O-Zone: Lucky man

JACKSONVILLE – One more day until Look-Ahead Wednesday. Sigh.

Let's get to it … Jerry from Italia, FL:
John, you keep saying you don't believe the Jags will end the season 2-14. Do you know something we don't, like the Jags are playing a 17th game so they'll finish 2-15? The way they're playing that is the only way they don't finish 2-14.
John: I suppose this is as good a place as any to start on this glorious December Tuesday, and because I have steadfastly – and perhaps foolishly – said over and over again that the Jaguars will not go 2-14 this season, I suppose there's no point in changing now. But while I still believe the Jaguars will win again this season, Sunday's loss to Minnesota did shake my belief more than a bit. The Jaguars had a chance in that game – again. Victory absolutely was there for the taking in the fourth quarter – again. The Jaguars led by two points entering the period and even after losing the lead squandered multiple opportunities to win. The quarter in a sense summed up much about this season. This is a team that has had opportunity after opportunity to win game after game against competitive team after competitive team. The Jaguars have lost time and time again in that situation. The reality is while this is a team capable of winning, and while it is not a team bereft of young talent, it is a team that loses winnable games in the fourth quarter. That's the team's identity and it's an identity that is leading to one of the worst seasons in franchise history. There's not much good in that.
Zach from Austin, TX:
Every week I don't expect anything and I'm still always let down.
John: Welcome to my life, Zach.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
See, John: The Rams' owner gets it. I don't think Shad Khan has the stomach for this, John. No, there is no real gain to canning Gus Bradley now, but it sends the message that people will be held responsible for underachieving. Yet, Jags brass lets a below-average coach continue to collect checks and an awful quarterback in THE PICK MAGNET continue to not live up to average standards and expect change. I feel the Jags could have gone 2-14 without Gus. We know he is not the answer, but Khan lacks what it takes to make the tough decision. What say you, O?
John: I say Khan is perfectly capable of making tough decisions; he wouldn't be where he is in life if that wasn't the case. He's also perfectly capable of making a decision – and following a path – that he believes is right even when many others believe it's wrong, and even when it's unpopular. Whatever decision Khan has to make will be no easier in the offseason than it would have been in October, November or December. I have no doubt that Khan will make necessary choices at times he deems appropriate. And when he does, I'm sure his stomach will be perfectly fine.
Jon from Rockville:
Isn't it true that the only way the Jags' coaches can coach the Senior Bowl is if they don't fire Gus?
John: Yes.
Andrew from Tehachapi, CA:
You don't think the Jaguars will go 2-14? Well, you're running out of opportunities to prove yourself right. As for your contention that better quarterback play would result in a mediocre record, Blake Bortles' play wasn't bad at all Sunday and the Jags still lost. This is a bad team and bad teams will always find ways to lose.
John: Blake Bortles' play indeed wasn't bad Sunday. My point in saying that better quarterback play this season would have resulted in a mediocre record wasn't to say that the Jaguars would have won every game in which Bortles played OK – and it wasn't to say that mediocre is good enough. It also wasn't to say this entire season is "Bortles' fault." When a team goes 2-11, there is more than one thing going wrong. Rather, the point was that better quarterback play would have allowed the Jaguars to win three or four more games than they have won this season. I still think a pretty strong case can be made that that's correct.
Aaron from Chantilly:
Looks like we are going to have another busy year in the offseason.
John: Well … yeah.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brazil:
The 2016 season is odd because the Jaguars are in the midst of a 1990s Buccaneers/Bengals-level-of losing incompetence. Yet, unlike those infamous teams, this squad has talent. Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. on defense alone are reasons for hope. So are we simply waiting for the next Tony Dungy to make this team take off?
John: There indeed is young talent on this team, and there are certainly areas that must improve. The biggest positive about the players you mentioned is that they are talented, but perhaps the second biggest positive is they are all comparatively young – and therefore should improve. That's particularly important for Ngakoue and Fowler, who seem to have potential to be very good – if not better than that – pass rushers for a long time. Fowler's not there yet, but young pass rushers can improve dramatically early in their careers, and perhaps Fowler can do the same. As for what will help this team take off … maturity will help and there must, must, must be more consistency on offense. What form that consistency will take and who will be leading the journey … well, right now perhaps only Khan truly has any insight.
John from Clearwater, FL:
It's hard to get anything going on offense when you get inside the 30 multiple times and have a second-and-manageable and get a false start or illegal formation wait for it ... at home! Not to mention the sacks.
John: The avoidable offensive penalties were a mammoth problem Sunday, and they're the sorts of things that shouldn't happen at home – or so late in the season. The responsibility for the pressure on the quarterback seemed to be spread pretty evenly among the offensive line and Blake Bortles, but the penalties? That indeed seemed very shoddy and on that front, it wasn't the best look – or best day – for the coaches.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Whether the record is 2-14 or 5-11 it does not matter. This was supposed to be the payoff for years of suffering through mediocrity. Instead I sat through ANOTHER game where the stadium was filled with opposing fans clowning me and my desire to see this team win. What a disappointing, pathetic squandering of a season. This is supposed to be my escape. This is supposed to be entertaining. It's not supposed to be like this every damn week.
John: True that.
Sam from Jacksonville:
A blocked field goal, a blocked punt, a roughing the punter penalty, a delay of game on the kickoff, and another long return given up. That's comically bad.
John: I wasn't laughing.
Tony from Farmington, UT:
I found myself apologizing to the defense out loud through my TV this past Sunday. The offense and especially the special teams put the defense in tough spots far too often against the Vikings. Do you think Mike Mallory will/should be fired before the end of the season? I personally feel it's overdue.
John: I don't think Mike Mallory will be fired by the end of the season – at least in part because only three games remain in the season. I have written often in the last four seasons that I believe Mike Mallory is a very capable special teams coach, and I still believe that. For the most part during his first three seasons the special teams was good at times and so-so at other times, but for the most part in 2013, 2014 and 2015 special teams just seemed like one more struggling area on a struggling team. The Jaguars' special teams struggles have been far more noticeable this season and have contributed mightily to the current eight-game losing streak. I'm still not a believer that all of that is attributed to coaching, and I've seen more than enough good coaches fired because their players struggle that I rarely – if ever – think firing a coach is the cure to a struggling unit. Still, the struggles in this area have been epic. No doubt about that.
Marco from Lima, Peru:
O-Man, what do you think about the Vikings' quarterback situation? It seems we might have a chance to snatch one – either Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford. Do you think we should make a push for either?
John: The Vikings' quarterback situation obviously will play itself out in the offseason, but it appears there's a real chance they keep both. Teams would be reluctant to trade for Bridgewater because of the seriousness of his knee injury, and the Vikings could be inclined to keep Bradford for much the same reason.
Andrew from Section 203:
I wanted to write something in after the game yesterday, then this morning. But turns out I have nothing left to say.
John: How fortunate for you to have that option.

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