O-Zone: The great truth

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Miguel from Section 144 and Duuuuvall:
This is why you don't bench the quarterback until you are absolutely sure he's not your guy. He has to get better, but we haven't seen the best of Blake Bortles yet. #DTWD
John: This may be the biggest long-term takeaway – and the biggest positive – from the Jaguars' 38-17 victory over the Titans Saturday. It's far too early to know if interim head coach Doug Marrone has a chance at the permanent job, and it's really too early to know what Bortles' future holds. But no matter who is hired as the Jaguars' permanent head coach, it's a safe bet that Bortles probably is going to either be the starting quarterback or a serious contender for the position. That's true because of the difficulty of finding a franchise quarterback or even a front-level starter. And yes … Saturday's performance is exactly why you don't bench a potential franchise quarterback until you're certain he's the guy. Bortles didn't show on Saturday that he is definitely a franchise quarterback. He has a lot of improvement to make in a lot of areas before that's the case. But he did show why the Jaguars haven't given up on the possibility. That's a start.
Maty from Easton:
O-Man, how good was it to see Dante Fowler Jr. have a productive game and flash some of that rare talent?
John: If you want the Jaguars to start contending for the postseason in the near future … very.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I know the Jaguars cannot speak to currently employed coaches until the season is over, but they are able to speak to coaches who are not currently coaching or – presumably – who are currently employed by the Jags. If they choose one of those coaches, are there any rules preventing them from finalizing a deal before the end of the season? I'm sure it won't happen because they have to do their due diligence and interview a wide variety of coaches, so I'm sure they won't make a decision that quickly. I'm just wondering, because if they really want a coach who isn't currently coaching or is already on the team, maybe they would want to lock him down before other teams start their coaching searches.
John: The Jaguars indeed could interview unemployed coaches and college coaches before the end of the regular season, but they almost certainly will not hire a coach before end of the regular season. One obstacle could be the Rooney Rule, but – as you point out – that's not the biggest reason. The biggest reason is that to do so would mean severely reducing the pool of candidates – and even if you think you know your target, you would rather have a more thorough process.
Al from Fernandina Beach, FL:
John, what is going on with Myles Jack? I can't always watch the game so I look for print and stats on him and can barely find anything – and the stats in the box score don't even list his name for Saturday's game. Is he hurt? Is he a disappointment? Is he playing behind Poz and can't get on the field? What is going on with him?
John: The story with Myles Jack remains the same. He is starting at the Otto linebacker position, which is the strong-side linebacker position in the Jaguars' defense. He is playing mostly in pass-oriented or base situations with Dan Skuta playing in more run-heavy situations – although Jack appeared to be in some more run-heavy spots Saturday. Jack is neither hurt nor a disappointment. He's not playing middle- or weak-side linebacker because Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith are playing at a high level at those spots. He is playing fewer snaps than otherwise would be the case because Otto plays fewer snaps than the other two linebacker positions – and he is sharing time there. I believe Jack will be on the field in some full-time capacity next season. Where that will be, time will tell.
Hippy from Fleming Island:
If Jalen Ramsey isn't the best football player I've seen in a Jags jersey, he's destined to be. He has made more impact plays in the last two games than average corners make all year. Do you think he plays at an All-Pro level in Year Two?
John: Ramsey indeed appears well on his way to being one of the best players in franchise history. That sounds like hyperbole – until you watch Ramsey play. Then, it sounds less like hyperbole and more like something that's destined to be the case. I would caution it's wise to remember that to be better than Tony Boselli/Fred Taylor/Jimmy Smith, you have to play at or near a Hall of Fame-level, but yeah … Ramsey has the skill set to sail in that stratosphere. As far as being an All-Pro in Year 2 … well, it's not out of the question. In fact, it's a very good possibility.
Dave from Jacksonville:
All about Bortles? He played much better, but he didn't carry the team to a win. The entire team played significantly better in ALL three phases. Many guys had their best game of the season. You can't chalk this up to coincidence. Bortles has had better days than this and usually those turn out to be losses. I can't believe you are spinning this like this was all about Bortles playing better. We agree that Gus is awesome human, being but this is more proof he's just wasn't a good fit here for whatever reason.
John: Saturday's game wasn't all about Bortles. Not by any stretch. But Bortles completed 15 of his first 16 passes, and threw for more than 200 yards in the first half. He was efficient and accurate and made good decisions. I don't know that he actually has had better games than Saturday's – and if he has it's a very, very short list. He set the tone early, and for one of the first times in his career you could point to him and say, "He played well and was a reason for the Jaguars winning and did very, very little to hurt the team." That has been sorely missing this season – and its absence is the biggest reason the Jaguars are 3-12 and not around .500. Was Saturday about Doug Marrone? Absolutely, because the Jaguars played their most complete game of the season under his watch – and did so in very difficult circumstances. But to think that Bortles' play wasn't a major, major difference between Saturday and the first 14 games … well, I guess it really is spinning to think that. Spin away, O-Zone. Spin away.
Sam from Orlando, FL:
Do you think the Jags will re-sign Prince Amukamara? Man I hope so.
John: I do think there's a good chance Jaguars will re-sign Amukamara. I don't think they will do so if he demands a long-term, break-the-bank contract, but I don't know that he will be quite at that level of free agency. But Amukamara deserves some credit. His goal this season upon signing a one-year free-agent contract was to play the entire season and prove he could stay healthy. He missed two games early in the season – Week 2 and 3 – and was upset when that happened, but he has played the last 12 consecutive games. If you didn't know injuries had been an issue throughout his career you wouldn't know it by watching him this season. The Jaguars' secondary may be their most improved unit this season. Ramsey is the most obvious reason, but Amukamara is a factor in that, too.
Jacob from NC:
I do not believe it was "all coaching," and in the NFL it probably never is. However, all I hear from you is a sarcastic "it's all coaching" or are you saying it's really never coaching? What proof could you receive to make you say it was coaching? Or is it just "not always coaching" and that is final? Thanks
John: I've rarely if ever said "it's never coaching" in the NFL – because as I often have said, coaching does matter in the NFL. What I long have said is that coaching is far too often blamed for all that ails a team – and coaches are often fired far too quickly at the expense of continuity. It was clear on Saturday that something made a difference for the Jaguars, and Marrone absolutely must get credit for the Jaguars playing better. There was clearly a surge and an urgency that hadn't been there before. At the same time, to say that there was a dramatic difference in the game plan all because of Marrone – or that Bortles suddenly was calm, collected, poised and accurate all because of Marrone is probably a stretch, too. The Jaguars played well Saturday, far better than I or anyone else imagined they would. But when I say, "It's always coaching in the NFL," all I ever mean is it's not always coaching. That's because it's players in the NFL far more often than not.
Moodachay from Corrales, NM:
It's always coaching John, always.
John: Yeah, I know.

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