O-Zone: Still struggling

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Julio from So Cal

O, please do your best to answer this question in the most honest way possible. Why do you think Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin passed on so many quarterbacks in the last two drafts?

Your question's phrasing indicates that you believe the question is so difficult as to be unanswerable or that the "honest" answer is so unthinkable that I wouldn't dare utter it. This in fact isn't a difficult question at all. The Jaguars passed on two quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft that have gone on to great success – Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson – to take running back Leonard Fournette. While much-criticized now, the reasoning at the time seemed sound – that few analysts had Watson or Mahomes as a Top 5 selection, that the Jaguars believed that with a sound defense and an improved running game they could win quickly and that then-quarterback Blake Bortles would benefit from that same sound defense and improved running game. That decision seemed fine in 2017 when Bortles played well late in the season and the postseason, and not so fine now. The Jaguars then passed on Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft for defensive tackle Taven Bryan for essentially the same reason – i.e., Bortles had just played well for the final half of the 2017 regular season and the postseason following that season. Many in the NFL didn't believe Jackson would turn into the player he has become, and the decision at the time raised few eyebrows. The Jaguars passed on quarterbacks in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft because they had just signed Nick Foles as an unrestricted free agent and teams generally don't draft quarterbacks early when they have just committed to what they believe is a franchise quarterback in free agency. The moves in retrospect seem short-sighted. They're certainly hurting the franchise now. But they weren't ridiculous at the time.

Daniel from Middlburg, FL

It's hard not to notice that whenever the TV cameras show Coughlin in the booth at Jags games he is always sitting next to Tony Khan. Do you think that the fact that they clearly spend a ton of time together is an indication that Tom Coughlin will be retained next year regardless of how poorly this year ends?

Khan sits with Coughlin at Jaguars games because Khan sits with the football higher-ups during games. I wouldn't read any more into it than that, and I certainly wouldn't use it to try to predict future organizational decisions.

Jonathan from Mechanicsville, VA

Although there have been some questionable calls made by the Jaguars in recent years, they all made relative sense at the time they were executed. Of course, everyone has their own opinion. I am sure Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone have not all agreed during free agency and drafts. It gets old to read questions where the writer uses hindsight to make their question or remark. To me, a general manager is brought in and told to win now and they make decisions to win now. This makes them gamble to overreach or not focus on the future of the team but only to win now. An example of what I would want an owner to emulate is what Denver is doing with John Elway. Thoughts?

The pressure to win immediately is directly on a head coach, whose job it is to win games. Period. A general manager's job is to provide the coach players to win now along with drafting well and signing the right players for the long term. Is that a difficult dilemma for the general manager at times? Is there gambling at times? Is there pressure? Yes. It's a hard job. That's why it pays well.

The Other Michael from Middleburg, FL

Realistically, how far away is this roster from being competitive? Looking at all the holes and the salary cap issues, it feels like the dawn of 2012 all over again. It feels like it's going to be a miserable two-to-three-year stretch for this franchise, if not longer. The issue isn't Marrone. It's a roster that took three-or-four years to build and one year to dismantle.

This roster has holes. Work must be done. But remember: this roster was 4-4 until the run defense completely failed, and the big difference there was an injury to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. That's not to say all can be "fixed" with one move, and it's not to say that positions don't need upgrading. But this doesn't feel like 2012 again. Not from this perspective.

Nick from Annapolis, MD

I'm not normally an ex-head coach type of guy, but McCarthy and Rivera are available. I would have to consider if either of those two really safe and proven coaches could give this team a bit of freshness and urgency. I have no problems with Marrone, but it feels like an appropriate time to reset and start something new. I get the sense there will have to be a lot of that anyway next year even if Marrone stays. Doesn't feel like much of the foundation he tried to lay ever took hold.

I have zero problem with either former Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy or former Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera as head coaches. I have heard good things about both, and both appear from afar to be capable. Both coaches during their tenure also exhibited the No. 1 skill necessary for head coaching success, which is the ability of having quarterbacks playing at a Most Valuable Player level. Would they seem so safe and proven without that ability? That's a legitimate – albeit, unanswerable – question.

Richard from St. Augustine, FL

John, do you expect linebacker Donald Payne to be on the Jaguars' 53-man roster next year?

I haven't the foggiest.

Greg from Satsuma, FL

Who makes the final decision on free agents Tom or David? Will we see the Wrath of Khan or if we win the next 4 games no changes? Go Jags!

Coughlin has final say over all football decisions, with Caldwell having input into all decisions. I don't know what Owner Shad Khan will do at the end of the season. Only Khan knows.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAF - I think the most telling difference between Foles and Minshew is the mobility. Is Foles really a QB statue in slow motion or is Minshew really an escape artist?

Gardner Minshew II is much more mobile than Foles; creativity is integral to his game. Foles is not mobile; distributing the ball and getting it out quickly is integral to his game. Minshew has been better at what he does than Foles has been at what he does this season. It's why he's starting.

Mark from Richmond, VA

How bad have these signings hurt our cap and how long will it take to get back on track? I'm assuming it means we can't be big in free agency, does that mean we have no shot at signing Yann? I'm afraid of the future and we shouldn't feel like that as Jags Fans!

I always fear the future. Doesn't everyone?

Dwayne from Jacksonville

Doncha think it's the NFL referee ranks that is filled with parody?

No. I believe officiating are discussed more now – or perhaps more loudly – because social media has given people the opportunity to instant reaction and analysis. Referees make mistakes and they are easy to see. That always has been the case. They are easy to second-guess because of the feeling that anyone could do the job. Officials don't make nearly as many mistakes as players and coaches, and officials generally do a very good job. No one's perfect. We expect officials to be perfect. It's an unrealistic expectation.

Tom from Shanghai, China

I am not a knee-jerk, "fire-'em-before-the-plane-lands kind of guy" and I don't think the coaches and front office all suck, but two years of losing seasons finishing with a quarterback merry-go-round says to me that it's time to move on.

That's usually how it works. We'll see if it happens this time.

Rick from Arlington

With the success of the New England Patriots over the last decade, why don't more teams let the head coach also function as the General Manager like Bill Belichick does?

A lot of head coaches don't want that responsibility. A lot of head coaches aren't ready to handle that responsibility. Belichick is one of the most successful head coaches of all-time; he has earned the responsibility and shown he can do the job. No other NFL head coach has the resume.

Spazman from Jacksonville

Would like to say to you and your readers that the December 3 O-Zone hade some of the most insightful comments from our obviously astute fan base as well as some very cogent responses by our illustrious senior writer. Not to mention it also being very entertaining and enjoyable to read. At least we in Jacksonville have something to be proud of, if not the team.

The readers are fine. Just ask them. I suck. Ask anyone.

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