JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Colin from Sanford
Hey, John. I appreciate you and your daily column. It doesn't seem like it has been all that fun answering emails lately. On that topic, I think fan consternation mostly comes from the fact that this year was a part of our "window" and windows in the NFL are short. We want General Manager Trent Baalke to go back in time and hit on every pick. Since he can't do that, we yell at you.
There has been much O-Zone conversation lately about "windows," with many fans worried that the Jaguars' "window" to contend is somehow closed – or closing – in the wake of a disappointing end to the 2023 season that caused them to miss the postseason by game. Here's the reality about NFL "windows:" They stay open for pretty much as long as you're getting good quarterback play and they tend to shut when you don't. If quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the player he showed he was late in the 2022 season and early in the 2023 season, the Jaguars' window will stay open as long as he plays at that level. If he plays as he did when he was injured in the last month and a half of the 2023 season, then the window probably is already closed – if it was ever open. There's more to NFL success and failure than that, of course, but that's a big theme of the story. As for whether it's fun answering O-Zone emails these days … weep not for me, Colin. For there are far bigger things in life than the inbox. And there indeed are far bigger things in life than football. Either way … yell at me all you like. I can take it. I'm stronger than you look and better looking than I appear.
Joe from Jacksonville
John, I understand your disdain for the Twitter opinion, and to a lesser extent variants of Jaguars outside media. Prevailing theme among them after watching the championship games are that the Jaguars are soft. Finesse, but soft. Is there something to this?
The Jaguars couldn't run consistently throughout the 2023 season and they couldn't stop the run late in the season. When you can't stop the run or run in the NFL, you get called soft. When you can run and you can stop the run, you're perceived as tough. Soft or not soft, the Jaguars must stop the run and run better moving forward.
Sam from Orlando, FL
We keep talking about the stadium deal as if it's a done deal. But nothing has been signed or finalized, right?
Darren from Fort Worth, TX
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan might think Walker is also a good player, but imagine Josh Allen and Hutchinson chasing down quarterbacks. Sounds a lot more exciting than what we have with Walker. I bet Shad thinks so too.
I'm not planning on spending the entire 2023 offseason immersed in the Aidan Hutchinson-Travon Walker conversation. Hutchinson, a defensive end for the Detroit Lions who was selected No. 2 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, is a really good player. Walker, an outside linebacker for the Jaguars selected No. 1 overall in that draft, is a really good player. I don't watch Hutchinson every game. I watch Walker every game and see a player who is absolutely dominant against the run, and who improved dramatically as a pass rusher in 2023. There are people who believe it's fact that Hutchinson is better than Walker. This is not fact. That's essentially the "take" on this issue from this view. It's unlikely to change before next season.
Big Jags Fan from Jacksonville
Aidan Hutchinson's line from the AFC Championship game: zero sacks and zero tackles. These that make you go hmmmm?
I don't think you can blame Hutchinson for not having any sacks or tackles in the AFC Championship Game.
Fred from Naples, FL
Here is something no Jaguar fan wants to hear: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew II is going to the Pro Bowl and Trevor Lawrence is not. How is it possible that he is going and BOTH Trevor and Josh Allen of the Bills is not?
Minshew played the entire season healthy while Lawrence did not. That's not the only reason Lawrence isn't going to the Pro Bowl, but it didn't help. As for why Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen didn't make the Pro Bowl …. people with votes are funny things. Who am I to try to explain why people act as they do?
Brad from Yankton, SD
Micah from Chicago laments the Jags not picking Aidan Hutchinson, as do many other fans. Has he not seen interviews with Hutchinson or his parents? He did not want to leave Michigan! These things show up in interviews. There's no use trying to "swim upstream" when you have Walker coming up next. It's time to let this issue die. Hutchinson going to be In Detroit for the rest of his career. Agree?
I haven't the faintest idea where Hutchinson will play for the rest of his NFL career. I can't recall having seen interviews with his parents. I have nothing against them as people. I just don't care about them enough to go out of my way to find out their thoughts.
Bruce from Saint Simons Island
Question: my impression is that when quarterbacks change the play call that the plays more often than not have a low success rate. Is my impression wrong?
I've never seen statistics on success rate of changed plays, and I don't know that such a statistic could be gathered. My sense is that the success rate is probably similar to a non-changed play. I've certainly never noticed a difference one way or the other.
David from Orlando, FL
Zone - In the past few seasons, usually amid a losing streak, the coach would come out and say, something to the effect of "we need to get back to the basics, simplify things, so players can play fast." A part of me understands what he's saying, but another part of me sees it another way. A part of me hears that our game plan is too complicated, so we have to dumb it down. So, who's at fault, the players for not executing the plan or the coaches for not coaching them up to speed? Or maybe, it's the general manager for not providing the players the coach needs to execute his game plan? Maybe, all I'm trying to say is, that when the coach says he's simplifying things, it's a huge red flag, because it's saying that the coach has lost confidence in his team to be able to execute his vision.
I think you're overthinking this one a bit. Coaches saying they need to simplify things isn't a red flag. It's just what most coaches do – and say – when their teams are struggling.
Gary from Centerville, OH
Two years ago, the Jaguars went 9-8 against a fourth-place schedule and very few injuries. Fans were "over the moon." Head Coach Doug Pederson could have run for mayor and won. Last year the Jaguars went 9-8 against a first-place schedule with a bunch of injuries to key players. Now fans want everyone run out of town and fired. It get it. I really do. The Jaguars folded down the stretch and expectations were MUCH higher. But let's have some perspective. After two straight years of having the worst record in the NFL, the Jaguars have had a winning record two years in a row. Sure, it wasn't the success we as fans hoped for, but it's not all doomsday.
Sean from Oakleaf, FL
When is the last time the Jaguars enjoyed a compensatory draft pick? Does it say anything about the roster management of a team to go for long periods of time without being assigned a compensatory draft pick?
The Jaguars last had a compensatory draft selection in 2010, though they are expected to receive a third-round selection and a sixth-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. The third-rounder is because they lost right tackle Jawaan Taylor as an unrestricted free agent to the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason and the sixth-rounder is because they lost outside linebacker Arden Key to the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent last offseason. Generally, teams get compensatory selections if they lose more in free agency than they gain. What does it say for a team to go a long time without being assigned compensatory selections? It says that team hasn't drafted and developed well enough and therefore relied too much on unrestricted free agency to build the roster.
Johnny from Jax
Is Evan Engram going to the Pro Bowl Games now that Kelce is in the SB? I certainly hope so?
Yes. Jaguars tight end Evan Engram will be in the 2024 Pro Bowl Games this weekend with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce participating in the Super Bowl.