JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … George from Savannah, GA:
Bob Babich seemed a likable guy, but needed to go. One for Jim Schwartz or Mike Smith as defensive coordinator if still available after head coaching positions are filled.
John: Sure, one fer those guys. Why not? The Jaguars' announcement Tuesday afternoon that Bob Babich will not return as defensive coordinator opened up the position, and I didn't get the idea from listening to General Manager David Caldwell or Head Coach Gus Bradley in recent days the defense's future direction had yet been determined. Defensive line coach Todd Wash would seem to be a possibility, as is the idea that Bradley will call plays. I imagine Bradley will work through those possibilities as he interviews candidates much the same way he came to the conclusion last offseason that Doug Marrone was a good fit to coach the offensive line. We'll see how it plays out.
Jerry from Orange Park, FL:
Bob Babich, good riddance.
John: Look, I get that people wanted a change at defensive coordinator. And I got plenty of emails like this assuming that getting Babich out of the position will mean massive improvement. It's not that simple. In fact, it's not close to that simple – and I'm not one to believe that Babich necessarily "needed to go." Bradley apparently believed a change was needed, but I don't know that a change of coordinators will magically improve the Jaguars' pass rush, or make them a better blitzing team, or improve the secondary. Players need to play better – and better pass rushers wouldn't hurt, either.
Bill from Hammock Beach, FL:
Zone: I listened to Dave Caldwell's press conference with interest, particularly where he took the "blame" for the first two years. Maybe it is because I am tiring of the incessant reference to our three-year record, but I found it interesting. I thought he made a good point in that the plan was to build through the draft the first two years until the team has reached a decent level talent-wise. This allowed a significant cap balance for the next two years to supplement the previous drafts. One more year of a Top 5 draft and plenty of cap room and we may be there. Do you feel the general manager was being honest or spinning a little to help Gus?
John: I think he was absolutely, positively being honest. I think this because I have heard Caldwell say essentially the same thing both publicly and privately on far more than one occasion. Bradley, Caldwell and Owner Shad Khan – and everyone else associated with the Jaguars – knew this was a long rebuild. They knew being very noncompetitive the first two years was likely. They thought they would be more competitive this season, and were disappointed to not win two or three more games. They also believe they will and must win more next season. The time is now.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I heard during an interview with Allen Hurns that he and most of the offense are staying in town this offseason. The intent is for them to regularly get together and practice routes with Blake Bortles to improve the offense's rhythm. Even as cynical as I am, that gives me a lot of hope. You know the other quarterback I heard that does that? This guy named Peyton Manning. I think he is pretty good also.
John: Peyton during my time in Indianapolis didn't actually spend a whole lot of time working with receivers away from the facility in the offseason, but his attention to detail and the work he would do during OTAs, offseason, etc. … yeah, that was pretty legendary. The offseason rules also were different when I covered the Colts and Manning, but whatever … your point is a good one. Bortles, Hurns, Robinson and the rest of the offensive skill players seem dedicated to improving, and they believe it takes more than just showing up in the middle of April. They also seem willing to put in the time to excel. All of those things are phenomenally positives signs for a bunch of young players who showed plenty such signs on the field this past season.
Andy from Roswell, GA:
Are you able to elaborate more on what Gus Bradley means by "digging deep," or rather what it means to you? I'm a little confused by why he wasn't doing that all along or why (it seems) that he didn't have input into personnel.
John: Bradley meant the Jaguars had to take a serious, unflinching look at where they are and what they need to do to improve this offseason. He said this the day after the regular season, and remember: it's difficult to "dig deep" in terms of evaluation during the season. Coaches are too busy game-planning and focusing on the week-to-week process of preparing and game-planning. So, yes – Bradley dug deep all along and had input into personnel. He was simply on Monday making the point that the work done in that area this offseason will be critical.
Josiah from Jacksonville:
So … is it possible the Jaguars hire Tom Coughlin as the new DC? Would Tom take it?
John: No. No, and not just because Coughlin's background is as an offensive coach. Coughlin has been a head coach for two decades. He is a leader, a tone-setter for an organization. He is a head coach.
Cathy from Jacksonville:
John, do you think there is a realistic chance that Luke Joeckel will face legitimate competition next season for the left tackle position? I'm assuming Josh Wells and Luke Bowanko will be there for competition, but is that enough to put any real pressure on Joeckel to improve?
John: I don't know if he'll face competition in the sense you seem to want. By that I mean I don't believe the Jaguars will sign a high-profile free agent or draft a player early to compete for the position. The reason is you're not necessarily going to find a significant upgrade in free agency without giving up major money and possibly draft selections in a trade. You also would probably need to draft a player in the first round to provide that sort of competition and I doubt the Jaguars will want to use a first-round selection on the spot with so many glaring needs offensively. I do think Wells and possibly Bowanko will compete, but the reality is Joeckel for the most part was serviceable this season until the last game of the season. The poor game he had in that game won't entirely change the Jaguars' perception of him.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
A main reason for keeping Gus around next year is something along the lines of he creates an extremely positive culture and his guys haven't quit on him despite the record, correct? In a few responses on Monday's O-Zone you alluded to the team looking deflated after the playoffs became out of reach. How can we possibly have it both ways? Doesn't the concept that the guys deflated after being eliminated from the playoffs go against one of the reasons Gus is being kept?
John: It does, and that's one reason I was surprised with the results of the last two games. I'd probably say the same thing I said regarding Luke Joeckel. Don't let the results of one game completely skew the overall picture. For most of Bradley's three seasons, this has been a team that played hard and stayed together. In the last two games of the season, it looked less like that, but the culture he has created is still an overwhelmingly positive one.
Bill from Jacksonville:
Gus Bradley said in his press conference, "It's hard to find a free safety that we're actually looking for..." John, if it's hard to find a player to play the position the way they want, shouldn't they change the way they want the position played? I mean, you can't just keep looking for someone who isn't there. At some point, you're (they're) the problem, right? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: There's an element of truth in what you say. That was a reason the Jaguars drafted James Sample last offseason. The thought was to try to find some combination of players who could play the middle of the field than they had done a year ago – possibly with a couple of players in Sample and Johnathan Cyprien who are more strong-safety types than free. But the Jaguars are far from the only team struggling to find a big-time free safety. It's a difficult position to play in the modern, pass-oriented NFL. An elite skill set is needed to play it well and few truly can.
Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL:
Everything went the Jags way Sunday. We moved all the way up to the fifth pick!
John: Well, sure …
Chris from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada:
John, what do you think about the idea about bringing some Tom Coklen for some kind of coaching capacity?
John: I think if you're going to bring some Tom Coklen in, you should bring it all.
O-Zone: That "Coklen" guy tho
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … George from Savannah, GA: