JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … James from Destin, FL:
John, with the way this team has come together and possibly not losing many players in the offseason, what about the coaches? I really would like all of them back to pick up where they leave off. It just seems the chemistry is too good to lose anyone. You know, it's all about the coaching.
John: It indeed is always about coaching in the NFL – and with success does come late-season Coaching Angst. This coaching staff has done a good job. I give Head Coach Doug Marrone a ton of credit for establishing a culture and a framework that has allowed this team to succeed. I also think Nathaniel Hackett and Todd Wash as offensive and defensive coordinators obviously have done a nice job. Because the defense has gotten a lot of attention throughout the season, I do think you'll see Wash get some notice when people start talking about head coaches in the coming weeks. I don't know that you'll see Hackett's name in those circles quite yet, though I think both have a chance to be head coaches in the future – and the longer quarterback Blake Bortles plays at a high level, the "hotter" Hackett likely is to become. Here's the thing about Coaching Angst. Head coaches and players have a lot of influence on their success. The head coach often establishes the parameters and framework in which they work and players … well, we know what they do. That's not to say coordinators don't matter, but losing coordinators eventually is part of the deal when an NFL team is successful. You want to be successful enough to lose them and then hire well enough that you don't miss them much. There's no other way to approach it.
Gary from St. Augustine, FL:
Zone, did you see Jaguars fans are shipping trash cans to Jadeveon Clowney at the Texans' complex because he called Blake Bortles trash? This fan base is cool. I like it.
John: Yes. I did see that Jaguars fans were doing that. And yeah, I laughed. A lot.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
Hey, John: Looking at the remaining schedule, would you agree the best chance the Jags have of moving into the No. 2 seed is this Sunday's game between the Patriots and the Bills? The Bills are still in the playoff hunt and the Patriots did lose to the Dolphins two weeks ago.
John: The Dolphins game a couple of weeks back doesn't have that much bearing on Patriots-Bills Sunday, but that thing about the Bills being in the playoff hunt? That matters. A lot. I don't expect the Patriots to lose to the Bills Sunday, but teams that need to win to get into the postseason are dangerous. Sometimes very dangerous.
Rob from Orange Park, FL:
People said that when you played the Jaguars you stacked the box and make Blake beat you. Have you noticed our opponents backing away from this at all?
John: Not yet. It usually takes more than two or three weeks of an offense or doing something well before you see a trend of teams doing something different to defend it. I expect to see teams alter the way they defend the Jaguars in the next week or two – and you'll absolutely see it if Bortles continues to beat single coverage as he has in recent weeks.
Robert from Fernandina Beach, FL:
What is the difference between A.J. Bouye's interception catch against Seattle and Pittsburgh's nullified touchdown catch against the Patriots? The former was ruled a catch after replay and the latter was not. Thank you.
John: The ball did not move when it contacted the ground on Bouye's interception; the ball moved on the Pittsburgh would-be touchdown. The bottom line in the NFL these days is if the ball is going to touch the ground anywhere near the time of the catch, it better not jiggle as if you've lost possession – and it better not jiggle until you're holding the ball in the locker room after the game.
HD from Jacksonville:
Is there anything not to like about Coach Marrone? While he certainly had his detractors when selected for the job, he has quietly racked up an impressive record. It certainly seems like he is cordial with the press, always trying to engage the fans and let them know how much he thinks they matter. In spite of his bottomless desire to win now, he seems to be giving players the right amount of time to not only heal but be full power when they come back in. What is there not to like? The story is certainly a lot shorter, but he is almost like a fan/media friendly Bill Belichick so far. That would be so much bigger than winning the football lottery. Is there anything the common fan doesn't see?
John: You've summed up Marrone pretty well. I'm honestly not surprised he has done well. I wrote at the time of his hiring in January that I saw no reason he wouldn't succeed. Remember: he left the head-coaching position in Buffalo by his own choice, meaning he was a relative NFL rarity – an available head-coaching candidate with head-coaching experience who never had been fired from a head-coaching position. From what I can tell, what you see with Marrone is pretty much what you get. He is sincere about the fans mattering and he has made a real effort to engage in a positive way with the press. He's not always warm or fuzzy with players, media or a lot of people, but I don't know warm or fuzzy is a job prerequisite. And the job he has done this season … well, it's hard to imagine it being done better.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
Glad to see some Pro Bowl love for the Jags. I think they may have missed a few (Telvin Smith, probably), but that is not my question. Have they always elected players to the Pro Bowl with regular-season games yet to be played? That seems odd. It's unlikely, sure, but what if Smith has two sacks and a pick this weekend – or Fournette runs for 220 and three touchdowns?
John: Yeah, the NFL pretty much always made the Pro Bowl announcement with two weeks remaining in the season. It's possible it has varied at times by a week in one direction of the other. It's another flaw in an inherently flawed system.
Kyle from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I have a simple solution to solve part of the Pro Bowl snubs. What if we do like the draft and classify pass rushers as "edge rushers?" That way you can actually get the best outside linebackers and the best pass rushers.
John: The time absolutely has come for this idea. "Traditional" outside linebackers have been overlooked for the Pro Bowl because of low sacks numbers far too long. I don't know if the league will make this change or not. But considering its simplicity, it's silly not to do it.
Jon from St. Augustine, FL:
Overall thoughts on this past year's draft for the Jags? We know about Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson and even Dede Westbrook. But I've seen more of Duwaune Smoot in recent weeks and Blair Brown even impressed while Telvin Smith was out. Stacking good drafts is what will keep us around for a long time.
John: I think overall this draft has a chance to be remembered as a phenomenal, foundation-building draft for the Jaguars. That's especially true if you include undrafted rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole. One reason it may not get much notice? It came right after the Jaguars' 2016 draft, which included Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue – and which incidentally might go down as pretty good, too.
Robert from Palm Coast, FL:
John, do you get that feeling in the building maybe – just maybe – this year is special. From the bologna, to undrafted wideouts, to bringing home Christmas Past (Keenan McCardell and Tom Coughlin), to a dominating defense, to an emerging quarterback, to an electric city and fan base, all of the pieces are adding up to January Football!! The playoffs are coming. But does greatness await?
John: It has been a special season to date. That won't change. It's difficult to win in the playoffs. Really good teams sometimes win in the postseason. Great teams sometimes lose in the postseason. Greatness indeed could await. We shall see soon enough.
Lance from Lebanon, TN:
Remember when everybody was bashing the helmets? How do you like them now? I, for one, am really digging them!
John: Helmets of teams that are 10-4 with a playoff berth assured and with an AFC South title a victory away are cool. People like them.
Romeo from San Diego but 904-born:
With all the injuries to our top Wide Receivers, where do you see the Blake and the offense going?
John: To Santa Clara.
Lol from Jacksonville:
I'm gonna mail Shadrick a crappy present that says it's from you.
John: He won't believe it's from me. He knows I'm too cheap to buy a gift.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … James from Destin, FL: