O-Zone: Tricky task

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it ..

Mr. Realistic from Orlando, FL

Please tell me the mock drafts are just filling space on the internet. Now, reports are mocking the Jags taking a defensive tackle at No. 7? If Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin doesn’t make this year’s draft offensive heavy, it will be a calamity for the franchise and the fan base. Coughlin was a very good coach, but his draft decisions have been baffling and very discouraging. Sometimes, I wonder if Head Coach Doug Marrone is a puppet for Coughlin’s 70s style offense. Coughlin is a good man, but he’s not building a Super Bowl offense. The 2017 season is long gone, and resting on laurels is a recipe for sub-mediocrity.

First, mock drafts aren’t “reports,” because they’re not based on “reporting” – i.e., talking to someone with knowledge or facts; mocks are rarely anything more than speculation – entertaining speculation, but speculation nonetheless. Second, the Jaguars’ direction in the 2019 NFL Draft remains to be seen, but no one around the team is resting on laurels. Either way, the idea that Coughlin wants a 70s-style offense is vastly overblown. The Jaguars understand the need to pass. Coughlin and Marrone understand the need to make big plays in the passing game. The notion that they don’t is misinformed and a bit tiring. The Jaguars’ offense ranked sixth in the NFL in 2017 and ninth in 2018 before injuries took too much of a toll. It wasn’t a great offense, but neither was it a bad one when healthy. Will it be great next season? I doubt it. I believe it will take time to be great. But it has a chance to improve, and it’s certainly inaccurate to say the people running the Jaguars are incapable of making the moves necessary to improve it. And yes … mock drafts pretty much take up space on the internet.

Sam from Orlando, FL

Do you think Blaine Gabbert’s game would have translated better to the NFL had he been drafted the last two years or this year?

Not particularly.

Jesse from Layton

John, I respect your opinion. Even in the times that I do not agree with it, I can usually see your point of view and agree to disagree. Recently, regarding officiating you have made some good points, but I can't really fathom your stance. It seems you are saying there will always be human mistakes in officiating, but because it will never be perfect we shouldn't strive for it to be. Making changes will likely bring unforeseen issues, which we can address at that time. But to not try goes against the things I know regarding football and life. I will paraphrase an old-style guy, who said that while perfection is unattainable, if you strive for it you will attain excellence. That officiating mistake was not excellence. Besides, if another long-lasting league can review pass interference, I think the NFL can, too. It's not like we are giving coaches MORE challenges, just the ability to challenge more things.

The NFL should strive for excellence. We all should. But I seriously doubt a rule allowing pass interference reviews will improve the game. Yes, it would have reversed the Saints-Rams call Sunday. But over the long-term, I sense it will cause as many – if not more – muddled, disputable situations than it prevents, and I sense an officiating system allowing interference reviews eventually will be as frustrating as one that does not.

Backups from Backupville

Blake Bortles for Ryan Tannehill?

Whatever.

Fred from Naples, FL

I see all these mock drafts by the media and am wondering where is Pete Prisco's choice? I look forward to his mis-selections every year. Psssst … this is where you reply with..." who is Pete Prisco"?

It’s January 27. They haven’t played the Super Bowl yet, and the draft is nearly three months away. Give the man time – whoever he is.

Phil from Woodmere, NY

After seeing the effect Lamar Jackson has on the Ravens’ run game, I’m wondering if a quarterback with running ability like Kyler Murray could open run lanes in the middle for Leonard Fournette. How do you feel Murray compares to Jackson as a runner? Do you think he could have the same effect on our ground game?

It’s unfair to compare the running ability of Murray to that of Jackson. While Murray is mobile and a threat to run, Jackson is a runner of extraordinary ability who rushed for 50 college touchdowns and 108.7 yards per game compared to 13 college rushing touchdowns for and 51 yards per game for Murray. Murray also appears to be a far more accurate and effective passer than Jackson. Murray’s running ability could have an effect on the Jaguars’ ground game, but Bortles was an effective runner, too. The question is how much you want to use a quarterback’s running ability because of the long-term injury risk. While Murray would help the running game, it’s doubtful it would help as much as Jackson helped the Ravens.

Michael from Orlando, FL

Yes, the refs missed the call in the Rams-Saints game. But I see it differently than some. 1) The Saints had a chance to win later in the game. 2) Big non-calls (missed) calls in championship games have happened for a long time. As a young Denver fan, I recall that in the 1977 AFC championship game, a Denver running back fumbled at the goal line, but was still awarded a touchdown. Later, film confirmed that OAK recovered before the ball crossed the plane. John Madden was furious. Errors suck, but they will be part of the game.

The Denver running back was Rob Lytle. And yes.

Darren from Jacksonville

Not a Jags question, but are you at all surprised Peyton Manning has stayed away from the NFL? I'm kind of surprised he hasn't jumped into coaching or broadcasting. Or has he and I've just missed it? You covered him, so I thought you might have some insight.

Manning has done some television work for ESPN, but he hasn’t been particularly high profile in that arena. But I’m not overly surprised that Manning for the most part has stayed away from the NFL for now. He is a perfectionist who wants to be the best at whatever he does, so it makes sense that he would be very measured and deliberate deciding his next move. I’ve always sort of doubted Manning would go into coaching. I don’t doubt he would be good at it, but I’ve always wondered if he would want to commit to the hours, days and weeks involved. I would anticipate him eventually taking an ownership role or an executive role similar to John Elway’s current role in Denver – when and if the right situation presents itself.

TheRealDeal from Toronto, CA

Many plays that impact the outcome of the game happen in the last couple of minutes when challenges are not allowed. I always found it odd that they put the rule that way. If they allow challenges in the last two minutes, it could probably bring down the incidents like the Saints game among others. If they want to keep the rule of no challenges, then the “call from upstairs” should allow refs to be notified to re-evaluate the call and allow the head official to correct the call if needed. Will it solve all problems? No ... there will still be mistakes made in the middle of the game, but something along these lines would certainly reduce last minute mistakes that cost teams games. Those are the ones that hurt the most and cause the biggest uproar.

The league doesn’t allow “coaches” challenges in the final two minutes. That’s because by rule all challengeable plays are reviewed in the final two minutes. This was put into replay by former Oakland Raiders Owner Al Davis because he didn’t want a scenario in which a team had used all of its challenges and was therefore unable to challenge a clear-and-obvious error in the final two minutes. The NFL is well aware of the importance of the final two minutes of a game. It’s also equally and correctly aware that to review plays of judgement – i.e., holding and interference – too often brings opinion and debate into a review process that is intended to overturn obvious errors. While the Rams-Saints call was “clear and obvious,” most pass interference penalties are not. They’re not reviewed for this reason.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Honestly, I think moving on from linebacker Telvin Smith and moving Myles Jack to weak-side linebacker is a great idea. It solves more than one issue. I've liked Smith but he had an inconsistent season being out of position on big plays. I think Jack may elevate his play going to weak-side. The only problem is creating another hole to fill in a year where we don't have a ton of cap space and lots of holes to fill on offense. I'm beginning to think managing an NFL roster isn't easy.

Ya think?

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