O-Zone: Shouldering the blame

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
Okay, so I get you say "No" to 2-14. But if we don't win another game this season, what do you say then? From the fans' perspective, we don't look like we can beat anyone except ourselves – and we are REALLY good at beating ourselves. Stupid penalties, mental mistakes and blown assignments all make for a 2-9 record. So, what do you see that will make this team come together all of a sudden and get a win in these last five games? It would really help if you explained your reasoning to us fans who have lost all hope.
John: If the Jaguars don't win another game during the 2016 season and someone sends me an email that reads "2-14?" … I would answer "Yes." I don't believe that scenario will take place for a couple of reasons. One is that the NFL is a difficult-to-predict league in which teams often play better than expected for a game or two. But the biggest reason I think the Jaguars will win again this season is they have played very competitively the last four weeks and could have won any of those four games. An argument could be made that they should have won at least once if not more during that span. They are well within range of winning. As long as they are doing that, I believe they have a chance. This does not mean I think the Jaguars have fulfilled expectations this season, or played well – or anything of the like. It does mean I think they can win multiple games before the end of the season.
Ryan from Apopka, FL:
Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan mentioned last week that the Jaguars could be the most talented 2-8 team in the NFL. Could this year's Jaguars be similar to the Chiefs of 2012? That team went 2-14 and had the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, but most people would have said that team underachieved and had good individual talent. The next year they got a new head coach (a proven head coach in Andy Reid) and went to the playoffs and have now have had a solid run for the past four years. Will next year be the start of something? I'm ready for things to turn around!!!
John: I think the Jaguars are acquiring and developing young talent that will give this team a chance to be good going forward. I don't who will be coaching the team when that takes place.
Ronnie from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
You told Duval Doom the expectations for this season "were so high." Shad Khan said in the offseason that .500 was a reasonable expectation, and most media and fans alike believed .500 was reasonable and expected. When did going .500 become such a high expectation? That's a sad commentary for exactly where this franchise is. Del Rio was run out of town for going .500 and look at us now.
John: Considering the Jaguars had five, two, four, three and five victories in the seasons before this offseason … yes, I considered a winning record "a high expectation" at the time. No, a winning record ordinarily should not be a high expectation.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, I agree with the general sentiment that bad calls/missed calls work themselves out in the wash, but – as has been noted – it's not balancing out for the Jaguars. That is both ridiculous and disheartening. What can be done about this besides just sending calls into the league for postgame review? That's not fixing the problem. The Jags are being treated terribly by the officials. Shad Khan is an owner, too. What can be done?!?! And please don't say "winning" or "having more Pro Bowl players" or some such nonsense. I'm ready to sue or have Yannick bum rush a ref or... something!
John: While I agree the Jaguars have been unquestionably hurt – perhaps to an unusual extent – by some missed calls this season, there is little to do in the way of recourse. I also don't believe there's a conspiracy against the Jaguars. There's no meeting each week taking place with an evil man in a long coat, cracking knuckles with a grin and saying in a creepy voice, "Let's keep the Jaguars from winning. Haa, haaaa, haaaa, haaaarrggjjhh!!! " And I don't believe officials consciously make calls to hurt the Jaguars. I believe most of them have just been missed. Would winning or having players with bigger reputations help? Perhaps on some level. Mostly, what the Jaguars have to do is play well enough to overcome the calls. They're not doing that often enough yet.
Mike from Jacksonville:
I read an insightful article the other day about sports writers who have covered NFL teams with the worst records. It included Cleveland, Buffalo and the Jaguars. The writers spoke of the four-year perpetual cycle of doom and rebuild that occurs when teams have losing records each year – i.e., start over ...lose, start over ... lose … start over ... lose. Some blamed coaches, Some blamed general managers. Others blamed owners. I do not understand why this continues to occur to the same teams. How can this horrible cycle of doom be broken for the Jaguars??
John: There is no across-the-board reason teams lose consistently, just as there is no easy fix for breaking out of a long stretch of losing. The best, most-reliable formula is to build a solid roster with a mix of veteran core players and young, ascending players – and add an elite quarterback to the mix. The first takes time, good drafting and patience – and the other takes some good fortune. The Jaguars appear on the way to building a solid roster with some core players and ascending players. Time will tell on the quarterback, but it isn't an easy process. In fact, it can be brutally difficult and frustrating. Obviously.
Jonathon from Jacksonville:
What will be the keys to Jaguars winning this weekend against the Broncos?
John: They must avoid turnovers. They must find a way to function offensively against a defense that is capable of making very good offenses not function. They must pressure the quarterback and stop the run. I think they will do the latter two. I worry about the offense functioning against the Broncos. Defensively, these guys are really, really good.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
You can't call Davon House a miss. We had money we needed to spend and holes we needed to fill. He was the best cornerback on our team last year and provides solid depth this year. That's what we (over)paid for, but free agency means overpaying. Even Julius Thomas took some attention away from Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, which helped them both break out in 2015 – though I would have liked to see more out of JT for longer. He got over-overpaid. Dan Skuta was never meant to be anything more than a solid, experienced body to help hold down what would have otherwise been a weak and shallow linebacking unit. It's OK to spend free agency money (when you have it) on bodies like that (when you lack them).
John: If you're going to spend in free agency, you're going to overspend and have players who aren't as good as their hype. The Jaguars have participated heavily in free agency at times in the last few seasons in the hope of upgrading the roster. For the most part, the players added have been at least marginal upgrades. Have they turned out to be core, franchise-defining players? Malik Jackson appears capable of being an exception, but for the most part -- not expectedly – they have not.
Aaron from Chantilly:
John, I am probably in the minority but given the team they have and lack of playing time together and Blake Bortles' regression, I just don't see why Gus is taking the blame for all of this. I think he is a fine head coach who has the team's respect. Would I like him to be a bit tougher with guys? Yes, but I think he is as good as they come but needs time to put a team together. Disagree?
John: The head coach takes the blame because that's how it is, and no: I don't disagree with your premise. I have said often that I don't think Bradley is an awful coach and I don't for a second believe that he is all that ails this franchise. But at 2-9 with expectations much higher than this, NFL reality is that heat on Bradley is very, very hot. Like scorching.
Greg from Jax:
John, do you realize that Gus will not have won a full season's worth of games after four years? That is pretty fascinating. One has to think part of that is attributed to the curse you bring to this franchise.
John: Your question assumes that the Jaguars will not win two more games this season. I think they will win at least that many and possibly more. Either way, the Jaguars haven't won enough games the past four seasons – and yes, a lot of it is on me.

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