JACKSONVILLE – Three days 'til Christmas … one day 'til Look Ahead Wednesday.
Let's get to it …
Kyle from Ohio:
You always seem to defend Gus and how he shouldn't be fired. What has he done to deserve to keep his job? He never makes second-half adjustments. He is a defensive-minded guy and the defense is terrible. The team has only won 12 games in his three seasons here. What has he done to deserve another year?
John: I honestly spend little time "defending" Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley or anyone else on this website, though I understand that's the perception – and that's OK. People ask questions and I answer based on what I know. That's the job and it's as simple as that. As far as Bradley's future, I indeed have written often I don't think he will be fired at the end of the season. I also have written that I don't believe he should be fired. The reason isn't based on the Jaguars' defensive rankings in his three seasons – or the team's record in those three seasons. Neither would be acceptable under normal circumstances. But Bradley didn't take the job under normal circumstances. He took the job knowing it was a rebuilding process of a major proportion – major enough there was little chance of winning in the first two seasons. This year was a bit different. This season there was enough talent and maturity to compete, and the team has been significantly more competitive than in the first two seasons. If Bradley made a mistake, it may have been saying before the season the roster was "built." That created an impression the Jaguars were ready to have a winning record this season. I don't believe they were ready for that, and for the most part, this season has played out as I expected in the sense that the Jaguars have been close enough to be competitive – and not quite good enough to close out games. Had the pass rush been better, I believe a .500 record would have been very attainable considering the schedule. But I believe Bradley has helped this team improve to a point of competitiveness, and I believe it will improve again next season. Do I think Bradley is flawless as a head coach? No. Do I think he has done a good job under some near-impossible circumstances? Yes. Do I believe the Jaguars need to go .500 or better next season? Yes, I think the Jaguars have reached the point where they can't improve any more without winning.
Sam from Boston, MA:
O-Zone, this team is truly wretched. Other than the wide receiver group there is NOTHING to be excited about going into next year. Bortles is an inaccurate turnover machine. The offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and safeties suck. Special teams stink. Coaching staff constantly looks lost. They lose to bad teams, good teams, home and away. That half of good ball last week was a fluke against a second-string quarterback and injured defense. This team is closer to being the worst team in the league than a top 15 team. And to make it worse we have the worst uniforms and helmets. This franchise is cursed. The fans deserve better.
Mike from Jagsonville:
The NFL is a performance-based business, yes? What, if any, are the real-world consequences of failure to perform?
John: Players who underperform consistently find themselves no longer in the league. That doesn't always happen in a week, or a month, but all teams have access to all game film. If a player can't help a team, he doesn't stay in the NFL long. That's as real-world as it gets.
Tom from Jacksonville:
Not questioning Poz's heart, just his speed.
John: Question Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny's speed all you want, and those are legitimate questions. There also have been times – this season, included – that he struggled in the pass game. But there have been far more times he has played very well – and overall, he helps this defense far more than he hurts it. His value to the defense – and to the team – is enormous.
Steve from Denver, CO:
O, you need to review your answer to the question about Blake Bortles running the ball. It gives the defense something else to worry about.
John: Nope. I remember the answer, and I don't need to review it. NFL games are won from the pocket, and quarterbacks who remain in the pocket and win from there have far more value for the long-term – and longer careers – than those who don't. There are exceptions but they are usually short-term exceptions. The reason Blake Bortles appears to be the future of this franchise isn't because he occasionally runs for a nice gain; it's because he is showing he can make big plays in the passing game. I'm fine with a mobile quarterback who can make plays when necessary outside the pocket, but an offense that becomes dependent on designed quarterback running plays? No thanks – and no review necessary.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
Chances of Telvin Smith being converted to Leo? I know it's out there, because he's so awesome at his weak-side linebacker spot, but if pass rush trumps all then ... maybe?
Bo from Dresden, NC:
John, why don't the Jags just dump Justin Blackmon? Why does the team want the constant negative publicity popping up on the news?
John: I'm not going to answer a slew of questions about Justin Blackmon. He was arrested for DUI again recently, and that is unfortunate. But the answer as to why the team doesn't release him is the same as before. The team gains nothing from his release and loses nothing by retaining his rights. The difference between a headline reading "former Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon …" as opposed to "Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon" is so minimal as to not matter either way.
Tim from Jacksonville:
How many defensive ends will the Jaguars draft this year? My prediction: seven.
John: Nah, but it will be more than none.
Bryan from Yulee, FL:
The reason we struggle to rush the passer is because in Gus Bradley's scheme he uses a "Dig DE" on the left side, which means we are rushing one defensive end and three defensive tackles. I love Jared Odrick and the attitude he brings, but he is a defensive tackle, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize we need another pass rusher on the left side of the D-Line. Your thoughts O-Man?
John: The Jaguars play three Leo defensive ends in their third-down lightning package. The Falcons converted five third downs of third-and-6 or longer in the second half Sunday and the Jaguars did not have a sack with multiple pass rushers on the field.
Scott from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I know we need help up front on the defense but most teams who are weak up front at least compensate on the back end with linebackers and defensive backs in coverage. Besides Davon House, who else in the secondary is covering well? We rank near dead last or are last in the NFL in interceptions? Don't you think we would benefit from a shutdown type of cornerback? Look at Denver, Carolina, etc. They all have multiple cornerbacks who can cover players for more than a few seconds. What is our problem there? Poor drafting of the other corners? Thanks.
John: Sure, the Jaguars would benefit from a shut-down type of cornerback. They're difficult to find outside the first round and the Jaguars haven't had a chance to draft one in the first round yet. And I don't know that that will be a priority over, say, safety – or even pass rush – in this year's draft. Remember, interceptions in the NFL are far more often than not the result of poor passes, which far more often than not are the result of pressure. I expect the Jaguars to draft a cornerback this offseason, though I don't particularly expect that will be in the first round.
Rob from Section 114:
After thinking about this all season, is it a coaching problem or a player problem in the red zone? Maybe both? Situational football seems to be a problem with this team. D-Rob averaged two yards per rush; we needed one and Blake throws a pick. Should that one play have not been a run or just Blake reaching it over the end zone again? It seems we fail mightily in the red zone, and though the players are young and have to play, I blame play calling. It has been a 15-year theme here in JAX. I know second-guessing is no fun but when it is a theme weekly it becomes an issue.
John: The Jaguars have scored touchdowns on 12 of their last 13 possessions in the red zone.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, when will team media stop measuring success as "being competitive?" When will wins become the only measuring stick? If not in Year Four (next year), when? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: There is no more room for improvement without winning.