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O-Zone: Same difference

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Sunil from Jacksonville:
I get the sense you or the organization could care less that the 'hardcore" fans … the ones that read the O-Zone every day and pay hard-earned money to watch the team play in person... are frustrated, disappointed and embarrassed. The franchise has catered to the big scoreboard and pool crowd … the people who just come to the game to socialize and drink. Those of us who have been here the entire time and go to the games to … I don't know … actually watch the game … are insulted when we question the direction of this franchise. I love Shad Khan, but not one time have I heard him acknowledge the fans' frustration with the product on the field. Monday mornings have been bad for long enough. WE DESERVE BETTER!
John: Sunil, this is truly not meant to sound snide, and I understand being frustrated with losing … but the Jaguars pay me at least in part to answer questions every day in a column read by the hard-core fan … I write that column every day – 365 days a year, on weekends, holidays, on vacations, on bye-week Fridays … Shad Khan has committed to keep the team in Jacksonville and has worked to upgrade the stadium significantly … he has revamped the front office on the football side and business side with the idea of revitalizing the organization to make it viable and successful … I'm not trying to out-list you, and I'm not trying to turn the O-Zone into an ongoing antagonistic reader/writer argument (though in reading today's emails, there seem to be some who aspire to this) … I guess I just don't see where it's reasonable to believe this organization doesn't care about its hardcore fans.
Joel from Jacksonville:
What do the coaches think of Demetrius McCray? Seems he's playing better than Gratz even though he was drafted several rounds later last year. He sure looks like he could be a starting cornerback for at least the next few years if he continues to improve.
John: Your email pretty much sums up how the coaches feel about McCray.
Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
We have played 10 games...rookies have had 10 games to learn the NFL. Shouldn't we expect more from them now and quit excusing their mistakes because they are rookies? The coaching is lacking as well... special team mistakes, that press coverage with 31 seconds in the half, Bortles regression in accuracy all point to a need for the coaches to do a better job. When are you going to acknowledge these problems?
John: No one's excusing anything, but the fact remains rookies make rookie mistakes until they're not rookies. And I guess I wonder what the Jaguars should do: cut the rookies because they're making mistakes? Send them home and make them do extra homework? Now, as far as the coaching, we've covered a lot of the areas you've mentioned, and there's no question the call to be in press coverage Sunday late in the first half was one the coaches would like to have back. I've also discussed Bortles' regression in accuracy, and I've said before I've seen it enough in young players that I'm just not sure it's an issue that can be coached away during the regular season. But I digress … the reaction of fans always is to blame coaches. The reality is the Jaguars are young, developing and still prone to imperfection and mistakes. The coaching has been imperfect, too, but I don't know that it's "lacking" quite to the extreme you believe.
Sonny from Melbourne, FL:
I, too, am frustrated with the team's play. Would you please tell me what coach or player is available to the Jacksonville team that could allow it to win maybe four out of the last six games? Many call for change, but to whom?
John: Hold on. Let me check with Bob.
Jeff from Ann Arbor, MI:
In retrospect should we have drafted Mack and taken a quarterback in this year's draft if we knew we would end up with only a few wins this year? Mack looks like a future Pro Bowler and Bortles is a project. We could have picked a ready-to-play quarterback in this year's draft: Mariotta-Winston. Your thoughts?
John: My thoughts are I think I always want to see how a quarterback plays in the NFL before I say a guy is a ready-to-play quarterback.
Ted from Tulsa, OK:
When I ask a question or make a statement and submit it, the next day I scan the O-Zone to see if it was published. If not, I don't even bother to read the article that day.
John: (How mad will John be if he finds out I changed his name on this question?)
Sam from Boston, MA:
If Bortles continues to play at his current level for the remainder of the season, the Jaguars' general manager would be derelict in his duty if he did not seriously consider drafting a quarterback with their first or second pick in this year's draft. At this point, Bortles shows nothing but a potential to be good. That is not uncommon with players who have all the measurables. Previous high-round Jags picks (including Gabbert, D. Harvey, etc ) looked good at times earlier in their rookie years. They turned out to be colossal busts. Even if Bortles ends up being a perennial Pro Bowler we have very little to lose by having two young, talented quarterback competing each week. You can also trade the backup for high-round draft picks at some point. (see Rob Johnson, and he was average). What do you think?
John: I think Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell will look at all of the players available in the draft, and all of the players on the Jaguars' roster. I think he'll assess all of those players and draft accordingly. I also think few players in their first or second seasons show much beyond potential. I think I'd be surprised if Caldwell drafted a quarterback in the first round this offseason because considering what he has around him and his level of development entering the NFL, there's little to indicate that Bortles won't be very good.
David from Section 214:
Suh, Houston, Hardy, Pierre-Paul, Iupati...all possible 2015 free-agent acquisitions in positions of strong need. Boy, would a few of those guys change things quickly. What are the realistic chances these players hit the open market?
John: Slim to none.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
If I'm Shad Khan, I'm a little nervous handing the checkbook to Dave Caldwell this offseason for free agency. With the exception of Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who have been good (not great, but good), his free-agent signings have been highly ineffective! Beadles and Gerhart, the two biggest signings in terms of money and name, have both been mediocre at best. Gerhart lost his starting job to a second-year player, who is new to the position and Beadles hasn't been the best player on a really young O-line. Several of his singings have now been cut (Watson, Doss, etc.), so after 10 games his free-agent class has been flat-out bad. Is there any defending him in this, or do we just have to accept that this was a bad free agent class?
John: You know what? I'm not a big-free agency guy, anyway, so if I was any owner, I'd always be nervous about handing over the checkbook to acquire players that way. It's a crapshoot at best, and a striking number of free agents league-wide are indeed "highly ineffective." As far as the Jaguars' history in this area since Caldwell's arrival, Dekoda Watson certainly was a disappointment. Beadles has been better lately than at the beginning of the season, and you're right that Gerhart hasn't been what the team expected. But Doss is on injured reserve, so he hasn't been released, and I'd make the argument that Roy Miller, Sen'Derrick Marks and Alan Ball have been good free-agent signings. I'd also note that the primary focus of free agency this past offseason was to add depth on the defensive line, and the play of that area has improved. Also, don't forget: the Jaguars hardly have "opened the checkbook" in free agency the past two seasons. They have signed players to contracts that are not cap-encumbering, doing so with the idea that some free agents will work out well and others will not. They took that approach because of the nature of free agency. So, considering what they have invested and what the expectations were for those players, the Jaguars' past two free-agent classes have been fine. So, all in all I'd be as comfortable handing the checkbook to David Caldwell as I would any general manager – as comfortable as I'd be with anyone, anyway.
Steve from Elk River, MN:
John, would you rather be nagged at by your wife for not doing stuff, or doing stuff the wrong way?
John: Like I have a choice in the matter.

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