JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Tom from Charleston, SC:
Same offensive coordinator, same defensive coordinator, same head coach from within the same staff … As much as I would like to be excited, I'm afraid that it is more of the same.
John: Your fear is understandable, because in terms of titles and names, the Jaguars' coaching staff indeed looks pretty familiar. That became sort of official Wednesday evening when the Jaguars announced that Nathaniel Hackett will return as offensive coordinator. Because Todd Wash returned as defensive coordinator, that means both coordinators remain the same as at the end of the 2016 season. And yes, because Head Coach Doug Marrone was the assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach since the beginning of the 2015 season, that means the team's top three coaches all previously were on the staff. But does that necessarily mean all stays the same? It absolutely does not. While Marrone served under former Head Coach Gus Bradley for 30 games, it's reasonable to assume his approach differs greatly, with Marrone approaching the NFL in a much more traditional, hard-edged old-school style than did Bradley. And while Hackett was the offensive coordinator the last nine games of last season he was running former coordinator Greg Olson's offense – because there's simply not time to overhaul an NFL offense on the fly during the regular season. I also believe Wash will make significant changes to the defense. So, are the names much the same as last season? Yes. Will the approach be the same? No. Does that excite you? Well, I can't control your excitement – and frankly, I'm not sure I want to do so.
Dennis from Macclenny, FL:
Hey John: Really enjoyed Jaguars.com Live Wednesday. When Charley Casserly was asked if he believed Blake Bortles was the guy, there was no mention of his record of past performance or bad mechanics or coaching changes but more about his work ethic and motivation and needing to see if that drive to succeed is there. You've been around Blake a few years now. What do you think?
John: First, it's likely Casserly is not as well-versed in the details of Bortles' issues as those of us who follow the Jaguars on a daily basis, but yes: I think Bortles has the desire and the drive to be successful. I believe as a young quarterback he is in the process of trying to find the way to best work and improve that will yield results for him. That's sometimes much more difficult than it sounds.
Patrick from Rutherford:
"So I'm sure he's thinking playoffs soon – like now. It's realistically a long trip from 3-13 to the NFL postseason so I'll be more conservative and say 2018 – but I definitely believe this team can push for a .500 record next season." Do you really believe that statement? We all have been expecting to make the playoffs for the last four seasons (with realistic expectations), so I find it hard to believe that YOU believe we will make the playoffs as you say it year after year. Love your writing, but have to question you at some point. I hope you are correct though!!
John: What I question is how closely you are reading – and that's OK: there's no law that says you must read closely. But I at no point during the last four seasons or offseasons wrote or said that I expected the Jaguars to make the playoffs. That's because I didn't expect the Jaguars to make the playoffs in any of those seasons. And few observers who were being realistic thought the Jaguars had a chance to make the playoffs in 2013, 2014 or 2015. Now, many did predict it last season – and I believed the Jaguars would push closer to a .500 record. As for next season, I did not write that I expect the Jaguars to make the postseason in 2017. I wrote that I expect they will make a push for .500 – and I do believe that's possible. Just as I believe the playoffs are possible in 2018.
Sam from Orlando, FL:
If you took 2015 Bortles and put him on the 2016 team, what do you personally think the Jags' record would have been? Purely hypothetical, I know, but you gotta think maybe nine or 10 wins. We were close this past year – closer than the record suggests.
John: Although I realize I may be in the minority on this subject, I don't believe putting 2015 Blake Bortles on the 2016 Jaguars team would have made a huge difference in the team's record. That's because 2015 Bortles wasn't in fact all that much better than 2016 Bortles. Bortles in 2015 indeed was better statistically, but many of the same issues that were problems in 2016 were present in 2015 … decision-making at critical times, interceptions, inaccuracy and inconsistency on short and intermediate passes among them. Slow starts on offense and long droughts of ineffectiveness also were a season-long issue in 2015. The biggest difference between 2015 and 2016 for the Jaguars' offense and for Bortles personally was in fact the inability to complete deep 50-50 balls to Allen Robinson; aside from that, Bortles was much the same quarterback both seasons. The Jaguars, remember, started slowly more often than not in 2015 and usually were playing from behind. They were involved in a lot more close games this past season, so Bortles didn't get a lot of yards and production in situations when the Jaguars were throwing against defenses protecting large leads. Yes, the Jaguars were close to being better in 2016 – closer than the record suggests – and that's a good thing. The primary issue remains the same as it was last offseason, though: can Bortles make strides in key areas such as pocket awareness, accuracy and decision-making to allow the Jaguars and himself to make a step as a franchise? That will be the key question facing the organization until it's not.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
Did the offensive-coordinator selection process surprise you? It just seems a touch odd to keep Nathaniel Hackett on staff while interviewing others. I suppose it isn't much different than keeping Marrone while interviewing others for the head job - it just feels different somehow.
John: It's actually not that unusual – though the reality is there's nothing really unusual when it comes to how NFL teams hire head coaches and their staffs. The three weeks following the regular season are the NFL's annual version of the Wild West – and conventional wisdom/norms often don't apply. Assistants are often maintained under contract when there is a head-coaching change with the idea that they can be retained if the team eventually decides to go that direction. Considering the Jaguars had hired a new executive of football operations (Tom Coughlin) who understandably wanted to make sure the search for assistants was as thorough as possible, interviewing other assistants before deciding to hire Hackett made sense.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
As you noted to Jim, the renovations keep EverBank Field "new." As a season-ticket holder in the new club level, I can say without question it's a NEW stadium experience. It's not tradition in Lambeau Field and Soldier Field that keep those teams "happy" in their "older" stadiums, it's the constant upgrades. What is left of the original Soldier Field isn't much more than what's left of the original Gator Bowl due to renovations. San Diego and Oakland have OLD stadiums that fell into disrepair. Owners didn't invest and the city merely maintained. I would be willing to bet if San Diego invested half what Khan did in Jacksonville over a similar period before it became an issue, the Chargers wouldn't be in Los Angeles. Personally, I hope to see "The Cover" added to the stadium, but other than that I can tell you the US Assure Club Level is as good as any stadium I have been in. It's why I am a season-ticket holder.
John: Well said.
Frankie from the Mean Streets of Ponte Vedra, FL:
Will Chad Henne have to take a pay cut when he's named quarterbacks coach?
John: I sense your tongue firmly in cheek here, but I'll answer anyway. I don't see Henne being quarterbacks coach of the Jaguars next season because I see Henne having a lot of seasons remaining as a backup quarterback in the NFL. With the money he can command as a backup, why in the world would he want to coach?
Scott from Wichita, KS:
I see a lot of talk about the exceptional quarterback play during these playoffs. Where's the talk of the exceptional coaching on display? You mean to tell me it's players making plays?
John: It's always coaching in the NFL. Take that throw Aaron Rodgers made against Dallas in the final seconds, for instance. My wife and I were watching that game, and after the throw she turned to me said, "Hey, Hot Guy … that Green Bay guy coached the $#%# out of that play, didn't he?" I turned to her and calmly said, "Why … yes, dear. Indeed he did."
O-Zone: Indeed he did
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Tom from Charleston, SC: