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O-Zone: Fleet of foot

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jason from Suffolk, VA

Did the GM come off as a little disingenuous to you? At one point, he seemed to blame the coach for not developing players and executing his vision. At another point, he said he was behind the coach 100 percent. What is really going on here?

You're referencing Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke's season-ending media availability this past week. Because Baalke – like most NFL general managers – speaks comparatively sparingly, the availability already has been analyzed to the point of being overanalyzed. Many people have interpreted Baalke's words Thursday as "blaming" coaching and not being "accountable." My initial instinct was that many observers/fans expected Baalke to do this and therefore interpreted some otherwise objective statements as Baalke blaming others and not himself. Baalke didn't sit on the podium and say he was an awful general manager. He didn't say the team stunk. He didn't say he had missed on every draft selection. Short of him doing that, I think many fans and observers weren't going to like what he said. Baalke on Thursday talked a lot about collaboration and respect for Head Coach Doug Pederson, as well as discussing that he and Pederson in recent weeks had discussed extensively how to better get young players up to speed – and how trust them to play early. Here's what Baalke also said early in the press conference: "We didn't win the number of games we wanted to win and that's on all of us, me included. Look no further than here." He didn't say it over and over, presumably because he was answering other questions, but he said it.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

Baalke believes in Fortner? We either have a blind man or a clown fumbling this roster. Just wow!

Jaguars center Luke Fortner was among the topics Baalke discussed Thursday, and Baalke indeed said he believes in the 2022 third-round selection. Pederson spoke similarly the day after the 2023 regular season. I expect changes on the interior of the offensive line this offseason – and perhaps on both lines. Discussions and meetings over the next few weeks will determine the Jaguars' approach there. No matter those plans, I wouldn't have expected either Baalke or Pederson to have talked poorly of any player so soon after the season. What would be the point of that?

Mark from Archer

John, I recently read an article that said Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen is very unhappy with Baalke because he addressed the media about his contract before talking to him. This worries me we are going to have a similar situation like we did with former cornerback Jalen Ramsey and others when they were here having issues with the front office. Do you think this is an area to now be monitoring or do you think it will blow over?

It's a storyline to watch that I expect, if true, can be re$olved.

Randy from Way Up North

O, the Jags are not even considering not re-signing Josh are they? Give him what he wants, he's about the only guy who knows what he's doing on the defense.

The Jaguars will either re-sign Allen or use the franchise tag. Teams cannot in contract negotiations give a player "what he wants."

Marcus from Jax

I always thought that the angst over Baalke was a little much from fans. After Thursday's press conference, I have changed my position. Baalke is a problem and is working to undermine the coaching staff to take the target off his own back. The takeaway from his comments was basically, I picked good players, they didn't develop them. He's going to run Pederson off like he did in San Francisco with Jim Harbaugh.


John from Fleming Island

John. Thank you for addressing my question on stadium cost comparisons with Buffalo and Nashville construction costs and kudos for your artful dodging of the true question. By saying the Jags believe the surrounding development being folded into any deal is a vital partnership inflates the true cost of building a new stadium. So, my question is why would taxpayers want to subsidize other commercial development in lieu of a new stadium? If surrounding development is not part of the equation wouldn't stadium construction cost be LESS expensive per Buffalo/Nashville models and resolve playing games outside of Jacksonville as being done by the two cities building stadiums? I'm still confused why any taxpayer dollars would be used for surrounding development when the private sector has the ability to do so.

People ask questions. I answer. Sometimes these answers aren't exactly what people want and people wonder why I didn't answer the "true questions." The projected cost for a "renovated" stadium as of last June was between $1.3 and $1.4 billion, with a new stadium projected to be about $1 billion more. The total cost of project has been projected to be about $2 billion, with about $600 million infrastructure around the stadium. The proposal is essentially that the city and the Jaguars would split the cost of the project, with the city paying about $1 billion for the stadium and the Jaguars paying about $400 for the stadium and $600 for the infrastructure. Among the reasons for such a split is that NFL owners must approve any financial structure and owners are unlikely to approve a stadium split in a small market with a team taking on more of the financial responsibility for the stadium. As for why it's necessary for the $600 million infrastructure to be part of the equation … many reasons, with one being that something is needed to kickstart the downtown area – and the Jaguars believe that kickstart is necessary to make a stadium project successful in the long run.

Don from Marshall, NC

Back when Peyton Manning was unstoppable against any defense, he had the least amount of plays in the league. His offensive coordinator would leave during the game to get a burger at the concession. Go Jaguars!

Peyton Manning was one of the NFL's best all-time quarterbacks. When I covered him from 2001-to-2010, Tom Moore was the Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator. Moore was among the NFL's best offensive coordinators and did not leave games "to get a burger." He was in fact critical to the Colts' offense and developing the scheme in which Manning excelled.

Alan from Ellington, CT

Can the team tell a player to report to camp say 15 pounds heavier? Such as offensive line?

Teams often lay out a plan during the offseason of where they want a player to be physically the following season. That's usually set between in January, with the player then working with team strength and conditioning coaches toward the established goal.

Ray from Jax

John: So let me make sure I understand. The team goes 9-8 with very few injuries, and the GM is a genius. The next year, injuries to key players add up, the team goes 9-8, and the GM stinks. Gee, I'm glad I'm not a GM.

General managing is a difficult job. Criticism sometimes is a big part of it.

Josiah from Plymouth, NH

Is there a chance that the Jaguars might not re-sign my favorite player, running back, Travis Etienne Jr., when his contract is up? I'll hate my team and my life if that happens. I'm from New England and I'm a diehard Jags fan since 1995. We used to win with very little, but the way things are now I'm in love. I couldn't imagine the players we have and first thing first: Etienne and quarterback Trevor Lawrence are the face of the franchise. DO NOT SPLIT THEM UP.

We're a ways from this being a major issue. Etienne, while eligible for a contract extension, has a year remaining on his rookie contract signed in 2021. I expect the Jaguars will exercise their fifth-year option with Etienne later this offseason, meaning he will be under contract through the 2025 season. The Jaguars also will have the option of placing the franchise tag on Etienne for the 2026 season. There are other options regarding Etienne. But however they approach it, Etienne likely will be with the Jaguars for the foreseeable future.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - The game of football is kinda funny. Often times, one or two plays makes the difference between a player, team, coach, GM or owner from being a hero or a zero. In playoff football, the difference between excessive attention or being forgotten. It seems unfair. In comparison, if you are two strides from beating Gene Frenette in a race but trip on a dog toy, you will be mocked instead of celebrated for being so close to victory.

Longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette is known for a clever turn of phrase and fleetness of foot. Few if any among us could hope to be so close to besting him in a competition of speed.