O-Zone: Mean and nasty

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Steve from Sager

Zone, I like Marrone and Caldwell, but how could you possibly justify to the fan base bringing them back if they have lost eight of their last nine games by double digits? Caldwell has been general manager for seven seasons, and his only winning season is when Coughlin came aboard, so how do you blame this all on TC with Caldwell's track record? If you bring him, Marrone and Washer back, I fear you will see an empty stadium all next year and complete fan apathy for this team.

This is a fair, difficult question – and one Owner Shad Khan eventually will answer if Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell return next season. I anticipate the answer will involve Khan having already dismissed Tom Coughlin from his duties as Senior Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Coughlin had final say over football decisions the past three years, so his dismissal is significant. Remember, too: This decision shouldn't be based on the past as much as what Khan believes about the future. If Khan opts to bring Caldwell and Marrone back, he clearly believes the pair can get better results in the future than they have in the recent past. Why would he think this? An argument can be made that the 2017 team that went to the AFC Championship Game was largely built by Caldwell, and that the roster declined after that under Coughlin's watch. Explanations in the NFL are rarely that simple, but perhaps that would be part of the reasoning. As far as attendance next season, I anticipate Khan will look at the big picture on this front. Would the first game or two at home next season be difficult? Probably. Would interest renew quickly if the Jaguars win? Absolutely. In that sense, Khan better be right. But that's the case with all decisions like this.

Real JT from Title Town, TX

Mr. Khan, are you serious?! Marrone's a nice, likeable guy, sure, but has been nothing short of mediocre for years. Past time to go. Clear that Coughlin was personnel. Marrone's responsible for two things: game plans and discipline. Both abysmal failures. Marrone stays and thousands of jags fans don't. One not fer bologna.

Marrone's a good coach, so yeah … one fer Marrone.

Fred from Naples, FL

Some time ago I wrote to you saying I thought Coughlin would be fired and Tony Khan would become the new Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Now there are reports that with Coughlin fired, Tony Khan would take on additional responsibilities with Marrone and Caldwell being retained. My point isn't "I told you so," but I am curious as to what "additional responsibilities" would actually mean. He also heads up Fulham soccer as well as his corporate wrestling responsibilities. I just cannot imagine Caldwell reporting to someone who really doesn't have a great deal of experience running football operations; the lone exception being analytics. Thoughts?

I long have believed that Tony Khan will make a very good football decision-maker/leader when he is ready to take that role. He cares deeply about the Jaguars – and cares being good at whatever he does. He also has put in substantial time to understand the NFL since the Khans purchased the team. Because the scenario you offer is still hypothetical, I'm not sure what "additional responsibilities would mean." I don't think Caldwell would have much trouble reporting to Tony Khan if that's the scenario.

John from Jacksonville

Will Shad be looking to replace Coughlin or return to the organizational structure prior to Coughlin? I would think the retention of Dave and Doug hinge upon this. If Khan is planning on bringing in a new EVP, why wouldn't he just leave the decision to that person?

I don't know what Khan will do following the season, but a fascinating thing about the NFL is there's no set formula for how best to structure an organization. Each team has its own structure – usually based on the owner's vision and philosophy. The 2019 season will end Sunday. We'll learn the answer to this soon enough.

Tucker from Bologna

Please stop saying that firing Coughlin is significant change. Caldwell was terrible long before Coughlin arrived.

Firing Coughlin was significant. You not liking the answer doesn't change that.

Bobby from Summerville, SC

Hi John, do you think there is a chance that Calais Campbell returns to the Jaguars next season? I really hope he does as he is a class act both on and off the field.

Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell is as classy and professional as any NFL player I've ever covered. I would like to see him return. He has been good for the most part this season, but he hasn't been near his level of the past two seasons. Considering that – and considering his salary-cap number for next season – I don't expect him to be with the Jaguars next season.

ABC from ABCTown

I know that it's hard to predict things this season, but who do you think will be the Week 1 starter at quarterback in 2020? Gardner Minshew II, Nick Foles or someone else?

I was asked this early this week. I answered Foles and added that I might have a different answer if I was asked another day. This is another day. Minshew.

The Original Bryan from Tampa, FL

Before Coughlin (bc), Caldwell consistently had the team among the league's best in terms of salary cap space. Hope he can clean up Tom's mess quickly and learn how to build an offensive line and evaluate the quarterback position.

Hey, one fer Caldwell!

John from Jacksonville

It's all about the trenches. Get the offensive and defensive lines stout and everything else will look much better. Oh yes, and a great tight end for a change. The offensive line was the undoing of quarterback Blake Bortles in 2018 and has been the same for both Foles and Minshew in 2019. We already have playoff-caliber talent with two good quarterbacks, a great running back and a very good wide receiver group. They just need that extra second each play for a hole to develop or to create separation on routes. Fix the trenches and the opponents won't have their way with the Jags. The most overlooked and unsexy positions (the line players) are the most important in football for the other players to have sex appeal that allows fans to remove the bags from their heads and to stare/hoot/holler/cheer wildly. Plain and simple.

I can't go with you on your theory the Jaguars have playoff-caliber talent on offense. The receivers and tight ends need too much upgrading to say that. But is getting stout on the lines a must? Absolutely.

Eric from Jacksonville

To offer some perspective on the quarterback situation: Foles outdueled Tom Brady for a Super Bowl championship not too long ago, and he comes to the Jaguars and can hardly move the football. Maybe it's the roster that is making the quarterback play look bad, and Minshew has played as well as a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback on a depleted roster. I would tread lightly with another large investment at the quarterback position when that might not be the real issue.

Hey, one fer Foles! And for Minshew. Right? Sort of?

Brian from Jacksonville

Donald Payne has outperformed Myles Jack at middle linebacker by a large margin. He has a lot of tackles. If a player off the street improved play in the middle, imagine what a real MLB can do for the Jaguar defense. You stubbornly defend Jack as a MLB, but hard evidence suggests that is an unsustainable position. While I'm speaking truth, I'll add that Yannick stinks against the run. He is so easy to block and can't set an edge worth a hoot. He is a pass rusher only. There is no way he gets elite money from us, is there?

It's popular to say that Payne is outperforming Jack. It's also incorrect. Though it's true that Payne has many tackles since becoming the starter, he also because of his size sometimes makes them too far downfield. I do believe Jack is a capable NFL middle linebacker, though it's true that he could well move to weak-side linebacker next season. Will Ngakoue get elite money? It's quite possible. It's true he is not nearly as good against the run as he is rushing the passer, but he can rush the passer. Those guys get elite money.

Sam from Winter Park, FL

So, Caldwell has drafted better since Coughlin has been here. Now that Coughlin is no longer here, you are somehow confident that Caldwell won't revert to his baffling attempts at drafting? Again, I'm waiting for you to name another general manager who has drafted a quarterback in the top 5, watched him fail for four out of five years, EXTEND HIM and keep his job. Name one.

I can't do that. And stop being mean. You're hurting my feelings.

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