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O-Zone: Walk in the woods

JACKSONVILLE – All right! New week!! Look-ahead Wednesday. All is right in the world.

Let's get to it …

David from Duval:
Please explain why the responsibility for this fiasco should not be on the shoulders of one Gus Bradley, and why the media tiptoes around this.
John: The responsibility for the Jaguars' current situation indeed is on Gus Bradley because he is the head coach – and in big-time sports, it always eventually ends up being "about the head coach." I can't speak for "the media" and how they approach this issue. I can speak to how I approach it – and when I discuss the topic of head coaching, I rarely say losing or winning is All the Head Coach because it's my experience that that's rarely the case. Bradley this season certainly is at least partially responsible for the 2-7 record, but is he totally responsible? Is it his "fault" the offense couldn't take advantage of multiple opportunities against Baltimore? Did he fumble three times against Kansas City? Has he missed open receivers? Yes, the head coach is going to bear the brunt as he is ultimately responsible for what goes on, but to say a head coach is entirely at fault … nah. While that may be conventional wisdom, and while Bradley may or may not retained after this season, you're not likely to read me saying "it's all on the head coach." That may be easy writing and satisfying reading on some level, but it's not reality.
Gerry from Arlington:
Did Gus Bradley really say "I don't see anything in the future that shows Blake Bortles is not our guy?" Really? What's he seeing? More importantly, is this how the Jaguars really see this?
John: Bradley indeed said that, and he indeed expressed confidence Monday in Bortles as the Jaguars' franchise quarterback. And yes, that's the belief within the building. Bortles certainly has struggled this season in comparison to last season, and he could be making better decisions with more accuracy on some key throws. No one inside the building disagrees with that. But the team also believes Bortles will get through this rough stretch and that he is doing some positive things – and that he remains the guy for now and for the future.
John from Cape May, NJ:
This may be a farfetched, longshot scenario, but the season's lost, so I'm gonna throw it out there, anyway. The Jags in the offseason should trade for Philip Rivers. The Jags have a solid nucleus of talent, but obviously the quarterback position is holding us back. The Chargers look like they will be moving, and Rivers has publicly stated he does not want to move with the team. The Jags could offer their first-round pick, which will be a Top 5 pick, to the Chargers. It seems like a win-win scenario for both teams. We would get a top-tier quarterback who could play for three-to-five more years, while the Chargers get a chance to draft a new franchise quarterback if they wish. The only downside is we would be giving up on the chance of drafting a guy like Garrett, Allen, Peppers, or Adams – all of whom would look real good on the Jags' defense – but the quarterback position takes precedent over all that. It's a scenario that the new regime should at least consider.
John: I'm all for it, but only if the Jaguars also trade their second-rounder for Aaron Rodgers. You must not neglect the backup quarterback position.
Clif from Washington, DC:
You just listed a punter as a "bright spot" on the team. That should show everyone just how bad this season has actually been.
John: Brad Nortman has been good. He has been one of the bright spots on the team. But if you needed to read that to understand how bad this season has gone, you haven't been paying attention.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
How could you forget to include Tinker on the list of pretty consistent bright spots this season? The man is Pro Bowl-bound; maybe even Canton.
John: You're right. My bad.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
You know what is starting to concern me? Bradley seems like the kind of guy that when we lose and someone like Fowler makes a huge mistake, he acts like the players are five-year olds playing in the backyard. He needs to open up a can of whoop @$$ and shut that down not say "aww, that's OK little guy we will do better next time because I know you tried and that's all that matters, here is your juice box." Players need to be held responsible and based on our record and the repeat offenders I don't think Gus is actually holding anyone accountable. Prove me wrong … 14-44 says you can't.
John: Dante Fowler Jr. is not starting. His playing time is down over the last month of the season compared to the first part of the season. He has been pulled from the game after his last two 15-yard penalties. Bradley's overall record, as much as Jaguars fans understandably use it in every anti-Gus Bradley argument, isn't really the issue here. The issue is that the coaches have tried to discipline this out of Fowler. So far, it hasn't worked. It's an issue, but it's not as if it hasn't been addressed.
Chris from Mandarin:
John, let's be realistic here. There are seven more games to figure out whether Gus Bradley or Blake Bortles are worth giving another year. There have been flashes of brilliance from Bortles, tucked somewhere in between innumerable stretches of dumbfounding play. Gus Bradley has been consistently bad. What could realistically happen between now and the end of the season to make Shad Khan and/or Dave Caldwell think these two are the answer going forward?
John: The Jaguars could win many games and lose very few.
Josh from Green Bay, WI:
After Game One of this season, I had high hopes of a season of 8-8 or better. After the first nine games, I think I expect a 2-14 finish, a coaching change in the offseason, another Top 5 pick, and a five-win season next year. This has truly been the hardest season for me.
John: You're not alone. This season seems to have been the more difficult for many fans to accept than previous losing seasons – with the obvious reason being so much more was expected. I didn't expect the playoffs, necessarily, but even my tempered, cynical expectations expected the Jaguars to hover around .500 with a chance to push for better if things went right. I don't know yet what the next seven games or the season's immediate aftermath will hold. It's far from unreasonable to think this team could be looking at yet another Top 10 selection. So, I agree with you on many fronts. But I don't agree with your outlook for the future. What's separating this team from contending? Turnovers and missed opportunities. A lot of that stems from the quarterback position. Will Blake Bortles be the one to fix that issue? Will it be someone else? We don't yet know the answer. But whatever the answer, a correct one will help a lot. It won't correct all the things going wrong, but it would make a lot of what's going wrong a lot more fixable.
David from Duval:
So you're saying Gus believes they can make second-half run? A run at what? The first pick in the draft? A run at hot dogs after the game if they go an entire quarter without a turnover, personal foul or special teams blunder? But seriously, though: Gus' perception of reality is way off.
John: What would you have him believe? What do you expect him to say?
James from Yulee, FL:
I am going to sound like a ol' timer (I'm 37). Sometimes a young man needs a swift kick in the rear end. God knows, a lot of young men don't get that enough these days. Bortles needs it. He's freakin' begging for it. I understand not all will respond to it. I get it. It's worth the shot.
John: OK, so you bench Blake Bortles for a game, or yell at him … is that going to cause him to throw more accurately when Allen Hurns is running open? Is it going to cause him to see a linebacker in Kansas City? It's not that Borles isn't caring, or preparing, or trying. Maybe he's capable of playing better or maybe he isn't, but kicking him in the rear end isn't the cure all.
Louie from Jacksonville:
As much as I want Gus and Dave fired, it's the players, too. It has been hard to see how bad Blake is playing this year. Do you see the Jags making a quarterback change when the season is over??
John: This is impossible to answer without knowing the future. I don't get the idea the Jaguars right now are ready to move on from Blake Bortles. How he plays in the final seven games and what – if any changes – occur after that could change that idea.
TJ from Orlando, FL:
Just got back from a relaxing weekend in the woods. I assume nothing's changed.
John: Nope.

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