Adapt or die. This can be applied in evolution on earth, and also in the evolution of sports. As we continue to play and consume sports on a constant basis, we also continue to learn more and more about the games, and how we can improve the rules, strategies, and look for every way to gain even the slightest advantage.
Football represents this more than almost any sport. The evolution of football is incredible. Great minds have changed the way the game has been played. Just look at the inception of the sport, hell even just 20 years ago, and you can see how much has changed. The NFL is constantly evolving, and will leave anyone behind in the dust if they don't adjust.
One trend that I have noticed in football, and also in baseball and basketball, is that versatility is more valuable then ever.
For many years, in not just football, we assigned specific positions to players, and that label followed them forever. This person is a running back, this person is a 4-3 defensive end, but this other guy is a 3-4 outside linebacker.
We did this because it made sense in our heads. Positions are created for structure, but also so novices can follow and learn the game. It becomes easier to understand the game when you are told quarterbacks throw the ball, and defensive linemen try to sack the quarterback.
Even to this day when watching and evaluating players, we assign them specific positions in our head. It just makes sense logically to do so. It makes sense when someone writes a depth chart on paper.
However, many players have been overlooked in their careers because they didn't match the prototype of what we think a position should be. Just look at recent examples. Russell Wilson was not tall enough to play quarterback at high level. Jamal Charles wasn't big enough to run between the tackles. Anquan Boldin wasn't fast enough to play receiver.
Many times we overthink these things, and focus on certain parts of what a player can't do or control, instead of what they can. They don't match what we are looking for exactly, so it scares us.
Good teams focus on what players can do, and aren't afraid to experiment to see what combinations on the field will work, and won't work. They aren't afraid to be innovative, and use certain players in unusual situations.
Look no further than the Arizona Cardinals and Bruce Arians, who are one of the most innovative teams in football.
Deone Bucannon is the epitome of this, as his rise to prominence is having many NFL teams looking for the next him. Bucannon plays a hybrid safety-linebacker role for the Cardinals, in which he plays some safety on 1st and 2nd down, but moves to linebacker on passing situations, or late game scenarios. Bucannon has thrived in this role, giving the Cardinals tremendous athleticism in the middle of the field on third downs, and essentially a 6th or 7th defensive back to help contain mismatches. Many teams would have just pegged Bucannon as a safety, because his size fits the profile. But Arians saw more potential in him than that, and found a way to use his skillset to their advantage.
Tyrann Mathiu is another example of Arians willingness to be creative. Mathieu is supremely talented, but I'm not sure any coach in the NFL could get more out of him than Arians has. Mathieu will line up all over the field as a single high safety, in the slot as a corner, or even toward the line of scrimmage. They ask Mathieu to do a lot, and they don't worry about whether it not it will be too much for him, because they trust his talent will over come a few mental errors.
The Cardinals also find ways to create pressure on defense. Even without a true dominant pass rusher the last few years, the Cardinals have still found ways to get the quarterback. They have blitzed the most of any team the last 3 seasons, mixing exotic blitzes with 4 man rushes, to keep the offense and the quarterback always guessing.
I say all of this about the Cardinals, because it is exactly what the Jaguars have lacked during the Gus Bradley era.
I'm a big believer in getting your best 11 guys on the field. If they fit isn't perfect, who cares? Talent wins in the NFL, and the Jags have sure found this out over the last few years.
When you take a look at Myles Jack situation, it puzzles people for many reasons. Jack's big thing coming out of college was that he was extremely versatile, and that he could play any linebacker position, hell, even safety. Yet, the Jags seem very content on keeping him just at back up middle linebacker.
The coaching staff continues to harp that Paul Posluszny is playing well, yet even the average Jaguars fan can tell that is not the case.
It would make sense if there were these talented players in front of Jack, but there simply aren't. Poz and Dan Skuta, who is probably a below replacement level player, are what stand in the way of Jack getting even some snaps on defense.
Sure, maybe Jack has not mastered the defense yet. He is indeed only a rookie. But even at that limitation, there is no way that Jack couldn't make a better contribution than Poz, or at least Skuta.
As I went back and watched the game against the Chargers, I couldn't help but think to myself "I wonder how Bruce Arians would use Myles Jack is he were coaching this team". Maybe Jack would start at strong side linebacker, than on third downs move to middle linebacker just like Bucannon does, and give the Jags more speed and versatility on third down.
Then I thought about how Arians would use Ramsey, move him on the outside some plays, and the slot the next. How Fowler could be move inside some plays, where he excelled in college.
Gus Bradley is an inside the box type coach. Whether it is because he is just naturally conservative, or he is just to naïve to understand, it is part of the reason why he has a 12-38 record as head coach.
Alfie has talked several times about the fact that Bradley took the cover 3 concept from his time in Seattle as defensive coordinator. Yet, he has failed to adapt it all like Pete Carroll did after he left.
The Jaguars just simply lack creativity, and that comes down to the coaching staff. They wanted to get better and more athletic on third downs. Yet they don't use their Jack of all trades (Pun intended). They want to put more pressure on the quarterback, yet they rarely ever blitz.
Bradley has not adjusted the style in which this team plays since he has been here. That is why the Todd Wash hiring frustrated so many people, because a hiring from within means nothing was going to change. And nothing really did.
Adapt or die.
Football is always evolving, and if you don't move with it you can end up on the bottom looking up for a long time. The Jaguars are still on the bottom looking up, and that won't change until their mentality does.