O-Zone: Merry Krimma

JACKSONVILLE – Merry Christmas to all.

Let's get to it … Joshua from Lakeland, FL:
John, the players wanted to win for Gus. They played their hearts out and it was amazing to watch. But why couldn't they play this inspired while Gus was still here? Is it guilt that's motivating them?
John: That's indeed the $1 Million Question today – and of course, we'll never know for sure. I don't think it was guilt, necessarily – though the victory over Tennessee Saturday certainly was a galvanized, impressive effort. And while there will be cynics who say, "See, it was all coaching after all and Gus Bradley should have been fired long ago," Saturday's result can't reasonably be all attributed to a coaching change – though it is always coaching in the NFL. So, what was it? Why now? After talking to players in the locker room Saturday, the most reasonable explanation was a combination of urgency and absence of pressure. The urgency came about from a lot of players perhaps realizing for the first time that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and that a lack of performance has serious ramifications. The absence of pressure is about quarterback Blake Bortles, who told reporters after the game that he had been placing pressure on himself and was able to exhale Saturday. There's rarely one reason things happen in the NFL, but perhaps those two factors help explain a little of the difference between what happened Saturday and what had been going on with this team all season.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
I … they … um, the off … speechless. Merry Christmas!
John: Merry Krimma.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
Yo.
John: 'Sup?
Don from Duval:
It's amazing what coaching can do.
John: It's always coaching in the NFL – and it's never, ever, ever, ever the quarterback playing by far his best game of the season.
Tim from Winston Salem, NC:
This is what we expected all year!
John: It's indeed what Jaguars players expected all year, too – perhaps not all victories being quite so one-sided, but certainly something closer to the level of play we saw Saturday. That's what made the victory somewhat bittersweet for players and coaches alike. The Jaguars truly wanted to make this work for Gus Bradley. Something linebacker Paul Posluszny said afterward perhaps rings as true as anything I heard after the game. He said that perhaps Bradley's dismissal sent a real message for the first time to some players that a lack of performance indeed can mean real ramifications. Did Bradley get that across enough? Perhaps not, though one game might not be enough of a sample size to know for sure. At the same time, it seemed a more relaxed team. Whatever it was, it was the right mix on Saturday. Will it last? We'll see.
Chris from Toronto, Canada:
It's a Christmas miracle!
John: Ho, ho, ho.
Richard from Las Vegas, NV:
Great win all the way around. And we could talk about Robinson or Bortles, but that was Dante Fowler Jr.'s best game as a pro against a very good Tennessee line.
John: Indeed it was. Fowler by my count disrupted at least two passes by Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and he also had a first-half sack that helped set the tone early. It has become vogue among some observers to call Fowler a bust – and one good game does not a big-time player make – but Fowler this season has shown flashes of why he was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, and the violence of his first-half sack was such a flash. He must improve his pass-rushing technique and he must improve in a lot of areas, but the window on Fowler is far from being closed.
Mike from Jacksonville:
Wow that was fun! Let's do that more often next year!
John: Winning is cool. People like it.
Jon from Portland, OR:
Doug Marrone for head coach 2k17!!!
John: I don't know that one late-season victory will catapult Marrone into the favorite's position for the head coaching search. Realistically, this is going to be an extensive search. Reports are that the Jaguars will interview Tom Coughlin next week, and I expect the search to take some unforeseen twists and turns. But Marrone is a proven head coach who now is 16-17 in the NFL. I wouldn't color him remotely a favorite, but stranger things have happened – and there are far, far worse candidates.
Joe from Surf City:
Ummmmmmm??????
John: I got nothing.
Renee from Jax:
John! I forgot to tell you! MERRY CHRISTMAS! And a HAPPY NEW YEAR! Sing it. It makes you feel good.
John: OK.
Ty from Duval:
Well, O-man … maybe you should have guaranteed wins earlier in the season …
John: I knew there was no way the Jaguars were going to lose to the Titans on Sunday. It simply and absolutely was not going to happen.
Dave from Duval:
If I woke tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn't be more surprised.
John: I'm excited about it, too, Clark.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
I respectfully disagree with your opinion on full-time officials. Year-round physical conditioning and film study would greatly improve the craft of officiating. Being in the correct position to see, spotting the ball correctly and consistently as far as time - even working on their huddles to communicate. We expect players and coaches to put in this kind of effort in year round … why not officials? If it was a full-time job you got paid well to preform – and if you could get cut, released, benched for poor performances – I think the officiating would greatly improve. The league makes plenty of money. There is no reason not to improve this part of their product. Why would you go cheap on such an important part of the business?
John: You're referring to my opinion that the NFL doesn't need full-time officials. While coaches indeed work pretty much year-round, players typically are away from facilities from January through mid-April – and again from mid-June through the end of July. That makes it about a seven-month-a-year job, with some of that year spent strictly working out – and unable to communicate with coaches about football. Look, I get that people are fired up about this officiating-year-round thing. I'm just not one who believes seven or eight officials employed year-round will dramatically improve officiating. It's a game of big, strong, fast men that moves at a high rate of speed. Calls get missed. That's going to happen whether or not officials are employed year-round.
Tom from Jacksonville:
Mr. O: First, the helmets are still gross. Second, I never thought that when driving down University and watching "THOSE" apartments being built that I would see a world-class sports authority spring from there. Third, may you and your family (and Coach Gus) have a safe and Merry Christmas. Not too much egg nog tho.
John: I was going to say there's no such thing as too much egg nog. That is not true.
Josh from Grand Island, NE:
So, Zone ... what are your plans for this year's holiday party since cornering the Culligan girl under the mistletoe is out of the equation?
John: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
If anyone needed smoking-gun evidence that Gus should have been fired after last season, this game was it! This season should not have been the disaster it turned out to be. Let's hope the next head coach brings more of what we saw Saturday. It's time! Merry Christmas, Jags nation.
John: Saturday was a big victory for the Jaguars. Does it mean the Jaguars would be over .500 if Bradley had been dismissed sooner? There are going to be those who believe that – and if people want to believe it, that's fine. For the sake of Jaguars fan and the franchise, I certainly hope it was all coaching and that the team will now turn around in a big way. It's probably a little more realistic to think that the team played a bit more relaxed with a little more urgency Saturday, and that what we saw Saturday was a very encouraging one-game surge that might not necessarily be what the team would have been all along … but hey, who wants to hear that? It's Christmas. Enjoy the feeling.
Charlie from Jacksonville:
There will undoubtedly be those who try to assert this victory is proof that Gus' coaching was all that was holding the team back, which is preposterous. But I do believe there is a grain of truth the team was pressing significantly in an effort to save Gus' job because he was so well liked.
John: I think perhaps it was more than a grain, but yeah …
Wes from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I know: it's players not coaches. But do you think players might play better with better coaching/game planning?
John: The people game-planning for the Jaguars on Saturday were the people who game-planned for the first 14 games of the season.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
Merry Christmas to you, too Zone, O-man, O, Mr. Oehser, John Oehser … call you anything but late for dinner right? Merry Krimaaaa!
John: Merry Krimma.

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