O-Zone: Open season

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Aaron from Chantilly:
The comments from Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell that placed Blake Bortles with Super Bowl potential somehow doesn't sit well with me. It really has me doubting our direction and future if that is his evaluation. Hopefully, I'm taking this the wrong way...
John: You're referring to a jaguars.com interview this week in which Caldwell said he believed Bortles capable of winning a lot of games and getting the Jaguars to the Super Bowl. This raised some eyebrows and even some ire from fans who are convinced that Bortles is not capable of such things. I, too, am skeptical about Bortles' ability to be a franchise quarterback – and I think the vast majority of observers share at least some level of that skepticism because Bortles' level of play has done little to promote confidence. But don't overthink Caldwell's comments. Yes, his belief in Bortles remains strong. Yes, it's his job to support Bortles. Bortles is the Jaguars' quarterback right now and you support your quarterback 100 percent until he's no longer your quarterback. There is no other way. But this is January 27, which means we're a month and a half from unrestricted free agency and three months from the 2017 NFL Draft. Tom Coughlin has been on the job as executive vice president of football operations for less than three weeks, which means a lot of meetings and decisions regarding personnel and approach moving forward have yet to take place. I believe Bortles will be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in Week 1 next season because I believe it will be difficult for the Jaguars to find a better option given the players available in free agency and in the draft. That difficulty doesn't mean the Jaguars won't seriously look at the quarterback position and perhaps pursue competition to improve the position.
Chris from Orlando, FL:
So, next season we will see the Gus Bradley defense at home against our new-look Jags. Do you think Bradley might have been influenced to take the Los Angeles job knowing he will see the Jags this year (as it seems they do every year)?
John: No.
Derrick from Jacksonville:
John, it seems to have become common practice in sports these days to rest your team if they have clinched their division. NBA teams are now resting their players throughout the week as not to wear them down with the long-season grind. I wouldn't have an issue with that if the leagues would refund some money to fans who purchased a ticket to see games and the best players or teams compete. In my opinion, it is a bad practice and not fair to the paying fan. What are your thoughts on this practice and fairness to the paying fan?
John: It seems this is a far bigger problem in the NBA than in the NFL, because NFL teams typically only rest players if playoff positioning is clinched – and I think fans generally understand that situation when it arises. But I don't think it's remotely fair to the paying fan – and I understand the disappointment in such a situation. My wife and I drove to Miami last spring to see Roger Federer play. He pulled out of the tournament because of injury. That was disappointing for us as Federer fans, but it obviously was understandable. If he would have pulled out for some other reason – which he wouldn't have, because he's, you know … perfect – it would have been phenomenally disappointing, irritating and even angering. As far as team sports go, this seems like an issue that isn't getting solved any time soon. NBA teams seem to have adopted midseason rest as a matter of course. And I can't foresee teams and leagues initiating a policy that includes refunds based on participation of some players. A big reason for that is that money is cool. People like it. Once people or teams get some they don't want to give it back.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
How much does the new staff's approach to free agency and the draft tell us about their view of the state of the team? If they go out and sign some established veteran players in free agency, or sign some of the "big-name" free agents – and if they pick players in the draft who seem more ready to play, or draft positions that are traditionally easier to transition from college to pro – does that tell us that they think the team is ready to win now? Conversely, if they start dumping contracts, acquiring future draft picks, and picking developmental players, does that tell us that they think the team needs to be rebuilt and it'll be a few years before winning is realistic?
John: I think the Jaguars will sign players aggressively in free agency and I think they'll draft players they think can contribute immediately. I don't see the approach moving forward feeling "developmental," and I don't think you'll hear people talking about winning in 2018 and not worrying about 2017. I don't know if that will mean the people running the Jaguars honestly believe the team is ready to win now, but I think it will show that's their objective.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Can you tell people to stop saying "What say you?" It is so worn out that when I see it, I want to punch a baby in the face.
John: I don't think you should do the part where you punch the baby.
Hoov from Section 118:
Quick question, O: Could the Jags consider Philip Rivers as a free-agent acquisition or not so much? You've probably addressed this before so I'll apologize in advance.
John: If Rivers were a free agent it probably would be something worth considering. Rivers is an elite quarterback whose addition would improve most NFL teams' quarterback situations. Rivers, however, is not a free agent. He's under contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. While he has expressed his disappointment with the team leaving San Diego for Los Angeles, that doesn't mean he won't be playing for the Chargers next season. All indications are he will, which is good for the Chargers.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
"Not fair to say Blake can't read a defense?" Let's just take one (of many) examples from last year. He threw a red zone pick against Oakland, which was intended for Marqise Lee in triple coverage. Do you mean to say that he read the defense, knew Lee would have three guys on him, but opted to throw it anyway?
John: He read that defense poorly. He read other situations poorly this past season. He didn't read all situations poorly, which is why it's unfair to say he can't read a defense. Is it fair to say he must improve reading defenses? Sure.
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
Dave Caldwell overestimated the talent on the offensive line by not addressing it last year. I'm not talking about getting a left tackle with a bad knee, either. With this being a weak draft for offensive linemen, he should have upgraded it this past season. He had an opportunity to get Alex Mack and John Sitton and didn't even try to sign them. Oh, btw, Mack is going to the Super Bowl and Sitton is going to another Pro Bowl.
John: OK.
Mike from Charleston, SC:
John, how do the Patriots continue to have late draft choices and continue to release so many key players almost every season and still be so successful every year?
John: Tom Brady plays for the New England Patriots, and Bill Belichick coaches the New England Patriots. It has been this way for 17 seasons, with Brady as the quarterback for 16 seasons. Coaching isn't everything in the NFL and quarterbacking is a lot of the NFL. When you have greatness at quarterback and when you have a coach who clearly knows what he expects and has the ability to communicate that, and when the organization wins consistently enough that players buy in totally to what the organization does, you can get on the kind of roll that New England is enjoying. It's a once-in-a-generational-type thing. In other words, it's historic.
Swizznuts from Flagler Beach, FL:
John, if you owned a five-star restaurant that overall served good food with the exception of your assistant seafood chef, who consistently served awful seafood, and you found yourself needing a head chef, would you promote your seafood guy to the top spot? Obviously not. Hence, I can't understand promoting a quarterback coach that was involved in Blake's regressing. Seems to defy logic.
John: Your scenario – the whole five-star seafood thing – indeed does defy logic. The problem is while it is a well-written scenario, it doesn't actually apply in this instance. That's because quarterbacks coach is not to offensive coordinator as assistant chef is to head chef. The ability to call plays and run an offense effectively is an entirely different skill than implementing fundamentals and developing a quarterback.
Ramon from Valdosta, GA:
Do the Jags hold open tryouts?
John: For what?

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