KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Game-day O-Zone.
Let's get to it …
Glenn from Dallas, TX:
For the past couple of years you have been saying the most impressive thing about Gus Bradley is he hasn't lost the locker room – that the players seem to be "all in." This year feels different. There are nasty rumors coming out of the locker room, and the team looks completely demoralized on the field. Is there any defense of Bradley left? Also, do you think the dramatic shift is the influx of new players that "know how to win?"
John: I don't think we can definitively say Bradley has "lost the locker room," although there's no question there's more frustration this season than the past few seasons. That frustration seemed to show up on the field in the fourth quarter against Oakland and the second quarter against Tennessee. If it continues in that vein, then it's indeed not a good reflection on Bradley and the coaching staff. But for now my sense is it's not as much about players not listening to coaches as an overall frustration with losing – and with an offense that is struggling to get first downs. When that happens, frustration is a logical end – though it's still disturbing to see it manifest itself in the manner we've seen in recent weeks.
Kyle from Palm Harbor, FL:
Here's a prediction: The Jags get smashed by a better team on Sunday, Hackett gets fired and Oehser steps in as offensive coordinator. I'd love to be wrong, but this team hasn't shown anything to expect otherwise.
John: I will not be stepping in as offensive coordinator.
Ryan from Dearborn, MI:
John, honesty time: What are the odds the Jaguars come out of Arrowhead with a win?
John: The odds are from any objective point of view are small – very, very small. Arrowhead is a brutally tough place to play. That's one issue. Another is the Chiefs are playing very smart and mistake-free – as evidenced by their plus-nine turnover margin. The Jaguars are not playing smart or mistake-free – as evidenced by their minus-eight turnover margin. The Jaguars also haven't beaten a team two or more games over .500 in the last four seasons. None of that means the Jaguars can't win Sunday, but it does mean that a Jaguars victory would be one of their bigger upsets in recent memory.
Michael from Middleburg, FL:
It keeps being said Bortles needs to work on his footwork, pocket presence, throwing motion and I don't know what all else. Why do you or anyone think this will change anything when there are four-to-five rookies and new quarterbacks playing who are miles better than a third-year quarterback "trying to fix hisself " ... he should "be fixed."
John: Yes, it would be wonderful for the Jaguars if Bortles was one of the young quarterbacks in the NFL playing at a high level. He's not. So, what … he should just stop trying?
Mike from Jacksonville:
I don't get it. All I read in your column is that Blake Bortles is to blame for the Jaguars' losing. You ignore everything else – coaching, the run game, the defense. Why?
John: I have written often that there is a lot going wrong with the Jaguars, but in the NFL, quarterback play trumps all else. No, the play-calling has not been perfect, but to my experience in the NFL, play-calling can always be questioned. And yes, the defense has played poorly at times – particularly against Tennessee – and the run game has been weak. But struggling quarterback play is a bigger concern than those issues, and it's why Bortles remains a focus. The No. 1 issue for this team entering the season was whether Bortles would continue the improvement he showed last season. The No. 1 issue is now whether he can pull out of the struggles he is having now and get back to something like he was last season – and then develop after that. For whatever else is going on, that remains Storyline No. 1.
Luke from St. Louis, MO:
Hello! Brand new Jaguars fan here. The Rams showed themselves unworthy of support before they left town and I'm very excited about my new team. The postgame comments I've seen, though, have been interesting. Even though the team isn't doing well, it's clear they care, which is more than can be said about the Rams. It seems like the Jaguars have no clue what's going on and why things aren't going well. Is that accurate from your perspective? How close are the Jaguars to getting some answers?
John: Welcome, Luke. My perspective is you're right about these players and coaches caring. My perspective is that they care very much, and that's why the frustration level is so high. This team and fan base generally had a very strong belief it was going to be better this season, and with that being the case it's not surprising that poor on-field results have caused negative reaction. I don't think what's going on is as much of a mystery as players and coaches are saying publicly. The offense has struggled mightily in the first seven games, and those struggles have caused what might have been a 3-4 or 4-3 start to be a disappointing 2-5 start. A huge part of the offensive struggles has been the play of Bortles and another huge part has been the inability to run the ball. Some of the perception that the Jaguars "don't know what's going on" stems from the team not really wanting to call these areas out over and over again. The move to promote Nathaniel Hackett to offensive coordinator and for Bortles to work with his personal quarterbacks coach this week were made at least in part to address those issues. We'll see if those moves work – and if they do, we'll see how much of an effect they have on the Jaguars' results.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Is the 2016 season over for the Jaguars? Needing perspective.
John: The season is not over, but at 2-5 they need to win some games fast – and those games probably need to come on consecutive weeks with very few losses mixed in.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
In 1996 after nine games the Jags record stood at 3-6. Most of the games after that were decided by three points or less. Just saying, Zone. Just saying …
The more I listen to Gus, the less I know about the direction or the focus of this team. The sendoff speech that he had for Greg Olson sounded a lot like the one he gave to Jedd Fisch back in 2014 and you know what? The same offensive problems back then are still the same. Good luck, Nate.
John: There's realistically not a whole lot of new, creative ground to cover when a head coach dismisses a coordinator. The talk typically is about a need for a change, and a need for improvement. They're usually made with an understanding that a departing coordinator is not all at fault but that something needed to be done and changing the coordinator is possible while changing a roster of players is not. Will Hackett cure every Jaguars offensive problem? Highly doubtful. Can a change lead to at least some improvement? That's certainly the hope and the rest of the season pretty much hangs in the balance. We shall see.
Cade from Orlando, FL:
I know we will never truly know the answer to this, but I am interested in your opinion on the matter. Do you think if Blake Bortles had two-to-three years to sit like Aaron Rodgers did and actually have the time to work on his mechanics like Rodgers did without the pressure of playing every week added in, do you think we would be looking at a more mechanically refined quarterback by this point? Also, how different of a career do you think Rodgers would have if maybe he didn't have that time like he did to start his career?
John: I suppose it's possible that two or three years working on mechanics would have helped Bortles. But you're right that we'll never know and I think the cases of first-round quarterbacks getting that much time to develop will continue to be very, very rare.
Fehr from Jacksonville:
So you promote the quarterbacks coach of the current worst quarterback in the NFL and you expect to see better results. Isn't that insanity?
John: Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator are two dramatically different jobs. Bortles has not flourished this season, but that doesn't mean Nathaniel Hackett can't call plays effectively.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
John, not really a question - but I'm attending the game this Sunday in KC. I can't wait to see the team, and even if the season has been disappointing, I'll be sitting in the front row watching the Jaguars play with my Bortles jersey on. Fans gonna fan, but this is still an NFL football game, and I'm really excited to see this team in person.