O-Zone: Memories blur

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Logan from Wichita, KS:
All I got from Tom Coughlin's press conference Friday was "blah, blah, blah … the players we have are wimps that need to tough up, our quarterback is terrible and we still suck…" Yippee.
John: Logan, I assure you Coughlin's not walking into his press conferences worrying about what you and the fans think about what he's saying. That doesn't mean he's not working to improve the team, but that work doesn't extend to saying what fans want to hear or trying to make them happy when he speaks publicly. I also can assure you he's going to be honest in his assessment of the Jaguars and he's going to be steadfast in his effort to articulate his thoughts about the team. I thought Coughlin's press conference Friday was forthright and honest. He clearly believes the Jaguars need to get tougher, and he believes that not only must quarterback Blake Bortles improve, but players around him must improve, too. I didn't get the impression he believes Bortles "sucks," and I actually thought he sounded more supportive of Bortles than he did in the introductory press conference. It also sounded to me as if he likes the potential of pass rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue and that he really likes Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. Mostly, I got the impression that the Jaguars are going to work to build the offensive line and improve this running game. That maybe didn't peel back the curtain into all of Coughlin's Jaguars-oriented thoughts, and maybe it doesn't excite you. I guess that's just the way it be.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
JPP or Melvin Ingram? Prince Amukamara, A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore, or Logan Ryan? Kevin Zeitler, or Larry Warford?
John: JPP, Bouye and Warford, but hey … I'm guessing.
Bob from Sumter, SC:
I'm in the minority. I like the Kelvin Beachum/Branden Albert/Julius Thomas moves. Albert is a better run-blocker when healthy. Thomas is not a good run blocker. Running the ball is Priority One. Jared Odrick was OK, but the message is we're not paying big bucks for OK. Obviously, I think they've given a little thought to who might replace him before they released him - just a wild guess. There's a reason we were 3-13 and it wasn't just Bortles. The Jags will improve under TC and Marrone. As for how much, as you say "stay tuned." #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Gabe from Washington, DC:
If all of the following guys were available in free agency, and the Jaguars deemed them upgrades, would the team be able to afford paying top dollar for Jason Pierre-Paul, A.J. Bouye, Eric Berry AND Kevin Zeitler? That would make me excited.
John: Berry won't be available, but the Jaguars could afford to pay a top dollar to a point for the other three. I don't know that doing so in one offseason would be prudent – or if they realistically could lure all three – but it's not impossible.
Matt from Section 133:
In your response to Bob from Hilliard, you said, "This is a different organization with Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone in charge." I noticed that David Caldwell was conspicuously absent from that sentence. I truly don't mean this to sound flippant, but what is he still doing with the organization? Is it disingenuous to allow him to keep the title of General Manager? If not, then why isn't he more at the forefront of the picture this offseason? It feels to me like the public perception is that this is now Coughlin and Marrone's team. (I don't see Caldwell's serious face scowling at me on the homepage, after all.)
John: David Caldwell is still the general manager and because he's still the general manager it's not disingenuous for him to have the title. As Coughlin said repeatedly on Friday, he and Caldwell and Marrone are running the Jaguars as a team. But when it comes to final decisions, Coughlin makes those. And when it comes to coaching the team, Marrone does that. Hence, the use of the phrase "in charge" when referring to those two.
Aaron from White Hall, AR:
I would rather stick with Blake this year to make sure he isn't our guy before moving on, but I wouldn't mind trading for Jimmy G as long as it wasn't for our fourth overall pick. The guy I would rather see that wouldn't cost a draft pick and would bring in competition is Mike Glennon. Thoughts?
John: If you trade for Garoppolo it's probably going to cost the No. 4 overall selection – or it will at least cost enough that he's going to come in as a starter. As for signing Glennon, sure … I guess. But is he better than Bortles? Significantly? And if he's not, then are you willing to pay premium $$$?
Scott from Jacksonville:
Beachum wasn't any worse than Albert last year, and being two years removed from ACL surgery, Beachum should only get better. On top of that, Beachum is entering his prime, while Albert is past his. I just don't get this one, O-Man.
John: Reread your first sentence and assume that someone very prominent in the Jaguars' decision-making hierarchy – perhaps someone who has coached here before and who was recently hired to make decisions regarding the direction of the organization – doesn't agree with the aforementioned first sentence.
Brett from Jacksonville Beach:
Off topic, but with the Daytona 500 approaching, can you speak about covering Dale Earnhardt's death? Frank Frangie mentioned your coverage during a show this week.
John: I indeed covered the 2001 Daytona 500. It was the last of about 10 or 11 consecutive Daytona 500s I covered for the Florida Times-Union. I actually didn't "cover" Earnhardt's death any more than the hundreds of other reporters there. I worked the race as I always did from the Benny Kahn press room in the infield of Daytona International Speedway and I watched Earnhardt's last-lap collision with the wall on television. I like many others thought comparatively little of it because at first and second glance it didn't seem any more violent than many incidents at DIS. Having covered double-digit NASCAR races there, I had seen many drivers walk away from far worse. Following Earnhardt's collision, I interviewed other drivers post-race and was writing my stories when I got a call (and I believe I'm remembering this right) from an assistant sports editor saying one of our photographers was hearing rumors that Earnhardt had died. I dismissed it because it still didn't seem possible. This was before Twitter and instant news, remember, so information traveled comparatively slowly. Soon after the call, the mood in the press room changed. My memory is fuzzy, but it seems likely that the more tied-in reporters and media types were hearing similar rumors, and that if Earnhardt hadn't died, something was happening. After what I remember as a long time, NASCAR President Mike Helton came into the room. By now, the press room was packed. And by now, it seemed everyone sensed what was coming when Helton said the now infamous words, "We've lost Dale Earnhardt." What I also remember was walking from the press room to Halifax Medical Center with my friend from the Florida Today, David Jones. I don't know, really, if I was thinking I'd talk to someone when I arrived at Halifax or if it just seemed like what a reporter was supposed to do. I honestly don't even recall now if we walked there before Helton's announcement, or if we walked afterward; it has been a long time and details fade. What I remember is the walk was long, and I remember from a relative distance seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt – Earnhardt's wife – outside what was probably the emergency room. The absurdity of our walk to Halifax dawned on us both around this time; whatever had happened to Earnhardt there were going to be no comments from family at Halifax. This was bigger than that. We walked back to the press room. Here, the memories again blur. What I remember most is the stunned feeling leaving DIS that night. There was always eeriness to the track on Sunday evenings after the 500. Two weeks of Speedweeks were over, and the sudden quiet always seemed odd. This obviously felt eerier. I don't pretend to have known Earnhardt, and Dale sure wasn't my friend, but you couldn't cover Daytona for the 10 years I did without feeling his presence. He only won one Daytona 500, but he was a master of that track. He won countless smaller Speedweeks races there, and as little as I knew about the ins and outs of racing, you didn't have to know much to understand his greatness. He was simply the best driver of his era, the most intimidating, the biggest personality, the sport's defining presence. He was always the biggest story at the 500, win or lose, and it goes without saying that his death didn't seem real as I walked from DIS that night. This was a guy who in a very real sense was bigger than life around NASCAR, and now he was gone. I left the Times-Union later that summer and haven't covered a race since, but I doubt I'm alone among media members who count that day as one of the saddest and most memorable days of my career.

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