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O-Zone: The Grand Delusion

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tim from Jacksonville:
Many reviewed calls are made by replay officials in New York City, yet I always see the in-game officials checking their Microsoft Surface during the review. What exactly are the game officials looking at if someone else is making the call? Are they corroborating with the replay officials despite not having final say?
John: Pretty much. According to the NFL, all final decisions are determined by officials in New York. Game officials watch the Microsoft Surface during the review process while communicating with the officials in New York. This interaction between game officials and the officials in New York to ensure all parties are on the same page, and to ensure the in-game official announces the call correctly, but the officials in New York are making all final decisions around the league.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
Just wanted to give a one fer Head Coach Doug Marrone. I heard people criticize him early in his tenure because of his personality in interviews. I love hearing him speak because he is down to earth, straightforward and seems to be easy to relate to. I can see why players would enjoy having him as a coach and buy in to his no-nonsense approach. I was frustrated as anybody with the clock management last week, but he took ownership of the mistake and moved forward just like he expects his players to do. I have a lot of respect for him and get the impression that players do, too. Hopefully, he is successful here for a long time.
John: A lot of good points. I thought last offseason Marrone would go a good job, and I wrote that multiple times. I thought that because of the straight-forward, no-nonsense approach – but mostly because I thought players would buy into his philosophy. I thought there might be a limited time that players would buy in unless they had success; that's often the case with tough, discipline-oriented coaches – and the Jaguars' training camp certainly was that of a coach instilling toughness. As for the buy-in, the 7-4 start certainly has been successful enough to ensure players believe. It always struck me as curious when people criticized the hire last offseason. Marrone, remember, wasn't fired from his previous head coaching opportunity; he left on his own accord. While he wasn't a "sexy" hire, he indeed has proven to be a good one. Somehow, I don't think being the "sexy" hire mattered all that much to Marrone.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
Mr. O, this offense is absolutely terrible. Without a viable option at quarterback, defenses stack the box and dare us to throw – and we can't. Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook give me hope for our receiving corps, but Bortles just drags them down. I'm sure you've talked about it, but which quarterback either in the draft or free agency do you think can help right the ship?
John: We'll talk about free-agent and college quarterbacks extensively when that time comes – and that time almost certainly will be after the season, but here's a hint: until Westbrook and Cole gain experience – and until the wide receiver corps as a whole makes plays and catches balls downfield – it's going to continue to be hard to know who's bringing who down. And the idea that Bortles is holding the receivers down this season is just not accurate. He's not playing at an elite level, and his interceptions have been costly in recent weeks, but he's not holding anyone back.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
With our run game being shut down against nine- and 11-man fronts, our receivers can't catch water from a boat like they are running around with hands of stone lathered in butter and are unable to beat one-on-one coverage ... our team is screwed. No one can make a play on offense. Plus, now every offense that plays us knows to just do short passes or 90 percent of the time target tight ends or running backs, and our defense can do nothing to stop it. How do we win like this? I don't see us getting that eighth win at all right now. Help!
John: (Yawn) What?
Thad from Albuquerque, NM:
We are without the heart of our defense. The Colts are going to destroy us.
John: (Yawn) What?
Aaron from Aldie:
John, are you surprised that Blake isn't calling plays at this point of his career. Maybe in Year 5?
John: I'd be surprised at Bortles not calling plays if he were in the fourth year in the same offense. Considering he is in his third NFL offense – and considering this is his first season in Nathaniel Hackett's offense – I find it less surprising.
Brian from Greenwood, IN:
If you think about it, isn't the fact that the Jaguars are trying to game plan in such a way as to mitigate the mistakes of their fourth-year quarterback pretty telling? How is it that after four years, we are still talking about the same issues? Isn't that also telling?
John: It's very fair to say the Jaguars have issues in the passing game, and it's fair to say they're game-planning to mitigate those issues. It's not nearly as fair to say all of those issues are Bortles. And it's not correct that the Jaguars are scaling back the offense because of Bortles, either.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Is it fair to say that any free-agent quarterback the Jaguars sign in the offseason will probably be less athletic than Bortles, but have better decision-making abilities? How about that a quarterback taken in the draft will be more athletic, but – due to the steep learning curve of the position – may struggle more than Bortles when it comes to the metal aspects of the game?
John: Bortles' decision-making is improved this season, and it has been pretty good this season as often as not. Will there be better decision-makers available in free agency? Perhaps, but there will be worse decision-makers there, too. As far as quarterbacks in the draft, I don't know how much more athletic they will be than Bortles, but I do know their welding skills will have little to do with anything come April.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
Here's the thing about Bortles. Yes, he's still making the critical, late-game mistakes ... but, if his receivers were catching the deep balls this year, Bortles wouldn't have been in position to make the late-game mistakes particularly against the New York Jets (Marqise Lee), Los Angeles Chargers (Lee and Keelan Cole) and Cardinals (Cole and Dede Westbrook).
John: This indeed is the push and pull with Bortles this season. You absolutely can't take the late-game interceptions in recent weeks out of the equation. That's winning time, and quarterback errors during that time lose games more often than not. But within the context of this season, Bortles is playing well enough early in games for the Jaguars to be 9-2 or 8-3. He has thrown the deep ball well enough to have quite a few more explosive plays. The Jaguars' receiving corps also lacks an above-the-Xs-and-Os player right now. Think about the catch Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant made against the Washington Redskins Thursday. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw the ball his way, and Bryant leaped over and caught the ball before it hit the back of the defender's helmet. The Jaguars right now don't have a receiver who consistently makes plays like that. And it shows.
Sealanis from Sealville:
But we're never gonna survive – unless – we get a little, crazy.
John: OK.
Nathan from Richmond, VA:
John, I ask you this because you have witnessed the development of a quarterback. I have heard before that it takes a quarterback three to four years to develop but I'm not so sure that is correct. I think that people's (management, coaches, fans, etc.) patience simply runs out at that point and that the player hasn't really developed all the way. With the progression that we've seen from Bortles, just how long do you think it takes a quarterback to develop? With as complicated as the job is and as few "live" situations (only 16 games per season) that the player gets to experience, it makes sense to me that it would take longer than four years for a player to be truly developed. Thoughts?
John: I think there's a ton of truth to what you say. I also think a lot of struggling young quarterbacks play in multiple systems early in their careers, which tends to compound the problem. The result is sort of a feast-or-famine situation where you have some elite quarterbacks and a lot of struggling young quarterbacks with teams having given up on the so-called middle class. It makes sense that they have given up on those players, because the pull to find the "elite" guy is so strong. Bottom line: quarterbacks are unlikely to get more than three or four years to develop. The pressure to find The Guy is just too great.
Steve from Denver, CO:
O, which is a better way to describe your high school or college athletic career: sketchy or nonexistent?
John: Delusional.

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