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View from the O-Zone: Olson sets right tone


JACKSONVILLE – No words were minced.

The man now in charge of the Jaguars' offense spoke Wednesday, and when he did, his words weren't held back, couched, squeezed or anything else you can do to minimize a thought.

No, when new Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson spoke about his upcoming task during an appearance on LIVE Wednesday, he was as clear and upfront as possible.

What's the key? What has to happen for the Jaguars' offense to improve?

What has to happen for the team overall to improve?

To listen to Olson is to listen to the truth … and the truth is that the answer to one of those questions is the answer to them all.

The answer is all about the quarterback.

"Most importantly, we have to make sure what we're doing offensively is based upon the development and the strengths of Blake Bortles," Olson said.

Now, make no mistake:

Those words revealed no hidden mystery. Anyone watching the NFL knows the quarterback is key – and anyone half-watching the Jaguars knows every storyline for this franchise weaves back to Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

But there's something to be said about a clear, defining mission statement – about setting the right tone at the start of a venture – and Olson allowed us a glimpse of his Wednesday.

He nailed it. Big-time.

The Jaguars in coming seasons will go as Bortles goes. He must develop. He must show consistently what he showed in too-brief flashes as a rookie this past season. If it doesn't, you're talking about starting over at the quarterback position, and little bodes worse for an NFL franchise than that.

Olson, who was hired last week as offensive coordinator and who went through the process this week of finalizing his staff, was striking in his focus on Bortles Wednesday. He mentioned the Jaguars' playmakers at wide receiver. He mentioned the importance of the offensive line, and without question the offensive line and the running game are key for the offense. You can't struggle to run the way the Jaguars did last season – and you obviously can't allow 71 sacks – and hope to be competitive.

But all of those things can improve and without solid quarterback play you're only going to improve so much. And Olson said really, you need more than "solid."

"The teams in the playoffs are getting there for the most part based on the play of their quarterback and the development of their quarterback," Olson said. "We'll do whatever we can to develop Blake's strengths and play upon his strengths and the playmakers around him.

"That will be first and foremost in our minds."

Olson was right, of course. Playoff teams are quarterback-rich teams. The final two quarterbacks playing this season are Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. The final four were Wilson, Brady, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. The final eight: Wilson, Brady, Luck, Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton and Tony Romo. There are quarterbacks among those eight with flaws, but none of those eight teams has anything close to what you could call Quarterback Issues.

Anyone who has followed the Jaguars in recent seasons has seen what less-than-stellar quarterback play means. The importance of Bortles' development is obvious to anyone watching.

Former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch understood it, too, but somewhere last season he and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley had a parting of the ways on how to develop a young offense, and deep in that parting of the ways was the issue of developing Bortles.

Enter Olson.

The responsibility of developing Bortles is not his alone. The Jaguars this week hired Nathaniel Hackett – the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills the past two seasons – as quarterbacks coach, and Hackett will share the responsibility.

But Olson is at the forefront of the offense, the unit's CEO if you will. As much as Bradley wants this offense to run more effectively – and that's a huge offseason priority – the quarterback play must improve quickly and significantly.

There's a lot going on positive on this front. Bortles this week talked about the work he plans to do in California this offseason with Jaguars receivers. He plans to work to improve his fundamentals, too. Toward that end, he again will work former Jaguars backup quarterback Jordan Palmer, with whom he worked before the draft.

Soon after, Bortles, Olson and Hackett will begin working together. Under NFL rules, that can't happen until April, when the Jaguars' offseason program begins.

Bortles' development won't happen by magic just because those three share the same room. Bortles' work with Palmer is important and his work with the receivers will be important and the trust he'll work to develop with Olson and Hackett will be important … it's all part of a complicated mosaic that's about circumstance, focus, work and talent, more so than magic.

But magic or not, the formula is Olson's top priority. He knows it, and everyone else does, too.

There's no need to mince words about that.

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