Let's get to it . . .
Brian from Fleming Island, FL:
If Mularkey's a fan of the Chuck Noll approach, whose approach does Shad favor?
John: Good question, and the best answer is probably that Jaguars Owner Shad Khan is still learning what he favors. He said last offseason during the head coaching search that he’s not necessarily about the headline-grabbing names in terms of a head coach, and that he believes instead in allowing a coach to build something of his own rather than hiring a coach who has won somewhere else. History suggests that’s the best way to success, because while “name” coaches thrill the fan base, more often than not they don’t match the success in Stop 2 as they had in Stop 1. Khan is still in the relatively early stages of ownership – 10 months is a blink of an eye in terms of NFL experience – and likely still studying and surveying the NFL landscape. I’d imagine over time he’ll figure out a clearer picture of what he favors, and that over time we’ll all learn more about that picture.
Houston from Aiken, SC:
It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and were wearing sunglasses.
John: And fedoras. Never, ever forget the fedora.
Aaron from Jacksonville:
For the remainder of the season, I see five games we should have a decent chance of winning (all except Texans and Patriots). Any chance we end the season 6-10?
John: Sure, there’s a chance. I can’t in good conscience say I believe the Jaguars will win five of seven games, though. To think that would be to assume things are going to happen in the final seven games that haven’t happened yet. To think that would be to assume the Jaguars will start making plays at critical times, and will start doing the routine things they haven’t done. If the Jaguars do those things, and get momentum turned and start believing in themselves, then sure, they can win five of seven. This team has had a chance in enough games that that’s plausible.
Jim from Jacksonville:
I'm not sure fans adequately understand the severity of injury required to keep an NFL player off the field. NFL players are often listed as "probable" for playing a violent, physical game with crazy things like torn cartilage in their ribs. I tore some cartilage in my ribs once, and I was, at best, "probable" for breathing deeply and "questionable" for getting out of bed in less than five minutes. These guys aren't milking injuries. The fact that they get up and come back the next day is impressive in and of itself.
John: You’re right that most players play through pain that many people can only imagine – or more accurately, that they can’t imagine. It’s a warrior’s game at its core, and it is usually played with a warrior’s mentality. I’ve always believed that television contributes to the phenomenon of which you speak. Watching games on television makes players seem smaller, and masks the sound of the game. Stand on an NFL sideline and see these men collide and – more strikingly – listen to them collide and you understand the violence of the game. And to your point, you’re right: for the most part, players do not “milk” injuries; a far bigger problem is players playing through injuries when they probably shouldn’t.
Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I can't say I believe MJD is milking his injury, but to suggest that it's an outlandish possibility is a little naive. We are just a few short months removed from him proving he's not the selfless, team player we all thought he was. It was certainly his right to make the decision he did, but there are consequences to actions like that.
John: There is a huge difference between holding out for a contract and “milking” an injury. Whatever your stance on Jones-Drew’s holdout you have to give him credit for being honest and up front about the situation. To suggest he is milking an injury is to suggest he’s lying and that he lacks pride in what he does, which would not only be a disservice to the team but would go against the entire body of work he has turned in in the NFL. I’ll say what I said on this Tuesday: with Jones-Drew’s record of service, longevity and playing through injury, he doesn’t deserve to have his injury questioned. He just doesn’t.
Eric from Tampa, FL:
Longtime Jag fan going to my first game in Jacksonville December 9. Can I bunk with you? Also what do you recommend I do when I’m up there, and favorite restaurant around the stadium? Thanks.
John: More than anything else, I recommend you not bunk with me.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
Diehard Jaguars fans have been patient long enough. Someone has to pay for wasting our hard-earned money watching this abysmal display of football. It has been "zero fun" watching the Jaguars play this season. Someone is responsible for this train wreck of a season. You have excused Gene Smith, Mike Mularkey, assistant coaches, and even players. Who is to blame for this mess? I want the perpetrator responsible for this crime against the fans held responsible. Anything less would not be justice. John, who is to blame?
Keith, I get the need to blame. I read emails from people every day wanting desperately to blame someone, anyone. When you’re 1-8, that’s the nature of things. It would be terrific if there was one answer. It would easy if you could say, “It’s all Gene Smith,” or it’s, “All Blaine Gabbert
,” or, “It’s all Tony Boselli.” I’d particularly love to blame Boselli, but that’s another issue. The reality in the NFL is that when things go this wrong – wrong enough to be 1-8 – it’s rarely one play, one person or even one philosophy. It’s often a collection of mistakes, misfortune and decisions gone wrong. It’s one position being down and that causing another not to look good, then it’s an injury making things a little worse. It’s losing the opener when you could have won and losing another game in overtime, then all of a sudden losing a few too many where one bad thing going wrong gives you a feeling of, “Here we go again.” That’s a frustrating answer, because we live an age where people want a reason and want it now. What I can tell you is that while Shad Khan has said he doesn’t want to make a quick-trigger decision on changes, that shouldn’t be taken to mean he will stand pat and not make changes forever. It’s a results-driven business and if the Jaguars’ results don’t improve, Khan will make decisions and if he believes moves need to be made, he will make them.
Jody from Fort Pierce, FL:
I was just watching Gabbert's college highlights and rookie highlights and noticed he has improved a lot since then in some areas. I still think he needs a line to stand behind to be able to improve more. Or at the least trust the line he stands behind. Too often he is stuck with a cluster around him; I'd like to see him get a more consistent clean pocket. Do you see this happening this year?
John: I know a lot of people will be watching for it – a lot of people. Watching Gabbert this season, it has become more and more evident that pocket presence may be the biggest area that needs developing. When you say that there’s an immediate reaction of, “See, he’s scared in the pocket!!!!!” That’s not that. Gabbert isn’t chucking and ducking, and if you watch him and objectively watch other NFL quarterbacks, you see that he really doesn’t protect himself or duck away from hits much more or less than any other quarterbacks. What it seems Gabbert needs to improve on the most is that ability to step forward, or slide a bit in the pocket, to allow plays to develop. When you watched Andrew Luck the other night it was notable that he does this as a rookie on a level comparable to far more experienced, savvy veterans. Gabbert showed some signs of that against Green Bay, and hasn’t shown it as much in the games since. One theory is that coming from a spread offense in college he didn’t get a tremendous amount of experience in the pocket, and that’s a theory that makes a lot of sense. Feel for the pocket is very much an experience thing, and that’s a big reason you’d like to see Gabbert stay healthy and get the chance to improve in that area in the final seven games.
Stan from Jacksonville:
What would you do this off season if you were Shad?
John: I’d give that devilishly handsome senior writer a very big undeserved raise. I also might travel. Traveling’s fun. Really fun. It’s particularly fun when you own the plane.