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O-Zone: Just about right

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, what's taking so long?!

Many, many, many – MANY – versions of this email have peppered the trusty inbox in recent days, particularly throughout the day Thursday. That was absolutely to be expected, with the NFL's head-coaching cycle having its busiest day yet Thursday – and with the Jaguars not yet finalizing the hiring of a head coach. Tuesday's reports of the Jaguars being close to hiring Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich raised hopes of many Jaguars observers, and there understandably was angst Wednesday and Thursday with no announcement from the team – and with various reports about various aspects of this hiring/non-hiring circulating on Twitter and the internet. Where do we stand now, as of Friday morning? Former Jaguars head-coach candidates Nate Hackett and Matt Eberflus have been hired by the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears, respectively. Those hirings were finalized Thursday. Seven of the nine head-coaching positions remain vacant. Leftwich remains a very viable candidate, having twice interviewed with the Jaguars. As for your question about why the process is taking so long … the reality of coaching searches is that reports are just reports and that nothing is really official until franchises say it's official. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan is more focused on getting the process right than completing the process quickly. That's as it should be, frustrating though it may be too fans and observers.

Steve from Wallingford, CT

I feel like Leftwich wasn't the first choice, but he is what we are stuck with after taking so long – hence why any announcement of hiring him hasn't come yet after the other three candidates already committed to other places.

Sooooooooo much of what is being reported has the feel of reports/speculation rather than fact. For that reason, it's tricky to lay out or discuss every detail of the where and whys of the process. Perhaps we'll know more when a hire is made, and when the head coach and Khan discuss it. That being said, I don't at all have the idea that Leftwich is a "second" or "third" choice for the position – or that the Jaguars would be "stuck" with Leftwich if he indeed becomes the next head coach.

Robert from Drakesboro

With the coaching options dwindling, the Jags better not screw up and miss out on Leftwich.

Hey, one fer Leftwich …

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

I know you have a much bigger audience, but the 15 fans or so I chat with about football would not be happy with Byron. We all agree that this team needs someone that had NFL head coach experience. Stat that.

… and one – or fifteen – not fer Leftwich.

Bill from Jacksonville, FL

Players, not plays. Now that we got that out of the way. After watching the four games last weekend, those teams are playing a different game on offense than the Jaguars. The imagination, timing of play calls, and aggressiveness is light years ahead of this team. What say you, John?

I say while the Jaguars coaches perhaps could have been more imaginative at times offensively this past season, coaches with special players can be much more imaginative and aggressive than those without.

Just shy o' the Ditch in Jacksonville

Big O. I admire your ability to handle all the stuff, understand when the snark just has to come out, and am amazed at the effort! Those that think someone worth $4.5 billion don't know what they are doing are laughable. Thank God we don't have one of the many other inbred offerings out there or God forbid JJ from the Big D...

That's not nice.

Big-Gnarly from Daytona Beach, FL

So we were the first to ditch our coach during the season and now we are going to be the last to make a decision on a new coach? I suppose if our decision makers just let all our interviewees get hired with other teams then our decision will become easy right? Just take whoever is left. I heard one of Jax Pop Warner coaches are available. When is this madness going to end?

This handwringing, frustration and angst is completely understandable; the Jaguars, after all, have been without a head coach since mid-December – and every day during a head-coaching search can seem like a week. This is particularly true in the era of social media, when every rumor – and every twist and turn – is analyzed and agonized over in real time. But the reality is the sprint-to-the-finish portion of this process really only began this past Sunday when the Buccaneers were eliminated from the postseason to make Leftwich available for second interview/hiring. That interview took place Tuesday, which – while it may seem a lifetime ago – was actually less than three days ago. Two coaches have been hired in this process – Eberflus and Hackett – and seven openings remain. There's plenty of time remaining for the Jaguars to get this right. Stay tuned.

Drew from Atlanta, GA

The reports of Leftwich as our next head coach are concerning. For a franchise that absolutely has to get this right, they want a young green coach who is still learning? At best, hire him as offensive coordinator. We need someone with proven experience. Leftwich as head coach seems like another random grasp in hopes it works out. He may someday be ready, but this is not what our team needs right now at head coach. If their reasoning is his success at Tampa Bay with quarterback Tom Brady and the host of wide receiver they had last year, they are deceiving themselves. May as well hire Brady to coach if that is their reasoning.

I liked the idea of an experienced head coach when this process began. I agreed that that experience would help the franchise. But that doesn't mean hiring an experienced head coach is the only plausible option. First, you can't hire Leftwich as the offensive coordinator because the Buccaneers would have no reason to allow that to happen. Second, there are plenty of first-year head coaches having success in the NFL these days; that's actually the most popular current model. Third, the Jaguars wouldn't be hiring Leftwich because of his success with Brady. They would be hiring him because he's the best fit with attributes of being a successful coach. There are many attributes in that equation, and Leftwich reportedly has them.

Erik from Jags Twitter

Thoughts and prayers for your dumpster fire of an inbox. Godspeed.

Been here, done that.

Dan from Varna, Bulgaria

Wow, Big Ben officially retired today. I've been Jags fan for many years but admired the way he played the game and the unforgettable battles with the Jags. He never had a losing season in his entire career, that's really unbelievable.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger officially retired Thursday. Two-time Super Bowl champion. Eighteen-year career all with one of the NFL's historic, legacy franchises. Pretty much any team would take that career from a first-round quarterback. I expect him to be a first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Impressive.

Jim from Jacksonville

I assume those color-coded laminated cards the coaches hold on the sidelines contain various play and alignments. Can you seed some light as to what specifically is on them?

Plays and alignments. Down-and-distance situations. Game situations. Personnel groupings.

Jaginator from (formerly of) Section 122

Was wondering if you could shed some light on your journalistic freedom with the team? Sometimes people in the O-Zone imply that you're some kinda "company shill" for the Jaguars - and I do not believe that to be true. But are there ever times when you learn something from inside the organization but are then told that you cannot speak about it publicly? For example, if you somehow learned that [INSERT NAME HERE] will be our next head coach, but it hadn't yet been announced, would you be free to share that "scoop"?

There are occasions that I might know something along the lines you cite – i.e., a coach to be hired, a free agent to be released or signed – that I wouldn't write it on the website or say it publicly. I honestly can't recall such an occasion specifically, but it's conceivable that could happen. That's because the policy here on jaguars.com is to write such news when the signing is official, and that's the nature of a team-owned website. I do often discuss reports of such matters here in the O-Zone because that's the nature of this column. When asked about something in the O-Zone, I answer to the best of my ability and answer as truthfully as possible. I do not lie or intentionally write or say untrue things here – and the team typically grants this website a remarkable level of transparency compared to other teams around professional sports.

Charles from Riverside

Hello John, To quote the great Bill Belichick: players win games, and coaches lose them. There you have it.

Good eye – and good quote.

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