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O-Zone: Timing isn't everything

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
I believe it was about a week ago you thought the next head coach would likely come from the group of Tom Coughlin, Mike Smith or Doug Marrone … if my memory serves me right. After a week into the full process and all the prognostication going on, who are your Top Three most likely now?
John: Kyle Shanahan, Marrone, Smith in no particular order.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
I keep hearing that the Doug Marrone interview went well. If he was seen as an in-house solution, it really seems like it was foolish for the team to hold on to Gus Bradley as long as it did. I just want to put my voice out there that I don't want it to be Marrone. Is he going to fire his now two-time offensive coordinator in Nathaniel Hackett? Is he going to replace Todd Wash? If the same coaches are in place, how much of a change can we really expect? If we are supposed to expect a big change, with such little coaching change, how poor of a decision was it to hang on to Bradley that long? We need to bring in some new blood. I don't think Marrone is a bad coach, but I really don't think he's the answer.
John: If Marrone is the permanent head coach, I would be surprised if Hackett doesn't return as the offensive coordinator. Hackett was Marrone's offensive coordinator in previous stops at Syracuse and with the Buffalo Bills, so it's reasonable to think he would be the guy here. What would happen with Wash? That remains to be seen, though it wouldn't be out of the question for him to return considering how the defense played this past season. How much would change? That would depend on Marrone's direction. It could be argued, though, that the Jaguars don't need a big change. This was a team that was close in a lot of games and perhaps it's a tweak or two and a change in voice that's needed more than an overhaul. We'll see.
Gary from Wesley Chapel, FL:
Mr. O, not every good or even great offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator or position coach is a good or great "head" coach. The qualities that define a great head coach do not necessarily match all of the qualities of the others. Marrone appears to me to be someone who could be a great head coach. Not just because of the last two games, and the way he handled himself in that situation, but also some of the insight he provided into his coaching style, the way he presented himself, etc. There are other reasons as well, having more to do with stability and continuity for the team. Maybe it just comes down to more of a gut feeling- but to me, Marrone is the right choice for the job. What is your assessment of him as far as being head coach material, O great and wise...guy?
John: Marrone has six seasons of experience as a head coach – four at Syracuse and two with Buffalo in the NFL. It was evident during the two weeks he served as interim head coach that he was comfortable in the role, and it was evident players respected his approach and responded to it. I got the impression from being around Marrone that he is "head-coaching" material, that he can provide leadership and establish a structure and culture that can provide the framework for success. He can lead, make big-picture decisions and provide the environment. That's what you need from a head coach, so there's no reason he can't do the job.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
I think people are forgetting that Jalen Ramsey is 22 years old and has been in this league for about eight months. I will take his opinion on the defensive scheme with a grain of salt. I tend to find more value in the opinion of the men who have been coaching and playing this game for 30-plus years. I love the kid, but let's not act like the players know best here. Thoughts?
John: I think everybody can have an opinion, and I think players such as Ramsey, Tashaun Gipson and Fowler know their styles of play and how they are most comfortable playing. That may not always fit exactly into what all 11 players are required to do in a defense. I wouldn't have minded the Jaguars being more aggressive in the secondary at times – and I'm sure as a first-year coordinator, there were things Todd Wash would tell you he could have done better this past season. But this defense improved dramatically this past season with massive changeover in personnel and without a great pass rush when rushing four down linemen. It just didn't look like a defense in disarray throughout much of the season.
Jeremy from Bossier City, LA:
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score? Winning is not a sometime's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while ... you don't do the right thing once in a do them right all the time. Winning is a habit." - Vince Lombardi. Let's not criticize Beachum for wanting to win and advocating that it should be the mentality of the coach. Beachum is a smart guy. Maybe we should listen to him.
John: No one around the Jaguars is or ever has been against winning, but yes, absolutely Beachum is a smart guy. It's a good thing that he wants to win and that he wants a coach to want to win. And yes … when players talk they should be heard. Nothing wrong with that.
Brian from Section 238:
Touché, John – touché. I read all of the Jags stories. It's what diehard fans do. Here's my question: Since a winning team was a reasonable expectation last year, what's this year's expectation? Do we temper our hopes because of last season's disappointment? I don't see how that would be fair.
John: I think expectations entering next season should be pretty much what they were entering this past season – and I expected the Jaguars to push for a winning record last season. I think if a few things had gone differently they could have done that. The biggest issue remains Blake Bortles/quarterback position. Can he make the strides in Year 4 many wanted/expected in Year 3? Can the Jaguars get more leads and more pressure on opposing quarterbacks? Can they reduce give-aways and get more take-aways defensively? If those three things happen, then this team can push for a lot of things.
Luke from Wautoma, WI:
I live in Packer Country. As the playoffs begin and the Packers take part in their eighth straight postseason, I sit here frustrated yet again; along with the rest of the fan base. The Jags finally had the talent and did absolutely nothing with it. Thinking back to how the season started … driving to beat Green Bay down four with under a minute left … it's really disappointing. I remember how promising things seemed at the time. Bortles looked improved … Julius Thomas had a touchdown catch…the defense kept Rodgers in check … A-Rob looked like a force at the end of the game … everything was looking up. I don't have a question. It just bums me out as the local media here is hyped for Packers-Giants this weekend.
John: I almost didn't reply to this one because of the "I-don't-have-a-question" part, but then I thought about your email. And you're right. The Jaguars' 2016 season was a disappointment – because the vast majority of games played out strikingly like the Green Bay game. The Jaguars lost 13 games and 10 of them were decided in the fourth quarter. Two others – the San Diego and Oakland games – turned because of turnovers and mistakes, and then there was the one-sided prime-time debacle against Tennessee. Was it disappointing? Absolutely? Was it bad? Yes. But if there is something to provide hope it's that this overall looked like a team that didn't quit, that was close and appears young and ascending. I don't know how the key questions of the offseason and the future will be answered – i.e., whether or not Bortles is the quarterback and if the Jaguars can get things right at the position – but it does seem there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle in place. Now, can the Jaguars get the right person in place at head coach and quarterback to make sure the pieces all work? That's what's next.
Scott from Daytona Beach, FL:
With many head coaching jobs available and now two teams basically gutting their defensive coaches, how important is to hire a new coach quickly to be able to get his assistants in place?
John: It's important not to dawdle, but it's not always necessary to rush. A head-coaching candidate typically has multiple assistants for each position, and more often than not, he is reasonably certain he will be able to get a person from that group. It is sometimes the case, for example, that a head-coaching candidate with an offensive background knows exactly who he will hire as a defensive coordinator – and in that case, timing of the hire is not nearly as important as otherwise is the case.

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