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Three magic words

Posted Jan 21, 2013

MOBILE, Ala. -- Let's get to it . . .

Richard from Atlantic Beach, FL:
The speed with which Gus Bradley filled his two most important coordinator positions indicates two things to me. First, he plans ahead. Second, Jacksonville is not the end of the football world. If Jacksonville was such a bad franchise as some of your contributors believe, no one would risk their careers coming here. Agree??
John: Of course – on both accounts. Remember, NFL coaches spend their lives doing this and along the way, they meet people and plan scenarios in the event they become a head coach. Most head coaching candidates have a ready list of people they would consider should they become a head coach. Because potential assistants often work under unbreakable contracts, most coaches have a list several deep in case they must hire a second or third choice. It is necessary to act fast, because quality candidates get hired quickly – and because you want to get the staff in place and get started. Now, as for Jacksonville not being the end of the football world – of course, it’s not. It never has been. It's easy for outsiders to look at the record the past two years and the market size and determine that you can’t win in Jacksonville. It’s an absurd notion, one not based in reality. This is professional football. You have an equal chance to win anywhere.
Shawn from Honolulu, HI:
Aloha, Big J. Wasn't sure about Jedd Fisch, so I looked him up on YouTube. Hearing him speak about always attacking, speed, and kicking the defense in the mouth – now, that is Jaguars football and the linemen best not slack off or the Oklahoma will be back. Totally stoked for next year already.
John: You had me until, “Oklahoma.” I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Darrel from Pensacola, FL:
What's the next move? Are we looking at getting another quarterback? Are the two we have enough? I say we dump one and grab an Alex Smith, Vick, Tebow, or anybody proven better that Gabbert. And if someone says we can work with Gabbert, I counter with we can work with Tebow as well. But the GM has already shot that duck out of the air.
John: The next few weeks should reveal a lot more about the Jaguars’ plans in that area. I expect Gabbert to be part of a competition, and whether they grab anyone from another team will depend on who’s available at what cost for a trade. As for working with Gabbert, he’s under contract and a Top 10 selection has been invested in him. It’s quite possible the team will work with him. Finally, in reference to Caldwell shooting the duck out of the air . . . yep, he has.
Bob from Jacksonville:
In your brief time with him, do you think Caldwell is a needs drafter, or best player available? We definitely have a lot of needs, but we also need talent.
John: I’d expect Caldwell to do what most general managers do, and that’s use a reasonable version of Best Available Player. Draft best available player, but if the grades are close or in the same clustered area, then you reasonable pick players in areas of need. You don’t have to get handcuffed into a hard-fast philosophy. You’re building a team and there’s no cookie-cutter way to do that.
Jeff from Zumbrota, MN:
Zumbrota, John. Not Zumbotra, Zumbrota. But if it makes you happy, you can still say it by trilling the R.
John: Ah yes. Zumbrrrrrrrrrrrotttta!!!! Tyyyyyyyyyyyyyypppooooooo!!!!!!
Ivan from Jacksonville:
Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy don’t seem to be fiery coaches. Something they had in common was a great quarterback. You find great head coaches where you find great quarterbacks – not where you find certain personality traits.
John: That’s true to a point. It’s extremely difficult for even the best head coaches to have the sustained runs of success Belichick and Dungy had without a great quarterback. Belichick won nothing until Tom Brady became his quarterback, and once that happened, the Patriots have had an incredible run of success. The Buccaneers were a perennial playoff team under Dungy, but it wasn’t until he got to Indianapolis and Peyton Manning that he got to championship games and eventually a Super Bowl. Coaches can build teams into playoff contenders, but other than Joe Gibbs, just about all have needed a great quarterback to become a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Steven from Orange Park, FL:
Hey John, I just want to start with thank you. I work third shift at my job and I get to be locked inside of a building by myself for eight hours. So thank you for keeping me sane. What is your honest first impression of the new coordinators? What does your gut feeling tell you about them? My guts tell me to be cautiously optimistic.
John: Honestly, I think you always have to be cautiously optimistic when considering a new coaching staff, or even a new regime. That’s because the NFL is a difficult league in which even capable people sometimes fail. That’s because coaches and regimes depend on human beings to develop and perform, and there’s always uncertainty in that. When putting together people to run a football team, you hire the best people you can. That puts the percentages in your favor. As far as the coordinators, the hiring of Jedd Fisch and Bob Babich make sense. Gus Bradley knows each and likely long has had them in mind to be on a staff should he get a head job. Bradley believes in these people and if you trust the hire as head coach you need to trust his judgment putting together a staff.
Clay from Living in Raleigh, NC:
I'm very happy with the direction Khan is setting for the franchise. It will take a couple of years to flip this roster and purge the losing culture and lack of talent that has become entrenched with the Gene Smith era. There are some players that may be worth keeping, but it will not bother me in the least to see every one of them gone in a couple of seasons.
John: I wouldn’t bet on that. There certainly are players on the roster who will be part of the core going forward, and there likely are players who will surprise people by how well they play next season. When a season goes south as the 2012 season did, everything looks bad and often capable players don’t perform as well as they might with a higher-functioning team. I thought this past season DuJuan Harris was an example of this. He didn’t get much of an opportunity to play with the Jaguars and when he did play, he didn’t particularly stand out. Given a situation when other things were going well in Green Bay, he performed at a higher level. I think you’ll see that happen in unexpected spots on the Jaguars’ roster this season.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
There are rumors floating around that teams such as Arizona are interested in Jerry Sullivan. There are also rumors that the Jags want to keep him on staff. If Jerry wanted out would the Jags block a lateral move or is that regarded as somewhat disrespectful to him? Do you expect Sullivan to be back this season?
John: I’d expect to know a lot about the status of assistants such as Sullivan, linebackers coach Mark Duffner and defensive line coach Joe Cullen in the coming days. Bradley is working to put together a staff, and could very well consider those coaches in the interview process. Those three coaches are capable coaches who would be valued on many NFL staffs and it would make sense to retain them. I don’t know Sullivan’s plans, but if Sullivan truly wanted out and was adamant about it, I’d think Bradley would be reluctant to block him. You don’t want to have a guy on staff if he didn’t want to be here.
John from Jacksonville:
I have to admit that I was getting all excited about the direction of the franchise with the new GM and head coach. However, I was disappointed in how quickly the head coach hired his coordinators who are his "buds" rather than thinking through the search longer. What's the rush when you are trying to build something long term?
John: I keep getting this question, so while it’s repeating a thought from Sunday, it bears repeating. Coaches, like many, many people, want to work with people they’re comfortable with. In coaching, you also want to work with people who share your principles and philosophies. It makes perfect sense that Bradley would hire people with whom he has worked as coordinators. Also, don’t forget: you’re limited in the hiring of coordinators to people who aren’t already NFL coordinator and sometimes, to coaches not under contract with other teams. A coach has to make the hire with which he’s comfortable. Just because he has known him doesn’t make it a bad hire.
Armand from Jacksonville:
Meet me at Pete's bar at the beach I will buy and we can be friends.
John: You had me at “Pete’s.” You really had me at “I will buy.” After that, it doesn’t really matter if we’re friends or not.

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