JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Jason from Jacksonville
Dear Zone: I understand why you would support Marrone (I personally think he is a pretty good coach, too), but the results on the field tell us there is a problem. Would it be fair to tell a new general manager they had to stick with Marrone as head coach or should they be allowed to bring in their own people? It seems you would limit the number of good general managers interested in the job by saying they must stick with the current coach.
As expected considering the Jaguars' current record, I'm getting a ton of questions every day along these lines about the futures of Head Coach Doug Marrone, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell. Many are good questions with good points. And indeed, at 4-8 there is a strong perception publicly and around the NFL that changes will come at season's end. There are also reasons – albeit unpopular ones among some fans – why all three could and should stay. Issues such as this never are clear cut. I answer in this way not to avoid the topic, but to make the point that are simply too many unknowns – and therefore too many possibilities – to answer most of these with much clarity or insight. Could a new general manager be hired with Marrone as head coach? Sure. Would it be relatively unusual? Yes. Any scenario with anyone staying at this point would be viewed as unusual by some observers. But remember: When then-Head Coach Gus Bradley was dismissed near the end of the 2016 season, no one predicted Jaguars Owner Shad Khan hiring Coughlin as EVP of Football Ops, retaining Caldwell and removing Marrone's then-interim tag and making him head coach. That scenario came together as Khan went through the interviewing process. Khan's going to handle this his way on his time. We'll all have our speculation and opinions, but essentially anything is possible.
David from Jacksonville
Howdy O. With another coaching search perhaps upon us, I have always wondered: NFL coaches all get paid relatively the same amount. Why not just pick your favorite current coach - Sean Payton, e.g. - and offer to double his salary? The cash hit would be less than one free agent, and it does not even affect the cap! The only reason I can think of is it would make you very unpopular among your fellow owners. But, hey, we're desperate here.
NFL head coaches work under contract. That's why this doesn't happen.
Peter from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
You say Marrone is not the reason the Jags are 4-8 and that he absolutely has not failed. The offensive line is supposed to be his specialty. It leads all offensive lines in the league with 42 penalties and the team leads all teams in penalties despite his ongoing blather about fixing these issues. He may not be THE reason, but he is definitely a major reason.
Marrone is responsible for the team's performance. As the head coach, this is true – and he's the first to tell you that. And while we don't yet know what decisions Khan will make, it's possible changes will be made to the coaching staff – including Marrone. That's NFL reality. But while I have gotten a few emails recently along the lines of this one stating that the offensive line's performance is an indictment on Marrone … this is simply an incorrect and misinformed perception. He does not select the players who play on the offensive line. He does not coach the Jaguars' offensive line and has not done so since 2016. Is that his background? Yes. But a head coach does not have time during an NFL practice, an NFL regular-season week or even an NFL offseason to focus on a single position group. Blame Marrone for the record, if you choose – and he certainly is responsible for some of the penalties. But digging into the weeds and blaming him specifically for the play of the offensive line is to make an argument that has nothing to do with how the NFL works.
Jim from Jagsonville
Why didn't the Jaguars have someone on the roster to handle the duties the Myles Jack was responsible for? Here's hoping Donald Payne does a great job the rest of the season, but it seems like a lack of foresight to not have the next man up already practicing with the team...
I'm not sure why "it seems" that way. Payne has been on the Jaguars' roster since October 22 – practicing with the team as "the next man up" at middle linebacker. D.J. Alexander was on the roster before that and he also was practicing as "the next man up." That's pretty typical foresight for an NFL team in terms of being ready if a starter is injured. This isn't a thing.
Big on Blake from Philly
John, what word would you use to describe the fact that Marrone is starting Gardner Minshew II over Nick Foles at quarterback because of his "escapability" exactly the same way he chose Blake Bortles as the starter over Cody Kessler late last season? I'm curious. Aside from on-field implications, isn't it telling that the head coach has to maneuver around the quarterback position the same way two years in a row when Foles was brought in to fix all of Bortles' problems. Turns out the decision-makers were wrong, in spite of a much stronger year from LF27 and the emergence of big young talent in the wide receiver room. I won't ask you because I know what you'll say, but I'd much rather be paying ONLY Bortles to remain with this team than both Bortles and Foles to not play quarterback for the team. Just sayin'.
You're correct that Marrone cited escapability while making both decisions, and that's not a good look for the offensive line. I don't know that staying with Bortles as opposed to signing Foles would have been a better option than what we've seen, though it obviously would have been about $50 million cheaper. Here's the significant difference between the two seasons: The Jaguars' defense was strong last season and is weak this season. Had this season's defense been as good as last season's defense I have little doubt this team would be at least .500 and perhaps better. Does that mean the team made the right decision at quarterback this offseason? No, but it explains at least somewhat what happened. Maybe.
Attila from Hungary
Hi John! Everybody considers tight end to need big upgrade via draft or free agency. But does it really? Wouldn't it be enough if James O'Shaughnessy, Geoff Swaim and Josh Oliver stay healthy next year? Do you think they could be the solution without a major addition? Also, did you see enough of Seth DeValve or Nick O'Leary to have an idea if the Jags try to bring them back next year?
One or two of the Jaguars' current tight ends could be part of the position's solution next season – Oliver in particular. Is the entire solution on the roster? Doubtful.
Eric from Columbus, IN
Boy, that contract for Myles Jack contract looks better and better. Third-highest paid linebacker in the NFL and has a miserable year. This front office hasn't gotten a contract extension right in a looooong time. (See: wide receiver Allen Robinson II, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, safety Tashaun Gipson, center Brandon Linder, quarterback Blake Bortles and Jack). It's bad John, it's bad.
Reports of Jack's "miserable" year, while widespread, are a bit exaggerated. He had a few really bad games, but he wasn't as awful as is being portrayed. And time will tell whether not extending cornerback Jalen Ramsey was a mistake. My sense is that as Ramsey's career continues that may eventually be viewed through a different lens. I could explain the rationale behind each of the decisions you cite, but hey … the Jaguars are 4-8. Something's gone wrong, and people don't want to know the whys. The results haven't been good enough. Bottom line.
Sean from Jacksonville
Beware of emotional all capitalization... This has been THE weirdest season in Jaguars history. EVER, It's been a great ride! Wait. It's been horrible. Hold on! I was hopeful. Or has it all been a lack of my medications?
The Jaguars' season indeed has been weird. Foles being injured 11 plays into the season? Weird? Minshew Mania? Cool, but also weird. Ramsey's back injury, the way it went away on his post-trade flight to Los Angeles? Well, brother, that was downright weird on an amazing level. Weirdest Jaguars season ever? I'll let readers decided that one on their own. I've covered this team 15 years now, so I've "seen some stuff" … but this season absolutely is up there.
Andrew from Tyler
I sent you a get better soon card. Not that I thought you were sick, I just think you should do better.