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O-Zone: Kindred spirits

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Jamal from Brooklyn, NY

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell has always been praised as a GM who aligned draft needs with draft classes that have strong prospects in that need – i.e. 2014, drafting receivers; 2015, edge rusher; 2016, cornerback. With this kind of research, should Caldwell and Jaguars Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin have drafted a quarterback last year? Since they did not, do you believe they would be aggressive in selecting their quarterback this year even if it means trading up in the first round?

A case in retrospect could be made the Jaguars should have drafted a quarterback last offseason – though it would be important to remember when making that case that Lamar Jackson appears to have been the best available quarterback when they selected at No. 29. The rest of the highly-regarded quarterbacks in that draft were selected long before the Jaguars were scheduled to pick. It remains very much in question a year later whether passing on Jackson was a mistake. How aggressive the Jaguars will be in terms of trading up this offseason will depend on how much they like the quarterbacks – and perhaps more importantly, how many quarterbacks they like. If they like multiple quarterbacks, they would be less apt to move up to get a particular player. The team will get a clearer idea of its likely approach as the draft approaches. Observers will get a better idea on draft night.

Jason from Da’Hass

John, I believe that everyone on defense – with the exception of cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue – are expendable if it gets this team more picks and sheds some inflated contracts. They need to overhaul the offense, and to do it quickly will take a combo of draft picks and free agency. If they’re all in on Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, then great … do what you gotta do to get him. It’s not like the team needs a generational defense to win. They just need the defense to complement the offense, and if they can get the offense rolling then they can afford some losses on the defense. Times are a changin’, and soon the saying will be “offense wins championships” and not the other way around.

Nah.

Thomas

A few years ago, the Jags had a very healthy salary cap. Now they are in salary-cap difficulty under Tom Coughlin again. Isn’t this the same situation that he created in his first time with the team?

In a way, but that’s not really a fair assessment of the situation. The Jaguars had a healthy salary cap a few years back because for several seasons they spent next to nothing in free agency and they didn’t re-sign their own players because their own players weren’t very good. Having a “clean” salary cap is easy in that situation. The Jaguars aggressively and successfully pursued high-priced players – and re-signed a few of their own – for a few consecutive offseasons. The result was a dramatically improved defense, an appearance in the AFC Championship Game and dramatically less room under the cap. They now must make some difficult decisions, but that was the plan when they spent the free-agency money. So, yes … the Jaguars are tighter against the cap now, but it’s not as if it was mismanaged to get to this point. This was the plan going in, and now the Jaguars must part ways with a few players to keep following the plan.

Unhip Cat from Trainstation in Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John.: Can you provide a list of NFL coaches who haven’t been fired? Feel free to stop at 10. Or five.

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone’s one. There are more, but I’m too lazy to make a list.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Do you agree with the projection that the Jaguars will either go after a quarterback like Nick Foles and then not use a first-round pick on a quarterback or use the first-round pick on a quarterback and go after a Ryan Fitzpatrick/Tyrod Taylor for the short term?

When it comes to the Jaguars’ quarterback approach this offseason, there are multiple scenarios. Those two make the most sense.

Jason from North Pole, AK

I was “head-sewn-the-carpet” surprised when you said the team might move on from linebacker Telvin Smith this offseason. Why? He had a down year, but I think that is being way overblown. He was one of the best linebackers at his position two years ago. Is he being overpaid? I just think we should be careful that we have someone better to replace him with before we start cutting quality, speedy linebackers in their prime.

Stay tuned.

Otto from Ponte Vedra, FL

John, in your opinion what makes a good NFL head coach? In the past the personalities of a Bill Walsh or a Tom Landry were quite different from a Vince Lombardi or Jimmy Johnson. All very successful. In our era Bill Belichick is inarguably the best today. However, he failed in Cleveland. Besides having good players is there a recurring theme in all of their styles? Go Jags!

This unfortunately is a question only answered well with the benefit of hindsight. It’s easy to see the calculating, reserved approach of Walsh, Landry or Tony Dungy as a model once they have had success, and it’s easy to say a team responded to the tough, dynamic approach of Landry or Johnson once it happened. The trait I want in an NFL head coach is the ability to see the big picture, ability to enable a group of dramatically different individuals (players) to see a team concept and buy into it – and a clear ability to navigate the incredibly highs and lows of professional football in a consistent fashion. A coach can have all of these things and fail if the talent of the players is insufficient, or if a variety of other things go wrong. But those traits give you a chance.

Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL

It’s not that Myles Jack call that bothered me in last year’s AFC Championship Game. We got the ball back; that was good enough. The problem was that there were no pass interference calls against the Patriots the entire game. There were 29 flags against the Jags and only one special teams penalty against the Patriots. It was a trend the whole game. I saw several bad pass interferences not called in our game but anytime our players touched theirs, it was called. Favoring one team on a few pass interference calls will usually skew a game. That’s how we were cheated; not the Myles Jack call.

OK.

Blues Man from Jacksonville

How many times are you going to bring up 2017? That’s your answer for anything related to this archaic run, run, tight-end screen, punt offense. While we’re at it, let’s tell the Cleveland Indians fans to remember 1995 ... you know, when they came soooo close? Your defense of this caveman offensive philosophy is a joke ... look at all the weapons the playoff teams have, even without the quarterbacks. In fact, look at the last 10 Super Bowl Champions and show me which one of them had a 1970s offensive philosophy. You’re an “employee” of the Jaguars, why should would expect you to be critical of any moves or directions the team takes?

I’ll probably keep mentioning 2017 when answering questions as long as it’s pertinent, and as long as fans continue to ask questions asking why the Jaguars’ current decision-makers make certain moves or why they approach things a certain way. I mention both 2017 and 2018 when discussing the current decision-makers because they made decisions prior to both seasons, which means the philosophy that led to both seasons is pertinent in the discussion. As far as me defending the Jaguars’ philosophy, what I try to do here is explain why the Jaguars do things, and why they might do things a certain way going forward. Because the Jaguars lost a lot of games last season, observers assume no decision they made was right – and that their entire approach to football is antiquated. I point out that they won a lot of games and got to within minutes of the Super Bowl using a similar offensive philosophy because it’s pertinent to the conversation. Here’s what I think most people miss in this conversation: The Jaguars are aware they need to improve offensively. They’re aware they need to improve at quarterback. The approach they used the past two seasons was the one they believed best considering the personnel available on the team, in the draft and in free agency. It worked well one year and didn’t work well the next year. The approach they take moving forward will depend largely upon the personnel moving forward. That’s the reality. A final thought: If you want to read something that’s exactly what you already believe, I suggest you read something else. Or write it yourself, then read it. That way you can be certain you agree with it.

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