O-Zone: Factually speaking

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, my opinion is apparently an unpopular one, but I feel that Jaguars Owner Shad Khan made the right decision. Khan didn't make billions because he is stupid, and he knows the team and what is going on way beyond what we know as fans. I accept that he – a smart-billionaire who wants to win – knows more than we do, and we should give him the trust he deserves. What say you, O-man?

I say when Khan opted this week to retain General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone, it was without question an unorthodox decision. And it was something of a risk. Conventional NFL wisdom these days says if you have back-to-back losing seasons you typically "clean house" – or at least change the head coach. That's because fans and observers expect immediate results and don't believe continuity matters. The Jaguars faced an unusual circumstance this offseason because they had a very successful season (2017) right before two losing seasons (2018, 2019) – and because they had two prominent personnel officials the last three seasons who observers perceived as having decision-making power. The result of this was uncertainty among fans and observers about who was responsible for decisions. Should former Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin get credit for the successful 2017 season – or should he be blamed for the past two seasons? Should Caldwell get credit or blame? Marrone? Who was in charge of what? Observers don't know and they may never know. Khan perhaps has the best idea, and he opted to keep Caldwell and Marrone – and not Coughlin. I don't know that many observers would have kept Caldwell. Many more would have kept Marrone. I do believe the Jaguars can win with the two men in their positions because they have won before, but I also believe the task is going to be much tougher than it was in 2017. As far as fans "trusting" Khan … that's a fair question. Many fans won't do that this offseason, so I suspect that will take time. And winning.

Toni from St. Louis, MO

Mr. Khan wants a winning team in 2020. How is this supposed to happen when the Jaguars are up against the salary cap and many believe that most of the decent high-paid players will be cut? And even defensive end Yannick Ngakoue – if franchised – could miss half the season. Can you break down how this team will win and look in 2020?

I'll certainly break down how the team will try to win, and how it will look in 2020 – just as I have done the past nine years. That will pretty much be the next eight months of O-Zones.

Dr. J from Cincinnati, OH

The NFL is unparalleled in team sports in that one individual has the potential to make all the difference. It's not the owner, the general manager, or coach. They all have important roles, of course. But it's whether the team has a franchise quarterback or not. Look at the one-to-four seeds in each conference and ask if their quarterback would be an upgrade over ours. So, I get fans being bummed about Khan sticking with the status quo with Doug and Dave. but realistically it doesn't matter without that elite, franchise quarterback. That's NFL reality.

A player or two has been known to make the difference in the NBA, but yes … quarterbacks are important. If you have an elite one, you have an extended window of opportunity. If you don't, you do not.

Travis from High Springs, FL

When a really good player like Yannick has the fans chanting to pay him, how much leverage does that give a player like that in contract negotiations? Especially with a franchise that could possibly be in flux?

Fans chanting "Pay Ngakoue" late in Sunday's 2019 regular-season finale by itself doesn't change much. It's not as if the organization was unaware that Ngakoue was popular. But though Ngakoue's popularity could influence the organization to bump their offer a bit, it won't be a major factor in negotiations.

Nick from Palatka, FL

Z: I'll always be a diehard Jags fan but don't know a lick about the intricacies of being an NFL coach. But when I see wide receiver Keelan Cole returning kickoffs so well for one game I wonder why we have been watching wide receiver Michael Walker do a mediocre job of it all year. Do you think they could have used the available personnel a little better?

In that case? Probably.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Do you think it is more likely that the Jaguars use the franchise tag on Yan or that they can agree to a long-term deal? I just don't see how they let him walk if the tag is available. If he does get tagged, do you think he would hold out to a point of missing games?

I think it's more likely they use the franchise tag. I doubt Ngakoue would hold out to the point of missing games next season, because that would cost him money. But he's also a prideful person who was willing to play for $2 million last season when he could have signed a deal and played for more. We'll see.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAF - Do you think Yannick and some fans think he is a superstar when, in fact, he is a very good player? His bid for a mind-blowing contract has become a chant by many when it seems he needs to deflate his ego just a little. He's good and has a couple or few impact plays per game. His persistence on the play where defensive end Calais Campbell had his scoop six against the Colts Sunday was amazing ... especially when he fell and a lineman was literally laying on him ... but he still got back up to chase the quarterback and make a play. But I just don't see the superstar label and pay for this guy. Am I missing something? Just going to get tired of reading "pay the man" for many months to come.

Yeah, you're probably going to get tired a lot in the months ahead – and your assessment of the situation is pretty spot on. Ngakoue is very, very good – and he's exceptionally good rushing the passer and making splash plays. But he had "just" eight sacks this season and is not nearly as good against the run as he is rushing the passer. Whenever I write or say this, I get a chorus of people saying I am unfairly criticizing Ngakoue. That's not a criticism; it's just who he is. And he absolutely will get paid. A lot. But there was a difference last offseason in how the Jaguars perceived Ngakoue's value and how Ngakoue perceived it. I expect that difference to remain and I expect this to remain a very tricky situation. One thing, though: Your question says Ngakoue needs to deflate his ego a little. I disagree. Ngakoue has every right to see himself as a superstar and to want to get paid as such. Now, should reason enter the equation at some point? I suppose, but that's not how these things work.

John from Fernandina Beach, FL

Well Zone, we have our answer on Marrone and Caldwell. I'm not surprised but I wouldn't have been surprised to see them let go either. One thought I've tried to keep in mind in making my assessment of this situation is that if anyone knows what personnel decisions were made during the last three years and by who it would be Mr. Khan. Maybe we all need to keep that in mind.

He probably has a better idea than most what went into the organization's decisions.

Seamus from Vancouver, BC

Correct me if I am mistaken, but is it actually a requirement that the general manager outrank the head coach, and therefore hires/fires said head coach? I thought that sometimes they were treated as equals and reported to the ownership in several team structures ...

It's not at all a requirement that the general manager outranks the head coach. An NFL team can be structured however an owner sees fit.

Charlie from Jacksonville

Hey John, I know for a fact the Jaguars have lost more than they have won recently. I also know for a fact this was because of Doug Marrone and Dave Caldwell being inept and incompetent. I have no idea who would be better (are Vince Lombardi and Al Davis available?) but I am unconcerned about that. Shad Khan doesn't know what I know and can't see what I see, so he's the biggest part of the problem. He refuses to listen to me personally, and he refuses to allow indeterminate fans to make decisions. These are the facts as I know them.

You have a very solid view of what is and is not fact here in the O-Zone.

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