing fashion. If not, then I think they will spend similarly to last offseason.
Greg from Neptune Beach, FL:
A lot of people are calling for Bob Babich to be fired. But how likely would we be able to bring in an established defensive coordinator to replace him when they know Bradley & Co. might very well be gone after next season? Also, what good would it really do since this is Gus' defense and he has shown throughout this season that he's not going to fundamentally change the scheme no matter what players or coaches we have?
John: The defensive staff is sure to be an issue after the season, and your questions are pertinent ones. It wouldn't be surprising to see change because the area has struggled. At the same time, I'm not one who believes that a massive scheme change is imminent or all that necessary. Considering the ineffectiveness of the Leo pass rushers, what midseason scheme change would have produced better results: putting Abry Jones and Jared Odrick at rush end, putting Andre Branch and Chris Clemons on opposite sides of the field on first and second and downs and therefore weakening yourself against the run? The big problem facing this pass rush was on third down. The team's three-Leo lightning package was fine in that situations last season when defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks was playing at a high level and they were getting production out of the Leos. With Marks out much of this season and the Leos struggling, the lightning package struggled, but to put in a third-down package of defensive tackles and strong-side ends? I'm not sure that was the solution – if there was a solution at all. Ah, but I digress, don't I? To answer your question, I think the Jaguars can hire a new coordinator if they so desire, but I'd be surprised if there's a major scheme change because I'd be surprised if they believe one is necessary.
Joe from Aurora, IL:
Happy New Year, John. Here's a premature draft question for you: If there are two players graded out by Dave and his staff equally, one a corner and the other a pass rusher, who would you take?
John: Me? I'd take pass rusher, and I'm fairly sure Caldwell and his staff would agree.
Donny from Heathrow, FL:
Well, whadda you know....the coach who inherited a good team with talent and went 10-6 last year is fired on the same day Bradley is retained. NFL head coaches get fired for two main reasons: (1) they aren't true leaders so professional players don't buy into their vision, or (2) they can't evaluate/acquire talent well enough. It's not because they can't coach/teach, because they never would have gotten to the head-coach level. Chip Kelly evidently couldn't do, either. Despite all the losing the last three years, one Jag player has indicated he isn't 100 percent behind Gus (unlike players during Mularkey's one year or certainly Eagles players). If Gus had the same Leos and safeties in Jacksonville that he had in Seattle, the Jags would have been in the playoffs this year – and Shad Khan knows that! Why is this so complicated for so many Jags/football fans to understand, John?
John: Because thinking about it your way means looking beyond the record and realizing that it's sometimes hard to overcome players not quite being mature enough/good enough to win yet.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
Chip Kelly goes 26-21 and gets fired. Gus Bradley goes 12-35 and gets pats on the back and gets to keep eating filet mignon in the front office. That's the difference between a winning franchise and perennial losers. Winning does not matter to this franchise. Period.
John: The ability to state things definitively and with confidence does not always translate into being correct.

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