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O-Zone: Sweet mysteries

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … James from Palm Coast, FL:
What do you see as the biggest difference in Blake Bortles this year compared to last year? The biggest difference to me is Blake's arm strength and accuracy has diminished, though not on every snap. I also have seen where the receivers are not getting separation, plus he seems to be floating the ball on passes of 10 to 15 yards. Thank you for your response.
John: I don't know that there's any one huge difference between Bortles this year and last year. I think there unquestionably was a stretch this season when he was less accurate than last season – and he was really struggling in a lot of areas around midseason. But I honestly don't know if there's as mammoth a difference between Bortles this season and last season as many believe. He struggled at the start of games last season, and he also struggled with interceptions. The offense often was inefficient, and his decision-making often was a reason. As has been noted, some of his statistics last season came at the end of games with the Jaguars trailing. The Jaguars have been in closer games for the most part this season, so perhaps some so-called "mop-up" touchdowns and yards haven't come as easily. I basically feel about Bortles as a quarterback similarly to how I did this time last year. He's a guy with a lot of potential, and one who has shown he can produce in the NFL. He also remains a player who has to take a step forward in terms of decision-making, accuracy and game awareness. I think the accuracy stuff can improve in the offseason because he took steps in that area between Year 1 and 2. Can the decision-making progress? We'll see.
Kris from Neenah, WI:
The NFL is a business, plain and simple – designed to earn revenue. If a fan truly believes this organization is not trying everything in its power to win, which in hand would generate more revenue … well, strictly speaking, they are insane.
John: I know.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
John, I don't know how to say this, but is Bortles "Football Dumb?" There are times and places to make a bad throw: for example, on fourth down … if nothing else is open, wing it rather than take a sack. But on second and goal … throw that puppy away rather than force it. I don't know what to call that, but I think that's what I see: a quarterback that doesn't take account when/where he is.
John: Decision-making and game sense have been issues for Bortles during each of his three seasons. They're not issues all the time, but they're issues often enough that they're well … issues.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
A reader made a great point recently about our statistics compared to the Texans. This team is not far off and the roster is full of talent. At this point, we are going to be adding a Top 5 pick to a roster that already has the young core put together. Did we just project the turning of the corner a year early?
John: That's not out of the question. With the Jaguars at 2-11 and in the midst of a terrifically disappointing season in which they in no way came close to expectations, I'm not going to spend a great deal of time banging the table about how close this team is to being competitive. At the same time, I expected this team to be about 7-9 to 9-7 this season and the Jaguars realistically are a few key plays from being at that level. So, is it possible that with slightly better play at quarterback -- and with a year for these young players to grow – that the Jaguars could improve dramatically next season? Sure, it's possible.
David from Orlando, FL:
O-Zone, shortly after Dave Caldwell drafted Blake Bortles, he said something like he graded Bortles to be the best quarterback prospect in this draft and the next. In other words, he projected Bortles to be better than Derek Carr, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Can you think of any single decision that had more impact on where this organization is today than that one?
John: Not right now, no. If it stays that way, then Caldwell missed big-time. Right now, it looks as if he did miss on Bortles. Sometimes, perceptions and career arcs change in the NFL. We'll see if this one does.
Cliff from Washington, DC:
If Gus is not the overwhelming reason this team is 14-47 (which is so dumb to even write), then what is the overwhelming reason?
John: The overwhelming reason is there are a bunch of reasons – just as there are almost always a bunch of reasons when things go bad in the NFL. A huge reason for the overall record over the last four seasons is that the Jaguars were in a major rebuilding mode for the first few seasons, and it would have been hard for any head coach to have coached the Jaguars to a significantly better record than the Jaguars had in 2013, 2014 and perhaps even 2015. A primary reason that the Jaguars have struggled this season is that they didn't get the needed/expected improvement from their offense; a lot of that is because Bortles didn't make the necessary/needed improvement, but that's not the only reason the offense didn't improve. The defense also still lacks a slam-the-door pass rusher, and the combination of lack of pass rush and struggling quarterback play has contributed to a minus-17 turnover ratio that remains the critical stat in this disappointing season. The team also remains a little young at pass rusher and quarterback; that's not to make an "excuse," but it is reality that there aren't reliable, core veterans in those areas. So, who's at fault for this? Many will "blame" David Caldwell and still others will blame Bradley. Maybe it's Bortles for not improving enough. More than likely it's a combination of the above.
Nate from York, PA:
With having such a young and for the most part inexperienced team, is it wise to have an inexperienced head coach leading it? Gus Bradley may be a good coach and may have better success with a team of veteran players. But with a team that is majority rookie-to-third-year players, wouldn't a veteran, experienced head coach be a better idea?
John: I've never been big on seeking a certain Type of Head Coach as in, "We Must Hire an Offensive Coach Because the Last Coach Was a Defensive Coach," or, "We Must Hire a Disciplinarian Because the Last Coach Was a Players' Coach," or "We Must Hire an Experienced Coach Because the Last Coach Was a Younger Coach." Hire the coach you think is the best one for the job. If he's good, he'll be good. If he's not, it won't matter if he's a disciplinarian or a defensive guy or experienced or whatever.
Mike from Jacksonville:
I agree, John. Gus is not the biggest reason for the losses. Better quarterback play and the Jags would be at least .500 and no one would be blaming coaching.
John: Well, they still would be blaming it – it just wouldn't be as dramatic.
John from Jacksonville:
Just like when Blake takes a huge hit in a game, he gets back up and plays the next play. He is tough and I believe this season will not define him. I think he will continue to fight his way through this and come back strong next year. He's still a young man, with hopefully a long career in front of him. I think he's learning how to manage himself with some very difficult lessons this season. I think that's what his teammates and coaches see in him, and here's hoping he comes back tougher and better than ever. He is a stand-up guy, and seems to be a guy who looks honestly at things and will not give up. I'm still wearing my No. 5 jersey.
John: #DTWD
Andrew from Honeytown:
Will the Jaguars find their honey this holiday season or will they be left at the altar? I disagree with you regarding Jags getting another win. I do agree with you now as I did two weeks ago that odds are the Jags should win one game out of five. However, I just don't think it is in the MOJO cards with all the bad luck the Jags have experienced in the previous 13 games. Merry Krimma and hopefully a happier MOJO in the New Year.
John: I continue to think the Jaguars will win at least one more game this season. I believe this because I believe they'll continue to be in games in the fourth quarter, and I figure the odds are with them that they'll figure out a way to make a play in the fourth quarter to win one of those games. I well realize that I'm statistically running out of time for this to be true. So, which game will the Jaguars win? Ah, the sweet mysteries of this thing we call life.

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