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O-Zone: Go big or go home

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Garrett from Albany, NY:
O, I know the staff is committed to Bortles. However, if Kirk Cousins somehow slips into free agency would you say the team makes a run at him? I'd be willing to pay him whatever he wants to come to Jacksonville. He's proven his worth with worse receivers in Washington. Go Jags!
John: I wouldn't go overboard pounding the table about the staff being head-over-heels "committed" to Blake Bortles. Yes, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said last week "Blake Bortles is our quarterback," but this staff has yet to delve deep into the Jaguars' personnel and has yet to finalize its offensive philosophy. A lot of that is going on now and will continue in the coming weeks. A lot of analysis and decision-making needs to happen before we know the exact level of commitment there is to Bortles or any other player. I believe Bortles will probably start Week 1 for the Jaguars' next season, but I don't believe right now the Jaguars are blindly assuming that will be the case and exploring no other options. Could Cousins be among the players they explore? I doubt it because teams usually don't let capable, effective quarterbacks hit unrestricted free agency. We'll see.
Brian from Greenwood, IN:
Dan Marino and John Elway as the best quarterbacks of the 1980s to mid-1990s? I think you forgot Joe Montana, who many consider the GOAT.
John: Montana did skip my mind. At the same time, I would put Montana with Elway and Marino in a group of the best quarterbacks of that era – not as the GOAT.
Tony from Section 148:
O-Zone, my dude! As I'm sure you have noticed, a lot of Jags fans are clamoring for drafting a big-school, splash running back whose skills will without a doubt translate into the league. However, I think it's important that we remind them that we can get a big-splash player like Peppers, Adams, or Allen in the first round and still get an awesome value pick in the second round such as Samaje Perine from Oklahoma. The guy did set an FBS single-game rushing record, after all. What do you think? Should we let them know? Also, does Dave need any help in the scouting department? I'm available! Call me, Dave!
John: Tom Coughlin and David Caldwell … hire this man!!!
Andrew from Sampson, FL:
If the Jags were to decide to part ways with Julius Thomas, how likely is a trade? What would his value be? Fifth or sixth round?
John: First off, I don't know that we can assume the Jaguars are parting ways with Julius Thomas, because I don't know that we can assume all that much about the roster moving forward yet. Assumptions left town when Coughlin arrived. As far as Thomas, I don't imagine the Jaguars would be able to get much more than a sixth or seventh-round selection for him – and even that would be a major surprise. That has nothing to do with Thomas' value as a player and everything to do with many other teams likely believing that the Jaguars are ready to move on from Thomas. When that's the case, teams prefer to wait for the player to be released rather than give up value in a trade. That's because free is better than, you know … not free.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
In your opinion, how likely is it that SenDerrick Marks is back with the Jaguars in 2017?
John: Quite likely – and I think he should be back. I say that because one thing the Jaguars need is experienced, veteran players who have respect in the locker room and who are proven performers. Marks is such a player.
Tony from Section 148:
I'm not sure how often this is brought up, but I think the key to fixing this team in general – on both sides of the ball – is in the turnover ratio. Since we were 30th or so in the league last year in turnover differential, what can Coughlin – and specifically Marrone and crew – do to improve this?
John: Improve the running game. Improve the decision-making at quarterback. Get in fewer third-and-obvious situations. Get opponents in more third-and-obvious situations. Improve the pass rush.
Aaron from White Hall, AR:
I've seen people lately talking about if the players will be able to handle a more "old-school" style of discipline. It's been my experience with the NFL that if a player doesn't want to go along with what the coaches say and have him do then he will no longer be employed by that team.
John: I'm so-o-o-o not worried about this being an issue – and I honestly can't imagine Marrone or Coughlin worrying about it being an issue, either. Most NFL players adapt to their coaching/environments and are capable of working within a structure. If they experience success or improvement within that structure, then they will continue to function within it. If they don't experience success or improvement, then the locker room and the culture typically will start to go bad because players will complain, point fingers, whatever. It's sort of, you know … human nature.
Brian Not a Season Ticket-Holder anymore:
Same OC, Same DC, Same Interim Coach. Basically, if you don't believe in Caldwell's vision or Blake Bortles, you either a) will be fired or b) won't be hired. The fans demanded change; we didn't get it. The players even wanted change; they're not getting it. The Kool-Aid pitcher is empty. Sorry John, I'm a big downer today. You have to understand the skepticism.
John: There's no need to apologize. That's because it's understandable to look at those three positions – offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and head coach – and think, "Nothing has changed." But the thought that a belief in David Caldwell's vision or a belief in Blake Bortles is driving the decision to retain Hackett, Wash or Marrone … well, it's just not the case. Look, I get that the coordinator and head coach hires don't feel like changes. But Marrone will not be the same head coach as Gus Bradley and I don't sense that Hackett/Wash will be the same coordinators next season as they were at the end of last season. I also don't get the idea that the roster is going to be status quo, either. The Jaguars in a very real sense barely have begun their offseason and the process of moving forward. There are a lot of decisions to make and a lot of analyzing to do before that happens. It may look similar right now, but I don't think this thing will have a familiar feel very long.
Rob from Brunswick, GA:
While I am super-excited to see Tom back, I have a hard time thinking he's going to "save" the franchise from our losing ways. He isn't drafting players, coaching or playing. While I am certain he would make a huge difference as a head coach, I find myself wondering just how much difference a 70-year old who has never met any of the players on the roster can make from his office. But, if he's not in his office and he's on the sidelines at practice or in the locker room then he's "meddling." I suppose I'm just having trouble with the idea that in his current position he can make that much of a difference.
John: Don't get the idea that Coughlin's going to be sitting in his office out of touch with what's going on on the field or in the locker room. He's going to have the same sort of influence any executive charged with running an NFL team would have – providing direction, making decisions on personnel, providing input on hires, setting the tone for the organization. Doing those things doesn't guarantee Coughlin will "save" the franchise. A lot of things must happen right for this thing to turn around. But don't think Coughlin won't influence this organization in his position. He absolutely will. And he already has.
Mark from CP, Maryland:
The Jags were a successful organization early because of their ability to draft in the first round. Since "Shack" Harris we haven't had a successful first-round pick since – maybe Jalen Ramsey. Every year – whomever we draft – I'm a fan of them because I'm a fan. I'd like to see whomever we pick be good at football at the highest level. O-Man, can you get this done?
John: Hold on.
John from Jacksonville:
In my opinion, I think Tom Coughlin and the coaches must be thinking this is a really great chance to be quick heroes for the 2017 season. With the talent we have on the team and the fact that we were close in the fourth quarter in most of our losses, all we need are some adjustments (not any overhauls) to have a winning season and go to the playoffs in 2017. I'm confident winning will be the new norm and we aren't as far away as our record this past season would indicate. Mark me down for 10-6 or better.
John: Whoa … OK.

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