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O-Zone: On to next year

JACKSONVILLE – Long, long, lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong season.

Oh, well. It's over now. On to a busy, busy, bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-sy offseason.

Let's get to it … Scott from Aurora, IL:
Honestly, though – probably the most appropriate way to end this season. Bad play, bad decisions and stupid penalties paving the way to disappointment.
John: There's a lot to digest and discuss as we look back at Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Colts and ahead to the upcoming head-coaching search, but yeah … Sunday's game summed up the season pretty fittingly. Interim head coach Doug Marrone was asked afterward if it was a microcosm of the season, and while a lot of coaches often hedge when asked about "microcosms" and summations, Marrone didn't hedge a bit. He said it absolutely was a microcosm because the Jaguars yet again found a way to lose a game they could have won. They lost because they made key mistakes at key times, and because they didn't make key plays at critical moments. That's what this team was this season: a team that committed too many turnovers and too many penalties – and couldn't make big plays offensively or defensively at key times. The Jaguars also were a team that struggled to score in the fourth quarter and struggled to pressure the passer at critical moments. Those are tough things to be if you want to win in the National Football League.
Jacob from North Carolina:
This defense has looked really good, so I am surprised with Jalen Ramsey's and Tashaun Gipson's comments. Did it seem like a lot of players on defense did not like the scheme? I thought the new head coach might retain the defensive coordinator, but now I am not sure. What do you think?
John: I'm never surprised at what players say when a coaching change is imminent. Coaching changes usually come at the end of losing, frustrating seasons – and frustrations often get voiced at the end of such seasons. Gipson and Ramsey both were very pointed about the need for change, and both said or inferred strongly that they didn't feel they were used properly this season. Was that a universal feeling among players? I didn't get a feeling that was an overwhelming sentiment, but it clearly existed on some level. Was it a case of losing wearing on players? Was it a case of a whole lot of things going wrong and people coming up with many theories about why? It very possibly was all of those things and more. Losing sucks, and when teams lose, things get frayed at the edges. As far as how Sunday's post-game comments affect the coordinators' future … I doubt it has much effect – and it shouldn't. A head coach needs to decide on his coordinator based on what he believes best – not postgame comments in the aftermath of a brutally disappointing, frustrating season.
Fred from Naples, FL:
I hear that Gus Bradley may follow Anthony Lynn as his defensive coordinator if Lynn should get any head-coaching job. In that scenario, what happens to the money that the Jags owe him for next year? Is it prorated now based on his salary with his new team? In other words, are the Jags on the hook for the difference between his new salary and what the Jags owe him for next year?
John: Yes.
Jae from TD Garden:
Go with an offensive player or defensive player with the Top 5 pick??
John: Go with the best player and hope you get a great player. There is no position at which the Jaguars could not use a great player.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
Trent Dilfer is a moron to be summarily ignored.
John: OK.
Ray from Monroe, CT:
Why when the Colts got into field-goal range did Jacksonville not use one of the three timeouts that they had – not only to save some clock but also because they got picked apart? Is there a logical reason for why they didn't use them?
John: The Colts were out of timeouts and the Jaguars were in the mode of trying to let the clock run rather than stop it. I suppose an argument could have been made for stopping it, but once the Colts got past midfield they were in field-goal range and it became a matter of trying to get the clock close to zero before the Colts had a chance to score a touchdown. Like much of what the Jaguars tried this season, it didn't work.
Jason from Salem, OR:
Don't the really good players turn it on when the game is tight and make some crucial plays to win the game? Beyond second-half collapses this season, especially in the fourth quarter, no one has showed up in the closing moments. They have let way too many games be taken from them this season in the waning moments. It's time to turn this tide. #FindingWayTooManyWaysToLose
John: Many things defined this Jaguars season. A failure to make winning plays in the fourth quarter may not trump all else, but it's on the list.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
So, they lost. Was it the coaching? Maybe they should change head coaches after every loss ...
John: Yes, because it's always coaching in the NFL.
Chris from Houston, TX:
I'm concerned about some of the postgame comments. Both Ramsey and Gipson said that they were "caged" by the coaches and appeared to call for a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, and Gipson was even seemingly critical of Caldwell. I would understand if these comments came from Myles Jack, who saw the field only on a sporadic basis. But these guys were integral parts of a highly-effective secondary. In my opinion, these comments are illustrative of the selfishness and immaturity that has plagued this team and contributed to the demise of Gus Bradley. What are your thoughts on their postgame comments?
John: My first thought was that Gipson and Ramsey could have handled the situation better. My second thought was that these are young people who have a lot of pride and who are speaking in an emotional situation at the end of a frustrating season. My third thought was that the Jaguars went 3-13 in a season when so much more was expected … it would have been improbable if not impossible for there not to be a lot of differing opinions over just what went wrong. This team feels like a team in need of a fresh start. That's going to happen. As for what form it will take … that's what the next few days/weeks will decide.
Cade from Orlando, FL:
Well, now we ride into this offseason. The dark time. On a positive note – despite what anyone says – Blake Bortles strung together two good games to finish the season. At least I thought so. These two games were miles ahead of where he was at most points during the season and I'm glad to see it. I don't want to start over at quarterback. I want him to do well and I hope he has a great offseason. I think he's going to be just fine. Take it easy, O.
John: Bortles indeed altered his storyline in the final two games of the regular season. I say "altered" because he didn't dramatically change it, and he didn't by any means firmly establish himself as a bona-fide, elite franchise quarterback. Not even close. But he did play better and he looked like a much different quarterback than he had looked in the first 14 games of the regular season. He looked calmer, more confident, more poised, more accurate – and all of those things are good things. At the same time, Bortles still obviously needs to improve his pocket awareness, decision-making, accuracy – all of the things that were issues entering the season. He also once again on Sunday could not lead a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Jaguars' offense failed in that situation far too often this season and eventually a quarterback must make winning plays in the fourth quarter. Here's the bottom line on Bortles as the offseason begins: He has to improve, but he at least showed in the past two weeks that he can look the part for a two-week stretch. He hadn't done that often enough in the first 14 games of the season.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
I disagree with you and Sexton on your takes that Bortles will be the starting quarterback next season. I think that would be a huge mistake and the Jags will be 2-14 or 5-11 at the end of '17. Bortles is garbage and needs to be dumped – and I think who ever the next coach is will do just that.
John: It's not out of the realm of possibility that you are right and I am wrong. I have been wrong before, and we won't know the organization's approach with Bortles until the head coach is determined. It's safe to assume The Bortles Question will be one of the first issues discussed when General Manager David Caldwell, Owner Shad Khan and the head coach determine the organization's new course. Remember: it's one thing to dump Bortles and it's another to have a better option.
Jeff from Rutland, MA:
Not much else to say except to wish you and Jaguars Nation a Happier New Year. We are due.
John: True that.

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