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O-Zone: A key question

Posted Nov 5, 2013

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it . . .

Ryan from Valdosta, GA:
When Gene Smith was the Jaguars’ general manager, fans complained about him only picking team captains and high-character guys. Fans said, “You can't build a football team that way. Take a chance.” So, he takes a chance on Blackmon, who clearly has the talent, and now he's an idiot for taking a chance. Gene didn't do a good job as GM, but our fans just want something else to complain about. I for one think the future looks bright although that is three years down the road.
John: You indeed have touched on a conflict point among fans, and a dilemma for general managers. Fans want general managers to pick players based almost solely on talent, then will quickly wonder how the general manager didn’t see problems coming if the player gets into trouble. That’s OK. That’s why general managers have difficult jobs and it’s why they get paid a lot of money to do those jobs. And the Blackmon situation indeed illustrates the problem with talented, troubled players, and why coaches like to say the best ability is availability. It’s great to have a talented player – and Blackmon may be the Jaguars’ most talented player – but if that talent isn’t on the field it does no good. The trick to being a successful general manager is finding the right balance – and being fortunate enough to find talented players who stay on the field.
Don from Richmond, KY:
Halfway through the season, how does it look like the Jags will fare in terms of picking up compensatory picks in the 2014 draft?
John: This answer by necessity will be vague, because the NFL doesn’t let much be known about the formula for compensatory selections. The Jaguars figure to get some level of compensatory selection for the loss of cornerback Derek Cox and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, but it’s probably not going to be incredibly high. Players such as linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Rashean Mathis were signed by their new teams too late in the process to figure favorably in the Jaguars’ compensatory formula.
Chris from Mandarin:
If you truly believe that what you write is right and justified, then you should care whether people believe you or trust your motives and value your integrity as a writer. That's just common sense, but hey if you don't care...
John: I do believe what I write, Chris. I also have written long enough to know there are people who won’t believe you or trust your motives or value your integrity as a writer no matter how truthful your words or intention. I also have written long enough to know there are people who will twist your point and pick apart anything you write simply for the sake of being argumentative. I don’t have any specific examples right now, but if I think of any, I’ll let you know.
David from Geneva:
When will the Jaguars have continuity again? It's disappointing to see so many former Jaguars starting for other teams. It seems they were guilty of being drafted by a different general manager...
John: The Jaguars did let some players go this past offseason who are now starting for other teams. That’s what happens when you “blow things up.” When you start over, some of those players fans wanted gone start for other teams for a while.
Ryan from Clyde, OH:
Hypothetically, let's say an NFL team had Picks 1-53 in a draft, and had a team full of rookies. How would that said team fair in the NFL?
John: In Year One, not as well as you might think. That’s because it takes time for players to adjust to the NFL, and time to build continuity as a team. If that team could stay together for two or three years, and if there was a good quarterback in the draft class, it probably would eventually be pretty good.
Jeremy from Andover, KS:
The problem fans have is not the approach of building through the draft; it's the wait to find out whether or not Caldwell and Bradley are the right guys for the job. We all learned when Gene Smith took over that we must build through the draft. Unfortunately, that didn't work out because the players drafted by Smith didn't pan out. Now, we are all waiting to see if Caldwell can draft players that can be long-term starters, pro-bowlers, etc. That has yet to be seen. So, there is no consolation is telling us that Caldwell and Bradley will be around long-term until we see that they are the right people to be around long-term. Until then, frustration is a very fair response from fans with the fear being that we get two-or-three years into thisrebuilding and find out that Caldwell, Bradley or both are not the answer.
John: What you have described is the frustration of fans of every team that must rebuild. You hire people and trust them to do the job. Then, you wait for the results. Sports are competition and are not fixed and therefore have an uncertain end. If you want certain, watch scripted television.
Eric from Boston, MA:
Can you give us your own personal mid-season evaluation on the following players? Austin Pasztor, Josh Evans, Mike Brown.
John: Pasztor has played much better than anyone expected – well enough that he has a chance to show over the final eight games that he could be a starting tackle for at least a few years. Evans has struggled at times in the first half of the season, but has shown enough ability and instincts that you have to think he can be a quality starting safety. Brown has been better than most people thought, and better than I expected. I don’t know that he’s ever going to be a front-line starting wide receiver, but can he be a contributing part of a good receiving corps? Yeah, that’s possible.
John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I lived in St. Louis when the football Cardinals moved to Arizona and the fan sentiment leading up to the move was apathy and not anger. Anger means that the fans still care, and that is what I sense about your inbox and Jaguar fans in general. The job of the Jaguars is to starting winning before the mood of the fans turns to apathy. Right now it looks like a close race. Your thoughts?
John: The job of a professional sports team always is to win. As for apathy, I don’t see it. There is a hardcore group of Jaguars fans – the fans who are at the stadium no matter what – who care about this team passionately. I also believe there are a substantial number of fans who are frustrated and just waiting for this team to show tangible signs of improvement. When the Jaguars show that, football followers everywhere will see what those close to the team already know – that the interest in this team is intense and real. But you have to win. The Jaguars haven’t done that enough lately, but there is never a doubt that that’s the job.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
Can you give us a ballpark figure on how many good draft classes (good solid class, not great, not historical) it would take a given team to go from the bottom of the barrel to competitive? By my estimation it would be somewhere between three-to-fivedepending on how good the class is and if free agents end up filling key holes. What say you?
John: Three is about right, but the time gets shorter or longer depending on the quarterback.
Matt from Section 133:
Some scores from Sunday: 34-10, 49-20, 55-31. The NFL has become college football. Am I the only one who is completely turned off by the rampant offense the league has fostered? I have zero desire to watch what amounts to a few guys tossing the ball back and forth down the field. Why has pro football become this?
John: I’ve written before that I’ve changed my slant on this a bit, and I’ve changed it a bit more this year. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and it has ascended to a place of dominance in professional sports that I couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago. A lot of that ascension is because of quarterbacks. At the same time, it’s not a coincidence that both Peyton Manning and Nick Foles have set records for touchdowns in a game when no one had thrown so many in a game in nearly four decades. It’s also no coincidence that good quarterbacks are putting up numbers that would have boggled the mind even a decade ago. The rules changes have gone to an extreme that most defenses can’t stop good quarterbacks, and something does need to be done to at least stem the tide a bit.
Matt from Jacksonville:
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Khan at the UGA/UF game on Saturday. He was very thankful to hear that he had our support as fans and season-ticket holders. He was very personable, engaging, and definitely wants to build a winner here in Jacksonville. The man has a vision and appears that he will stick to that. We are very fortunate to have him as our owner. Good things will come.
John: Yes, but more importantly, did you tell him I said, “Hey?”

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