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O-Zone: Doing my part

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Keith from Orlando, FL:
Bill Callahan? Thoughts?
John: The Jaguars have requested permission to speak to Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan. That's according to a report Monday night from Adam Schefter of ESPN. Callahan has been the Cowboys' coordinator since 2012, but after calling plays in 2013 did not have that role this past season with Scott Linehan handling Dallas' play-calling duties. The direction makes sense for the Jaguars because Callahan – at 58 – is experienced, having been the head coach of the Oakland Raiders and in college at Nebraska. That level of experience was something former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch didn't bring. Callahan's background also is mostly offensive line, which may be the area on the Jaguars most obviously needing improvement. Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union opined on Twitter Monday that Callahan could be brought in as the offensive line coach, though with reports also circulating Monday that Callahan is drawing interest from at least six other teams you wonder if he would be interested in something other than a coordinator position.
Mark from High Springs:
Let's say we are waiting for the playoffs to end before grabbing an offensive coordinator. And let's say the man we've got our eye on is on a team in the conference championship. And let's say that man's team advances to the Super Bowl. It's a much better story to hire a coach from a team that has just won the Big Game rather than an ex-HC who's looking for a demotion position. However, could waiting this long be considered 'suiciding it?' I.e., what if we wait to ask the prom queen to dance only to find out that Tom Cable wants to be a head coach somewhere else?
John: You have hit on the dilemma and difficulty facing any team searching for a coordinator, head coach or general manager this time of year. It's a high-stakes game of musical chairs. It's even more difficult for teams hiring coordinators because teams don't have to let assistants under contract interview for coordinator positions. I wouldn't worry about who makes the best story; the Jaguars want a good coordinator for the foreseeable future not a good story for mid-January, but is there a chance of getting left in the corner at the prom? Sure, that's nature of the game.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
I get so down watching Luck and the Colts. The fact that Luck is already elite in my opinion tells me that even if the Jags get better, we will probably always be second place in our division; do you agree O-man?
John: No.
Scott from Wichita, KS:
So I hear a lot about this Next Man Up strategy. there some other strategy we've not heard of?
John: Good question. Next Man Up is the strategy under which teams expect a backup to play at a high level in place of an injured player, and in which the team presses nobly forward with a determination not to have an injury derail the cause. There is another strategy in which teams leave the backup on the bench, play with 10, or sometimes nine or eight players and cry like babies throughout the game. I usually handle crisis with an approach at least somewhat similar to this, but it's considerably less common in NFL circles and considered by some "unmanly."
Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Love a 9:30 a.m. game.
John: This was in response to an email I received Sunday and posted Monday from a reader/writer complaining about the 9:30 a.m. start for the Jaguars' game against the Buffalo Bills in London next season. I wrote that it didn't bother me, and in fact I sort of liked it, but I added that the starting time perhaps wasn't as significant for someone in London as it would be stateside. I also asked if this was bothering many people. The overwhelming response was, "No, it wasn't a bother – and people actually generally liked the idea." Generally.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
I don't mind the 9:30 a.m. London game. But, isn't the NFL essentially saying, "no one in the Mountain or Pacific time zones care about that game?"
John: Sort of, but they've been sort of saying that about Monday and Thursday games with 8:30 p.m. starts for a while, too. The NFL clearly likes the 9:30 a.m. start out of London, and I'd be surprised if you don't see a lot of them going forward.
Doug from Jacksonville:
First, I love the 9:30 a.m. start: breakfast and a Bloody Mary. Second, do you think Peyton is interested in coaching? If so, where would he start quarterback or offensive coordinator?
John: First, #DTWD. Second, I'm not sure what lies ahead for Manning. One reason is because I'm not sure he will retire. He was playing at a pretty high level early this season, and I think he'll need to recover physically from his injury before figuring out if he wants to play again. Another reason is it's hard to know what Manning will want to do post-retirement. He knows the game well enough to be a head coach or a coordinator, but much of his success as an "on-field offensive coordinator" has stemmed from his ability to read defenses and make the right calls on the fly. It stands to reason he could struggle as a play-caller if his quarterback is not Peyton Manning. I tend to think Manning's future lies in the front office as a John Elway-type executive. Television of course also is an option. He almost certainly would instantly be one of the highest-paid analysts and it's hard to see him not being pretty good in the role.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Will a safety, defensive end or right tackle be a priority in free agency or the draft this offseason?
John: Yes.
Dean from Rochester, NY:
I assumed the 9:30 a.m. London game time start was so the NFL could stack together four game slots into the day.
John: It is.
Casey from Templeton, CA:
John, I keep hearing Gus may be waiting for an offensive coordinator from the remaining playoff teams. My question is this: why would any sane gentleman leave his job coaching an offense that is nearly in a Super Bowl for a team that is 3-13? I have a hard time believing Gus is holding out for one of those guys and an even harder time believing they would take that step down the ladder. Can you provide some clarity and perspective?
John: Sure. In a lot of cases other than Callahan's, Bradley may not be waiting for an offensive coordinator from a postseason team. That would be a lateral move and a team may not allow a quality coordinator to make such a move. What's important to note is even in that scenario the coach's current team does not have to grant permission to interview. That's because teams can block any move that's not a promotion to head coach. In other words, a team can block the lowest of assistant coaches – for example, the quality control coach – from interviewing for a coordinator position if the assistant is under contract.
Mike from West Des Moines, IA:
Recently here I predicted New England would play either Green Bay or Seattle in the Super Bowl. I can't see Indianapolis going into Foxborough and winning. While winning in Seattle is very difficult, I like the Packers' chances with Rodgers and Eddie Lacy. I was surprised by Denver. Is this the end for Manning?
John: A few thoughts. Good predictions – and I don't see Indianapolis winning in New England, either. It's also hard to see anyone beating Seattle right now. As far as Denver, I wasn't overly surprised. Manning looked like he had a lot of trouble getting any sort of velocity on the ball, and that doesn't bode well for winning in the playoffs. Is it the end? I don't know.
David from Oviedo, FL:
In watching the playoffs this year, one thing that jumped out at me was how long the quarterbacks had to throw the ball. The way the offensive lineman held and finished their blocks is something I didn't see from our offensive line much this year.
John: I saw that, too. There's no question the Jaguars' offensive line must improve. Another thing that stood out was the ability of polished quarterbacks to move around in the pocket and step up away from pressure. The ability of those quarterbacks and linemen to pick up the blitz also stood out. There is a gap in a lot of areas between the Jaguars and the teams playing this past weekend. Experience and adding players should help close that gap.
Austin from Athens, GA:
While sitting in my college cafeteria, the song "Slip, Sliding Away" came on. To my friends' surprise, I sang heartily along to the song. I owe that to you and the O-Zone mailbag. Thank you for making me seem more music savvy than I actually am.
John: You're welcome. It's very important to me that I "give back."

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