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View from the O-Zone: "A great foundation"


INDIANAPOLIS – The praise keeps rolling in.

That's right. When ambling around the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, it's actually remarkably easy to find people – respected, knowledgeable, sane football people – who believe in the Jaguars' direction.

Here, there and everywhere, the belief has been strong this week.

Over here was Bill Polian …

"They've got a great foundation; they're doing awfully well," Polian, Hall of Fame General Manager and six-time Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year, said Wednesday.

Over there was Adam Caplan …

"The patience should be applauded," the ESPN NFL Insider said.

And of course, there was Mike Mayock – the NFL Media Analyst who is as respected as any media type when it comes to football knowledge – on Tuesday saying this about the Jaguars:

"I think very quietly this team could be a playoff team next year."

Mayock also went out of his way to praise Jaguars Owner Shad Khan's patience with the current building process. We use the phrase "out of his way," because when I asked Mayock my question on a conference call Wednesday, I asked about the foundation General Manager Dave Caldwell was building.

It was Mayock who turned the question into an answer about the Jaguars' big-picture approach.

"First and foremost, at least from my perspective, I appreciate what Shad Khan has done," Mayock said. "That's where it starts, is with the owner."

Mayock went on discuss the lack of patience around the NFL, then praised the Jaguars' young offense. He concluded by saying, "I give the owner credit for keeping that GM and Head Coach [Gus Bradley] together and trying to build something from the inside out."

Polian echoed those thoughts Wednesday.

"It's very impressive," Polian said. "He [Khan] understands exactly where his team is, and what needed to be done. He's shown great patience and support and hopefully the results continue on the uptick as they did last year."

Now, know this:

None of this praise from NFL people such as Polian and Mayock – respected though they may be – guarantees anything. It doesn't guarantee the playoffs. Or a winning record.

Heck, it doesn't even guarantee a better record than last season.

And yes, we've heard positive things about the Jaguars' direction in recent years, and we're reaching the point where positive offseason talk is not enough.

The point in emphasizing things people say here this week is not to say the 5-11 record last season – a record that came on the heels of 4-12 and 3-13 – was OK.

It is to say that maybe – just maybe – what Khan did late last season and early this offseason wasn't lunacy. It is to say that maybe – just maybe – his decision to keep and extend Bradley and the coaching staff was the right move. It is to say that maybe – just maybe – the gargantuan building process that began in 2013 is still going in the right direction even if last season didn't produce the record many expected.

We've been over the details of the build and the arguments for and against "maintaining the course" on this website again and again – and there will be time for more of that later. Those who believe the Jaguars are doing things the right way believe results will come next season. Those who don't believe the Jaguars are doing things right … well, they're Jaguars fans, so they hope for success next season, but they don't believe it will work.

Never the twain shall meet – at least not until next season.

But to think it can't work, and to think that there's just no way what the Jaguars are doing can be right, that it was absolutely insane to keep moving in the direction …

No, that's not right. That's not true.

And people who have followed the league for years absolutely, positively believe the patience Khan has shown with this build – and the faith he showed in it earlier this offseason – was the right thing.

"It's too bad most teams aren't like that," Caplan said. "They [many franchises] want instant gratification. Here, it was a process. They overturned the roster pretty much completely. They've done a really good job of getting one side of the ball fixed and pointed in the right direction. Now, it's get the other side."

"They're building it the right way. I like the direction."

He's not alone. Plenty of respected, knowledgeable football people in Indianapolis will tell you the same thing. Are they right? Are they wrong?  What will the next chapter hold?

Time will tell.

But to hear sane football people in Indy tell it, it's absolutely too early to close the book.

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