O-Zone: The old college try

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Let’s get to it …

Tron from Tronval

I don't want us to be the franchise that has five coaches in four years and all that, and I don’t want to see firings before the plane lands, etc. But there has to be a balance between the two. Despite the draft classes and free agents, we have been more or less same old Jaguars. I mean even during the JDR years we won a playoff game and I'd say that team was solid for a few years whereas this team has had one fantastic outlier mixed in with the worst puke-bucket seasons. Shad has the patience of a saint.

The last decade overall has been bad for the Jaguars except for the 2017 run to the AFC Championship Game. No one around the team disputes that. But when Owner Shad Khan analyzes this front office and coaching as this season closes, he must do so for the most part based on the 2017-2019 seasons and how the team looks now. That’s the period Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone have worked together. This will have been the third season of that regime, with one appearance in the title game and one last-place finish along with whatever this season brings. That’s why the last six games of this season matter so much. It will dictate the overall feel of this thing and give a true idea of a long-term body of work. This is not a “puke-bucket” season, though the last two games obviously have leaned more toward that than the first eight. Where is it headed in the next month and a half? We’ll see.

Howard from Homestead, FL

For many of us, the Jaguars’ real record at the end of the year is their record against Tennessee. Beat the Titans Sunday and it’s an undefeated season.

I’ve heard this said. I can’t agree, but I’ve heard it said.

Chris from Space City, TX

O, there is no way in this world you believe the drafting in recent seasons has been "good.” Can you please tell us which draft picks you based "good" on? Even middle linebacker Myles Jack is beginning to look like a subpar pick at this point. Mistakes like Quincy Williams and Josh Oliver stand out when thinking of how bad the front office have drafted. Passing on Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson for the players we picked ahead of these guys is inexcusable. If you qualify the recent failures of Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell as "good," I would hate to see what you consider a poor draft.

First, I consider a poor draft one in which you get no players that appear likely to contribute significantly. The last few drafts for the Jaguars don’t have that feel, while there were several in the offseasons before in which that was the case. Second: When I say the Jaguars have drafted well for the most part in recent seasons, I am discussing the players they have drafted as opposed to the players on whom they passed. I get the dissatisfaction about not drafting one of the quarterbacks you mentioned and obviously there were mistakes in those decisions. But your reference to Jaguars rookie tight end Quincy Williams and rookie tight end Josh Oliver diminishes your point. You can’t judge a rookie – particularly a third-round selection – during his first NFL season. I take that back: You can judge a player at that point, but not if you want to look like you know what you’re talking about.

Mark from Archer

John, I know this has not happened yet. But if they let go of Marrone. what do you think the chances are of Coughlin taking over the head coaching job?

As close as you can get to zero.

Mr. NFL from Jacksonville

I quote you: “Marrone is a fantastic Coach.” You’re the epitome of substandard acceptance. To say you’re an objective writer is not worth a laugh, but it is worth several laughs. How you can defend this throwback regime is beyond logical comprehension. So, now I wait for your cute, little quip or disingenuous comment.

Quick O-Zone tip: Make sure you have read thoroughly and accurately before quoting something you believe I wrote and basing a brash, overconfident email on that something. It helps keeping you abreast of the ongoing conversation and gives you a puncher’s chance of not being embarrassed. (Hope this helps and thanks for reading).

Sean from Jacksonville

Sometimes, it is the coaching. You said so yourself in the November 18 O-Zone. "And I’m sure coaching will get plenty of blame, too – much of it in this case deserved. " All of that leads back to my concern(s) with our current offensive coordinator and the very recent troubles running the ball. Sure, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has had a good year, but straying so far, far away from our smash-mouth, run-first offense there will eventually be comparisons to John DeFilippo's firing by the Minnesota Vikings due to the disagreements with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. NFL reporter, Kevin Patra, wrote "Throughout the Vikings' skid, Zimmer repeatedly and publicly chastised his offensive coordinator for not generating a rushing attack." (Dec 11,2018. NFL.com) Yes, the Jaguars were losing and that usually necessitates abandoning the run, somewhat, but to the degree in which it was dumped will make more than a few fans, coaches, and players from around the league begin to think "Uh oh, could this be Minnesota all over again?" And, yes, we all know the "We'll see." and "It's always the coaching." Replies may be forthcoming, but it is a fair point and something to keep tracking over the rest of the season.

Whenever DeFilippo strays from the run this is going to get mentioned. One game with the Jaguars – particularly one in which the offense trailed by double digits on every possession of the second half – is not enough of a sample size to say he is trending in that direction.

Fred from Naples. FL

I have heard in the past that current Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator and former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich is head coach material. Do you think next year is the year he finally gets his shot as there are always five or more head coach openings every year? Do you think if the Jaguars were to make a change at head coach, he would warrant serious consideration? I would love to see him come home.

Leftwich has been mentioned as a potential future head coach for the last season or two, but I don’t sense he is overdue for an opportunity. It feels as if 2020 might be a year early for Leftwich to be a head coach considering 2019 was his second season as a coordinator. But teams are hungering for offensive-minded head coaches and they are skewing younger and younger to hire them, so perhaps his time will come sooner than I expect.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Do you think Fournette has been pressing a bit? You mentioned he isn't a great "miss-ability" running back and you are absolutely right. He is at his best when he is hitting the hole downhill and that seems to be how he breaks his long runs. Are you seeing him cut back or run across the formation when there is actually yard to be had on the front side? It feels like he doesn't trust the line and gets frustrated easily. On a side note, are we really criticizing our head coach for taking responsibility? He is defending his players and leading by example by taking ownership. That's what good coaches do.

Fournette has missed some holes in recent weeks. He also had had a lot of plays where hasn’t had enough room. Mostly, he hasn’t had enough opportunities. Some of that is playcalling. Some of that is the Jaguars not converting enough third downs for Fournette to get those opportunities. And as far as Marrone taking ownership … yes, that’s what head coaches should do. It’s just one example of Marrone being a good NFL head coach. He gets it.

Pedal Bin from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Oh Mighty ‘O’/King of Funk, I see Nelson has taken the responsibility for asking poor questions in the O-Zone and that’s good to see he has taken ownership of the problem. I’ll guess I’ll let everyone else freak out about the poor questions. I’m not going to freak out. I’m going to continue to read the O-Zone and I’m going to continue to believe in my fellow O-Zone readers. I’m going to be who I am as a person. I’m going to continue to prepare and get these questions to be top quality. Ultimately, we have to get the right questions to your inbox and then we have to get our questions answered as a team. We’re in that tough time. This is where you get tested. That’s where we’re at right now. This is where your O-Zone culture is built. This is where you establish so many things in these questions. We’re figuring out who we are as a culture. Hopefully, when we’re at the end of the journey, we’ll look back and say, “All right. It was all worth it to go through those trials and those tough times but I got my question answered in the end.” But when your question is not being answered it sucks. But we have to keep grinding and we have to keep believing in each other and just submitting better questions.

I wasn’t sure this was that funny, but you put such effort in that it didn’t seem fair to ignore it.

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