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O-Zone: Keep on keeping on

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scotty from Points North:
Am I wrong to feel this season is no longer about winning football games? It has been distilled down to simply, "Can Blake Bortles be our starting quarterback in the future?" If Chad Henne had this performance as the starter, he would long ago have been pulled for someone else. So, it isn't really about winning anymore, because the best quarterback option isn't necessarily playing. Our season is now really just a long scrimmage for one player.
John: No, it's not wrong for you to feel that way. Bortles' future has been discussed enough here and in pretty much every other Jaguars-oriented forum that it's easy to think it's the only story around the organization. And indeed, it is a huge issue; the Jaguars absolutely must come out of the season with a clear picture about his future. Still, that's not how players and coaches view the rest of the season – and it's not how they should view it. Players and coaches want to win games, and that very definitely remains their focus. One thing regarding your email, though: I don't think it's right to say the best quarterback option isn't playing. Bortles obviously hasn't played well enough for this team to be above .500, and his season by any measure has been disappointing, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be starting. He's maybe not as clear-cut a choice as would be ideal, but he's still the best option.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
Maybe you should change this to the "if" zone. If this, if that, the Jags would be 5-3. Name any team in the NFL without those "ifs." This season should have been so much more than that. My only hope is this roster is talented enough that no more rebuild is needed. Just a reset.
John: I thought about it – and I'm probably not going to change the name of the O-Zone. What I probably will do is continue to answer questions people ask. There may be times those answers point out that the Jaguars' record would be better if they hadn't committed turnovers or if they had been just slightly more efficient offensively in some games. When that is the case, those answers won't be making a case that it's OK that the Jaguars aren't efficient offensively, and it won't be making a case that the Jaguars are good "except for turnovers." It also won't be making a case that losing is acceptable. It will just be answering a question, which last I checked is one of the points of this forum.
Preston from Oakville, CT:
O-Man, I agree that 8-8 would at least get Gus one more year. Two questions about that, though: If Gus is retained, is next year a definite playoffs-or-bust season? And: if Gus is fired, could you see a scenario where he is "demoted" and becomes our defensive coordinator? I know that would be an odd situation, but I think he at least has our defense heading in the right direction and he is a good presence to have around.
John: I have no idea if Bradley will be retained after the season. If he is, then yeah … I think playoffs would be the expectation next season. As for your second question … no, I do not think Bradley will be on the Jaguars' coaching staff next season if he's not the head coach.
Jason from Jacksonville and Section 140:
John, for some reason, I actually think the Jags are going to win the game despite my belief these three things will happen. One, Blake throws two picks; two, Parnell gets abused by Clowney and Mercilus; 3, Jason Myers kicks 3 field goals. I understand these three predictions would typically indicate a loss, but Brock Osweiler is not a quality quarterbacks and he will keep us in the game. The Jags' defense will force at least two turnovers, earn a game ball and Jason Myers will score the winning points.
John: If the defense forces turnovers, the Jaguars indeed have an outstanding chance of winning. If they have a positive turnover ratio, I absolutely think they will win. There have been a lot of things ailing this team the last two seasons, but committing too many turnovers and not forcing enough may be the biggest reason they are 7-17 during that span. It's not that the minus-22 ratio over that span is hard to explain. It's not. Defensively, the Jaguars have struggled to create pass rush, and when you struggling to create pass rush turnovers are often scarce. Offensively, Blake Bortles has thrown 28 interceptions in 24 games; when your quarterback throws that many interceptions you're probably going to have a negative turnover margin. Still, whatever the reasons, it has defined the Jaguars in recent seasons and the team probably won't improve until the definition changes.
Geoff from Jacksonville:
So, our D played really well last week against Kansas City's backups. The feeling I have for this week is that they'll make Osweiler look worth every penny of that contract. That's Jaguars football for you.
John: OK.
Jim from Jacksonville:
John. I'm so tired of all the Blake haters. I for one still have faith in the young man and think the Jags can win with him. I think some fans don't realize that with a running game and a good defense we can win with Bortles. Just look at Peyton Manning last year. His arm was trashed but his defense and running game got him a second Super Bowl ring. Then, there are the 1970s Steelers. Terry Bradshaw has just as many touchdowns as interceptions, but he has four rings. Do you agree that the Jaguars will start winning once we have a running game and shut down defense?
John: I absolutely believe those things will help. They sure can't hurt. I also believe Blake Bortles needs to play better than he has for the most part this season to be the team's quarterback.
Bobby from Draper, UT:
Yo, O man. Do you think this is the week that Jalen Ramsey gets his first interception? Ramsey follows the best receiver, so he should be shadowing DeAndre Hopkins. There is no way that Brock Osweiler will shy away from DeAndre, so Ramsey should have plenty of chances to pick it off, correct? What say you?
John: I say I never know how to predict interceptions. That's because far more often than not interceptions happen either because of mistakes by the quarterback or because of pressure created by the defense on the quarterback. That pressure usually leads to … mistakes by the quarterback. My point here is while interceptions are important, they are usually not very indicative of how a defensive back is playing on a given day. Ramsey might play extremely well and get a few pass breakups in situations where interceptions were nearly impossible. If the quarterback throws a ball that's intercept-able or the defense forces an errant throw then he might get an interception. We'll see.
Jay from Redondo Beach, CA:
O man, just a couple questions. What happened? Last year it was "It's built." This year it was "playoff expectations." How were these guys so far off???? Is it on Blake? On Gus? I think a mix of both. We have talent. There is a common denominator here that is obvious. That is, if you're not the "optimistic" type that you're perceived to be. Tell the truth Thursdays just opened for business.
John: I've always told the truth when it comes to the Jaguars. The problem is that the truth in the NFL very rarely is about "one common denominator." Rather, it's almost always many factors. Blake Bortles has struggled this season; that has been an issue in a few losses. There have been discipline issues that certainly must be attributed to the head coach. Have those contributed to losses? Perhaps, but not nearly as much as other factors. Could Bradley have moved more quickly in regard to offensive coordinator? Was Nathaniel Hackett the long-term answer at offensive coordinator? Time will tell. Could Dave Cadlwell have drafted better in sports? Sure – and that's true of nearly every general manager. That's a lot of denominators and all may have played a role in 2006. What does it all mean? What's the end game? Nothing is set in stone because eight games remain. If things don't improve I doubt this coaching staff will be in place next season. If Bortles doesn't improve, I don't know what the future holds. If the team doesn't improve, what does that mean for Caldwell? I don't know. None of that sounds very optimistic. Maybe the truth is I don't know how to define it.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Philip Rivers has one of the quickest releases in the game and is very accurate, so his funky throwing motion doesn't matter. Bortles' windup gives defenses a jump on his passes and affects his accuracy. Pick someone else as an example.
John: What I'll do instead is continue answering questions and using examples I believe appropriate … yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll do that.

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