JACKSONVILLE – New Year's Eve O-Zone.
Let's get to it … Mike from West Des Moines, IA:
I think the Jaguars parting ways with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on Tuesday was the right thing to do. I wish him well personally, but I want the Jaguars to move in a different direction. I started complaining about play-calling after the San Diego game. It looked all season like the offense was playing on a shrunken field with defenders consistently jumping underneath routes. Fisch was dealt a bad hand with all the rookies and youth, but I was never a fan of his offense. I am relieved.
John: This sentiment unsurprisingly was pretty common Tuesday. When offenses fail to produce, offensive coordinators get blamed – rightly or wrongly. We can debate and re-debate the specifics of Fisch's play-calling from now to the end of time. I have said often that play-calling is the black hole I always try to avoid because it's simply too hard to pick apart on a play-by-play, game-by-game basis. Perhaps because of this, I also have been accused of defending Fisch's play-calling … whatever. I will say what I have said about Fisch for two years, especially this year: I thought he had good games and there were other games I wasn't nuts about some of the decisions he made. I also thought he had a phenomenally difficult set of circumstances, particularly this past season with so many young players on offense. It's hard to throw downfield when you're allowing 71 sacks. And when you don't have players with enough experience on whom you can rely to play consistently, it's very difficult to call effective plays. I'll also say again what I said Tuesday regarding Fisch in the View from the O-Zone: If you believe he's the only reason the Jaguars' offense struggled this season, you're wrong; and, if you believe he's the main reason, you may be wrong about that, too.
Scott from Wichita, KS:
Absolutely stupid. Now the offense has to start all over again.
John: That's certainly a valid point, and I asked Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley about this Tuesday. He said he considered the continuity issue, but his hope is the offense will take three steps forward to counteract the potential step back.
Beau from Jacksonville:
I know the draft is a ways off, but I did watch Leonard Williams from USC in his bowl game. When he wasn't double-teamed he was getting to the quarterback. He would be a nice addition to the front seven.
John: I think so, too.
Dave from Section 410:
I watched Leonard Williams in his bowl game and his performance wasn't impressive. He was slow off the ball and his only good plays were when he wasn't blocked. A No. 3 needs to be a little more dominant than that. Speed and quickness are what the Jags need everywhere.
John: I think you and Beau were watching different bowl games.
Eric from Walton, KY:
I would have thought another move to the coaching staff would have been with special teams. Worst I've seen in years. Do you see any changes coming in that area? What are your thoughts?
John: I think what I wrote several times this season – that the Jaguars had no plans to part ways with special teams coach Mike Mallory. I was widely ridiculed for writing this, but I've been widely ridiculed a lot; once more wasn't a big deal. Too often in the NFL coaches get blamed and terminated for issues beyond their control. Bradley said during the season that he felt he put Mallory in a bad position by releasing several "core-four" special teams players. Core-four players are players who play all four of the main special teams units, and not only did core players such as Chris Prosinski and Winston Guy get released, but other core players such as J.T. Thomas moved into starting roles and off of special teams. Sometimes, coaches can't control players' mistakes. Bradley felt this season's special teams play was one of those times.
Danton from Mount Dora, FL:
With a new offensive coordinator coming to the team, will the players get the time to work with the coaches earlier than April/May?
John: No, a team can begin the offseason program a week early if it has a new head coach, but the rule does not apply to teams with new coordinators.
Leon from Austin, TX:
I have been a Jaguars fan ever since they were established into the NFL. Stayed true throughout the ups and downs throughout the years. It seems the Jaguars are possibly setting up Blake Bortles for Blaine Gabbert since he has to learn another offensive system. I remember you stating that would be the worst thing to do to a rookie quarterback. Your take on this?
John: My take is changing coordinators with a quarterback entering his second season is very risky. The gains you make need to outweigh the time and institutional memory lost in the transition. An argument could be made – and has been made by many O-Zone emailers since Fisch's firing – that the Jaguars' offense hardly could be worse, so there's not much risk at all. That's a legitimate point; we'll see if it holds true.
Josh from Eyota, MN:
Now the new quarterback will learn a new offense. Will next year will be a learning year as well?
John: Unless he magically absorbs the offense in a month, yeah – there will be some learning involved for Blake Bortles next season.
Brad from Nashville, TN:
Annoys me to see people complaining about the Joeckel pick. What else should Caldwell have done? He was the consensus No. 1 overall pick that year in a very mediocre draft class.
John: Yes, there's that.
Mike from Jagsonville:
I feel better after hearing Dave's question-answer session. It was particularly lifting to hear that he probably shouldn't have cut the roster so deeply. On the other hand, after Gus' session I was really confused about where he wants to go. His philosophy and objectives are couched in so very nebulous terms. If you can't explain it, you probably can't accomplish it.
John: People hear things their own way, and that's fine. First, I didn't hear Caldwell say he shouldn't have cut the roster so deeply. I heard him say he perhaps should have had more veterans, which could have meant he should have addressed some positions in free agency. Also, while Bradley's philosophy confuses people who absorb it in two-minute – or even 40-minute – soundbites, Jaguars players seem to be pretty clear about it. I don't see it being an overriding issue.
William from Section423:
Marc Trestman for Jax offensive coordinator?
John: I've heard worse ideas. Trestman was recently fired as Bears head coach; he won't be unemployed long.
Miguel from setcion145 and DUVVALLL!:
I was going to ask how much of Jedd Fisch's release was due to the offensive challenges because of youth, but apparently it was due to philosophical differences. How does that happen? Wasn't football philosophy discussed at the hiring?
John: Of course. What's discussed in an interview is one thing; how philosophy mixes with approach often changes in the course of a 16-game NFL season.
Greg from Section 147:
What are your thoughts on the Bucs pulling a lot of their starters in the second half of a game in which they had a large lead in? Lovie Smith seems pretty laidback about it and isn't shy about owning the first pick. For as many times as I have heard professional athletes don't tank, this one is quite the head-scratcher.
John: I can't speak for the internal motivations of Buccaneers players, but the coaching staff pulling starters is not the same thing as professional athletes tanking. Obviously team officials and coaches can have motivations other than winning and performing their best, but players are driven to play their best. Whatever they do on the field is on video for the entire league to see. That is almost always more than enough to ensure players give their best effort. As for whether the Bucs tanked, I have no idea; if they did, it's disappointing … but whatever.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I see one of the reasons Jedd Fisch was let go was because too much was put on the plate for Blake Bortles and the other rookies. Coach Bradley said that he wanted the team to play fast and on offense they didn't. Seemed like they were thinking rather than reacting. I remember the Packer Teams of the '60s under Lombardi. They had very few plays but ran them to perfection. Is that maybe what the Jags are looking to do? Happy New Year.
John: I don't think Bradley wants an offensive coordinator with a thin playbook; I do think he wants one who will trim that playbook when necessary.
John from Jacksonville:
Do people reading the O-Zone really spend their time pointing out each flaw in your spelling or grammar? This can't not be the ultimate in dead-zone misguided focus.
John: I have know idea what you're talking about.
Rob from Jacksonville:
Wasn't it not long ago there was fear Fisch would be taken away as a head coach??