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O-Zone: Triple-dog dare

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frank from Knoxville, TN:
Hey, Zone … while I agree with your premise that changing coaches for the sake of change is generally a bad idea, I gotta disagree on the special teams coach. Just because they threw caution to the wind Sunday with the onside kick and fake punt does not excuse the very poor performance overall this year by that unit. Blocked field goals, blocked punts, below average return game and poor fundamental blocking schemes have been the norm all year, not the exception. Changing up special teams by and large is much easier than installing a brand-new offense or defense and it sends the message to the staff that status quo is not acceptable and everyone is accountable. I think it's a move Gus has to make as it is a glaring weakness on a team where it should be a strength with all the youth and speed on the roster.
John: This is a common refrain, but let's be clear here: special teams coordinator Mike Mallory will return. I'd be stunned if he doesn't, and even beyond that … he just will. First, if you're going to get rid of a coach you need to make sure you replace him with someone better. That will be difficult with Mallory, who is a very good special teams coach who would have a job the next day if he weren't retained by the Jaguars (which won't happen, as I said …) Second, the staff and everyone knows the status quo is not acceptable and everyone's accountable; messages aren't necessary. Third, the Jaguars have made Mallory's job exceedingly difficult this season. Ideally, teams like to have seven or eight players who primarily focus on special teams. They're called "core-four" players because they play on two coverage teams and two return teams. Players such as Denard Robinson, Demetrius McCray, Ryan Davis and J.T. Thomas have moved off special teams this season to bigger defensive or offensive roles and the team also released core-four players such as Chris Prosinski, Winston Guy and Dekoda Watson. LaRoy Reynolds and Jordan Todman remain, but the lack of such players could be seen as a reason for a high number of special teams errors this season. A lot of people will see that as an excuse, and that's fine. But if you begin the offseason waiting anxiously for a new special teams coach it's going to be a long, frustrating wait.
Sam from Athens, OH:
Do you think it's fair to draw comparisons between this team and the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs? It seems like in both cases the roster had more talent than the record showed because of a consistent lack of execution.
John: The lack-of-execution part is certainly similar, but the Jaguars' 2014 roster is not as developed as the Chiefs' 2012 roster. That Chiefs team had six Pro Bowl selections. I do not expect six Jaguars players to be in the Pro Bowl this season.
Jerry from Jacksonville:
Losing sucks no matter how you spin it.
John: Yes.
Newt from Jacksonville:
John, I know the discussion will quickly turn to who we'll target this offseason. My questions are: What will the individual groups do during the offseason? How much emphasis will individuals put on getting stronger and bigger? Will you be wearing those incredibly tacky Christmas hats from now 'til Christmas? And lastly, where can I get one?
John: Players can do pretty much what they want from the end of the season until the offseason program begins in mid-April. I'd expect the wide receivers to work on routes, and I expect Blake Bortles will spend some time – a lot of time – between the end of the season and mid-April working on fundamentals and footwork. To hear offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch tell it Tuesday, Bortles also will spend plenty of time studying the offense. I also expect we'll see him around EverBank Field watching film, though that's not required by any means and he can't discuss what he's seeing with coaches until the offseason program begins. I expect the offensive line will focus on strength in the offseason in a big way, which brings us lastly to the Christmas hats. I'm not sure what you mean by "tacky," but I'll be wearing them. You can get one by emailing me. They're $10,000 a piece.
Brandon from Sioux Falls, ID:
Hey John, I really like Gus as the head coach, but do you think Gus and/or Dave are on the hot seat?
John: No, not this season or in the coming offseason.
Clint from Richmond Hill, GA:
I could not disagree more with Aaron from Arlington! Blake Bortles has absolutely shown improvement. Yes, he needs to work on getting rid of the ball, footwork, etc., but you would have to be blind if you don't think he is improving. Once the O line plays better, and BB works on some fundamentals, I think his future is bright. Thoughts??
John: I think you can improve and still need to improve much, much more – and I think that's particularly true of an NFL quarterback. Bortles showed a lot of good things in the first half Sunday, and at the same time, he continued to have issues with decision-making and needing to throw the ball away more. That's a very common thing to say about a rookie NFL quarterback.
Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
"Don't bet the mortgage?" There are many good reasons to draft a quarterback, but the biggest is Bortles hasn't proven enough to warrant the team behaving like it has a "franchise quarterback" on the roster. Why wouldn't they take "Mariota?"
John: They wouldn't take him if they didn't believe he was better than Bortles. And the Jaguars aren't going to draft a quarterback early in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
The tight end position is in desperate need of an upgrade. Marcedes (Lewis) has been a good Jaguar, but he's inconsistent in the passing game and we all know how good the line has been this season. Is the tight end position best addressed in free agency or through the draft? Or am I crazy and the Jags not see this as a position of need?
John: You're not crazy. It's a need. How the Jaguars will address it likely will depend on what's available in free agency. If they don't fill the need for a pass-catching tight end in free agency it becomes a lot more important in the draft.
Don from Austin, TX:
Lots of discussion on the offensive line and the quarterback and nothing on the wide receivers. Can't tell from the television coverage if they are getting open or running the right routes and that's causing Blake Bortles to hold the ball. Also cannot tell from television if Blake Bortles looks at more than one receiver (if he has the time). What are your thoughts?
John: I think there are plays when Bortles has receivers open and there are plays when the receivers are still struggling to get open. He has done OK at times looking at more than one receiver, and other times he realistically hasn't had time to look around much. There are a lot of moving parts on offense, and because a lot of the parts on the Jaguars' offense are young there are a lot of mistakes.
Mark from High Springs:
So, the problem's not with the players, nor is it with the coaches, nor is it with the management, nor is it with the ownership. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we do have a problem, don't we?
John: You're darned right the Jaguars have a problem. They're a young team that's particularly young on offense. They also have holes on the roster. Mostly as a result of that, they aren't good enough on offense to win games. That's a problem and the hope is that time and some additions this offseason will start solving it.
Bryan from Tampa, FL:
Sometimes the best way to get a consistent productive team is to create a consistent environment. A stable coaching regime and players in the same scheme for multiple years can do wonders for long-term success. I think people just like blowing stuff up.
John: Yes, they do – and the thing about blowing stuff up is you're left with wreckage that has to be rebuilt. And the thing about rebuilding is it takes time. That's the cycle.
Justin from Jacksonville:
Dave and Gus have had two drafts. Two offseasons with massive cap space. Offensively and defensively, our castaways are more productive on other teams. The free agents we have signed, almost exclusively, have been worse with us than their former team. With a defensive head coach, we're 28th in YPG and PPG. We have five interceptions. Offensively, second-worst in yards (even though playing from behind and throwing late every week) and worst in points. Tell us where the improvement is? If it isn't a "Gus" issue it's a "Dave" issue, and either way something has to change. Tell us otherwise. Dare you.
John: You dare me? Really? What are we, six?

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