JACKSONVILLE – And so we move on.
We enter the weekend with the Jaguars 2-5 and the inbox in an uproar. Considering the result Thursday in Tennessee, that's understandable.
We'll say here what we've said the past few days: what's going on is not acceptable, and it's not pretty. Can the Jaguars find a way out of it? That remains to be seen. Nine games remain in this season. Something needs to happen or those are going to be nine long weeks.
We'll try not to make this an all-Gus-Bradley-all-Blake-Bortles weekend. Considering the circumstances, there may not be an alternative.
Let's get to it … Howard from Jacksonville :
Why won't we give Brandon Allen a shot? We know what we have in Chad Henne, so no need there. We will never be able to run the ball if the defense does not respect the quarterback. Bench Bortles and by default running game may improve!
John: The Jaguars haven't benched Bortles because they have seen enough in Bortles to believe he can develop into a quality NFL quarterback. If he is benched it becomes unlikely he ever will develop into such a player for this franchise. The way Bortles has played in recent weeks has caused many to question his future, but for now the Jaguars must support him and believe.
Bill from Folkston, GA:
I see Shad Khan has stated that he will not fire the coach. OK, it is his team. Do you think it is time to sit Bortles? Even when he has time to throw, he has that deer-in-the-headlights look and he cannot throw a short pass accurately at all. Now, he can't throw the long ball, either. He says it isn't a confidence problem; then it must be a talent problem. To continue like they are is just driving this team further and further into the ground and driving fans away. Some change has to be made because it is apparent that this idea of fixing Bortles to fix the problem isn't working. At least try Chad Henne; it couldn't be any worse.
John: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever say it couldn't be any worse.
Sebastian from Austin, TX:
O, I'm with the rest of the 100 percent of Jaguars fans still left. I'm disgusted, hopeless and resigned but I have to ask: Taking into consideration your years of experience around football, when there's not one thing wrong and it truly feels like everything is failing, is there any chance something just clicks and the team starts to execute better and win – or does it truly takes months off and an offseason to start over fresh and right the ship?
John: Every situation is different. There have been situations in which 2-5, struggling teams indeed right the ship and even make the postseason. This does not feel like one of those situations, but those situations never feel savable until they are saved. What will it take for it to click? It must start with better quarterback play. That's not to say that is all that's going wrong. Not even close. The defensive effort and performance Thursday was questionable at best and bad at worst – and there are ongoing discipline issues. There also is the ongoing issue with the team's run blocking. Still, it's a quarterback-driven league. When the position isn't functioning very little around it can function, either.
Dave from Los Angeles, CA:
I suppose it's time for a full reappraisal of the rebuild project. Lately I've been leaning toward coaching being the problem – as in, Gus must go – but Dave can stay as he has generally built a talented roster (though quarterback now appears to be a huge issue). Thursday was dumbfounding. Are we sure Dave has built a talented roster? We keep saying we have a lot of talent, but talented players do not get blown out like that. Or is it mental? Has Dave assembled a physically-talented roster that somehow lacks the psychological/emotional strength to compete? How can a fully rebuilt roster in Year 4 play identically to the scrubs on the field in Year 1? Sorry for the rant. I'll take your comments off the air.
John: When teams play as the Jaguars did Thursday everything gets called into question. I believe this is a more talented roster than Year 1 – or 2013, if you will. I believe it showed that in the first five games of the season. Frankly, so much is going wrong right now that it's hard to pinpoint a reason. I believe the offense's struggles are reaching the point where it is eroding a lot of other good things around it. I believe coaching has been an increasing issue in terms of discipline this season, and while that surprises me, something absolutely must be done to stop that being an issue. Mostly I believe that as bad as a lot of things look right now a lot could get solved with more efficient quarterbacking. It's not the end-all and it hasn't been the primary issue for four seasons. But it's a glaring one right now.
JV from West Des Moines, IA:
John, please tell me what Shad expects for the rest of this season. To put it another way, how on earth does keeping Gus Bradley around for the next nine games benefit the team? It feels like there's rock bottom, and then there's what we saw Thursday. Just feels like something HAS to be done or it's going to hurt the fan base.
John: This is a question I'm getting a lot. The benefit of keeping Bradley is there is little evidence historically of mid-season coaching changes making a tangible difference. That means that if there's a chance of salvaging this season then that chance rests on stability. It's clear Khan wants the organizational philosophy to be one of stability, and midseason coaching changes are the hallmark of unstable organizations. The cynical among us may state that 2-5 franchises that get blown out on national television while getting outgained 354-60 in first halves aren't exactly rock solid in terms of stability, and it would be hard to argue that point right now with the cynical types. But the bottom line is that's the reasoning for staying the course. A mid-season coaching change might have a short-term positive effect, but it likely wouldn't be lasting. That's the reasoning. Feel about it how you will.
Aaron from Duval:
You change coaches because this team has absolutely quit, John. You change coaches to see what you have in the players on the roster the rest of the season. You change coaches to give the fans any glimmer of hope going into next season. If you think carrying this momentum into next season and simply a new head coach and draft in the offseason will sell tickets I'm speechless. This franchise is at the point of losing diehard fans. Changing coaches may not alter the win-loss record for the season but giving us the same garbage every week and saying it's fine is just disrespectful and embarrassing to people who spend their dollars and time supporting this franchise.
John: This is the other side of the coaching conversation. The points are valid. Readers are as upset and disillusioned, and understandably so. The product on the field hasn't been good enough, and to follow up the Raiders performance with the Titans performance? Well, you used the word "embarrassing." That fits.
Chris from Palatka, FL:
John, has this team quit on Gus? Do you think "they STILL believe in victory?"
John: It obviously hasn't looked good on this front the past two weeks. It appears we have nine games to find out for sure.
MrPadre from Kingsland, GA:
John, I'm much more worried about the lack of effort than I am the lack of ability. After the loss to the Raiders at home … with their beloved head coach's job seemingly in the balance – AND a pep talk from their Owner – they go out and look as if they aren't even trying and worse … like they don't even care!? How can professional athletes paid millions to "do their job" show that kind of apathetic performance? I'm sure this isn't true but it dang near looked like they were "trying" to get their coach fired!
John: You're right that the players weren't trying to get Bradley fired, but I can't argue how it looked – and I can't argue that it appeared there was a lack of focus or effort at times. Something was undoubtedly lacking. That's how it looked. Why did it look like that? I wish I knew.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I'm at a loss for words. What does a successful 2016 season look like at this point?
John: A successful season right now would be going 8-8. That would mean winning six of nine games. It would also help if the Jaguars got good quarterback play and went through the final nine games with no wheels-are-off moments. There must be progress. Somehow, some way. That's what's necessary. There has been little indication in the last two weeks of such a turnaround, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.