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O-Zone: Hire the best

MOBILE, Ala. – Let's get to it … Chris from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars are only coaching the Senior Bowl because Tampa bailed. The Bucs explain they declined the invitation in order to concentrate on hiring an offensive coordinator. Do you believe this is a legitimate explanation? If so, why are the Jags coaching?
John: I have received a few variations on this question in recent weeks, and I haven't answered because I don't cover the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, hey … here we are, embedded in Mobile, Alabama, and ready for a little Senior Bowl action, so here goes: I don't know why they would lie, and I assume they have no reason to do so, so perhaps the reason the Buccaneers opted against coaching the Senior Bowl was just that – that felt they needed to focus on hiring a coordinator. Or perhaps they want to enjoy the Mobile night life – and it is indeed quite a night life. Or perhaps they just didn't feel like it. I guess I don't really care much about their explanation. I do know the Jaguars believe coaching the Senior Bowl is a significant benefit and they wanted to do it; they certainly benefited from doing so last offseason. They also believed they could get the offensive coordinator hired while preparing and coaching the Senior Bowl. Whether the Buccaneers' staff thought that or not, I guess I really have no idea.
Matt from Stroudsburg, PA:
Wow...any comments you'd like to share after watching the NFC Championship Game?
John: You have to give the Seattle Seahawks credit for not quitting in a situation where they looked like they were clearly out of the game. It also shows you how one play – and taking advantage of one play – can dramatically alter history and perception in the NFL. If the Packers recover the onside kick in the fourth quarter, there's every chance we're talking about Russell Wilson having an all-time poor postseason game. In that scenario, we're probably also wondering about Seattle's offensive weapons at receiver and Wilson's troubles as a pocket quarterback. As it stands, the themes this week will be about Seattle's chances of repeating and their status among great teams of the Super Bowl era should they do so. They're realistically not much better or worse this morning than they were at the beginning of the fourth quarter Sunday, but perception will forever change.
Travis from Boynton Beach, FL:
O man, if you had a say, who would be your choice as the next offensive coordinator in Duval?
John: The specific coordinator hired by the Jaguars isn't as important as finding the right combination of coordinator/offensive line/quarterbacks coach. That's something that could be any number of combinations, including coaches already here. The names we've been hearing don't have to be coordinators, remember. My guess is you'll see some fairly significant change, but that's a story for the coming days. Of all the names out there, I'm intrigued by Nathaniel Hackett, who has a very good reputation as a good, young offensive coordinator. I also still like the idea of a veteran coach working with the offensive line in some capacity – and I think Greg Olson would do a very good job working with Blake Bortles in some capacity as well.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
Would the Jets pick a punter in the third-round based on the information given by Gene Smith? BAP, baby. LOL!
John: No, that's the sort of selection that would probably not be made after a bit more discussion.
Kyle from Clearwater, FL:
John, is it crucial for Gus Bradley to have an offensive coordinator for the Senior Bowl? I wouldn't think that they're going to roll out some complicated playbook for these NFL hopefuls to learn in a short period.
John: No, it's not crucial for the Jaguars to have an offensive coordinator for the Senior Bowl. It's crucial that they get the process right and hire the right coordinator.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
John, I keep getting this feeling this year's free-agent class might not be as big as our Jags fans hopes. It seems every player that could be a target of the Jags (i.e. McCourty, Cobb, Den WR or TE) is a possibility to be franchised or re-sign with his current team. I hope the organization is preparing for the possibility that there might not be any "BIG" free agents to sign this offseason.
John: There almost is no way the free-agent class will be as big or high-profile as many Jaguars' fans hopes. That's not only because many fans expect their teams to sign EVERY free agent, but also – as you say – many free agents that seem so bright, shiny and dazzling in January are unavailable for various reasons come the beginning of free agency in mid-March. And yes, the Jaguars are preparing for whatever the reality of the market is in March. I expect a few, though not all, of the big-name players you cite to be available. And I'd expect the Jaguars to seriously consider free safety, offensive line, tight end and perhaps even wide receiver. Those are topics for the next few weeks and months. What those weeks and months bring remains to be seen.
Ron from Jacksonville:
Everyone is clamoring for O-line improvement this offseason. I agree this youthful line could be fine down the road assuming they develop as planned. But if there is a position where you could find a free agent to start and wait for the youth to push him out the door, it would be the interior of the O-line. Would that be a legit line of thinking or FanThink?
John: It's true in theory. And in theory interior offensive line is a position that should be easy to project from team to team and therefore relatively safe in free agency. But there are no guarantees in free agency. The Jaguars made left guard Zane Beadles a relatively high-paid free agent last offseason. He struggled at times last season, particularly early. Beadles improved late last season, and there's a very good chance he'll start at left guard next season. He also has a good chance of figuring into the offensive line moving forward, though competition could be brought in there … still, his story and many, many others again shows that free agency is no guarantee.
Wayne from Jacksonville but living in Atlanta, GA:
This has probably been asked before, but what's the possibility of the Jags going after Ray Rice? I realize it's a public-relations issue but they could always include some sort of community service to help clean up his image. The dude is a surefire starting running back, which we could definitely use. It's all about helping Blake right? A good run game would surely do that.
John: My view on running backs isn't overly popular with many fans. That's because many fans love names at the position and think adding a big name means increasing production. There are very few running backs I really get excited about. While there are some players at the position who are game-changers who transcend and improve the talent around them, they are few and far between. Most running backs rise and fall with the level of their blocking. Ray Rice is a very good player. Is he a transcendent one? I don't know about that.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
People realize losing to the Colts wouldn't have given the Jags Andrew Luck, right? It certainly worked out for the Colts that they got a great player but the idea that winning hurt Jacksonville is dumb. This team made the playoffs in years with Peyton Manning and Steve McNair in its division this team will make the playoffs with Luck here, too.
John: This is a very rational way of looking at this situation. Not all O-Zone readers share this view.
Cathy from Jacksonville Beach:
If Justin Blackmon is reinstated next season, how many years will remain on his contract with the Jaguars?
John: Two.
Greg from Drummonds, TN:
How are Senior Bowl players picked? Obviously, being a senior helps but how are they nominated and subsequently picked for the roster? Thanks for the coverage.
John: Players are invited by Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage, a former director of Player Personnel for the Baltimore Ravens and former general manager for the Cleveland Browns. He scouts players and leans on his contacts within the NFL to identify potential invitees. If players accept the invitations, they play in the Senior Bowl.
Austin from Atlantic Beach, FL:
If we are looking for consistency with our new offensive coordinator, why are we even looking at Adam Gase? He was being interviewed by a couple teams for their head coaching spot, so wouldn't he be right back in that circle next offseason and could leave after one year?
John: Good teams lose coordinators. Good teams also have good players, and good players make losing coordinators less tragic. Hire the best and deal with the fallout of success later. You can't "hire scared."

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