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A fine line

Let's get to it . . . Al from Fruit Cove, FL:
It's often said the key to fan support is winning. Clearly, the Jags didn't do that this year, yet attendance was up significantly. There were (again) no blackouts locally, and the team drew better than one third of the teams in the league. Other than the excitement generated every day by the O-Zone, what do you attribute these impressive results to?
John: First, the Jaguars have a loyal, passionate fan base. Second, there was an energy last offseason with the change in ownership, change in coaching staff and addition of Justin Blackmon that helped. Third, those in charge of ticket sales and fan experience – a group headed by President Mark Lamping and Senior Vice President of Fan Experience Hussain Naqi – did a great job in the area. Fourth, there were popular teams such as the Bears, Patriots and Jets on the schedule. All of those factors helped, but as I said at the beginning, this is a loyal, passionate fan base regardless of what most outside Jacksonville believe.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I'm not a Tebow die-hard, and I think there would certainly be some kinks to work out if he was our quarterback. But, the thing people overlook when bashing his passing is that when he was in Denver, the Broncos led the league in rushing. Tebow in the backfield with a healthy MJD could be a deadly tandem. You pair that with our two emerging receivers and I think there is some potential in that offense. What say you?
John: For the short-term, yes, I believe Tebow could package with a healthy Jones-Drew and improve the Jaguars running game. I don't know how long it's reasonable to expect Tebow to be an effective running quarterback, though. That approach often leaves a player prone to injuries and thereby reduced effectiveness. The concern some could have, too, is the two young receivers. Tebow struggled much of last season as a passer, so you could make the argument that the receivers – Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon – might not be as effective with Tebow as they were this season. If Tebow improves as a passer, obviously that would be different.
Shawn from Jacksonville:
Mr. O, besides J.Blackmon and CSIII, can you give us some insight on what players jobs are secure moving forward?
John: I wouldn't say this list is comprehensive, because with a roster of 53 players, you've got to figure something close to at least half would return even if the general manager didn't consider the players part of the core. As you say, Shorts and Blackmon would seem to figure into the future, as well as Maurice Jones-Drew, Eugene Monroe, Jason Babin, Will Rackley, Uche Nwaneri, Cameron Bradfield, Marcedes Lewis, Tyson Alualu, Jeremy Mincey, Paul Posluszny, Bryan Anger, Josh Scobee, Dwight Lowery, Russell Allen and Dawan Landry, as well as likely Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. There are certainly others who likely will be on the roster next season, but those are front-line players who you figure at least fit into the short-term future. Now, will those players play the same roles? Who knows? All of that said, there's no general manager, and until there is, there are as many unknowns as knowns.
Scott from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Do you think the Jaguars will draft a quarterback in the second or later rounds or will they sign a free agent to compete?
John: Yes.
Jason from Orange Park, FL:
What are your thoughts on the report coming from the Times-Union that Mike Mularkey was not well-liked within the Jaguars locker room?
John: My thoughts are that's the sort of thing that happens and gets said when you're 2-14. Not everyone likes everyone. As hard as it is to believe, there people who don't like me – think that. In the offseason, you heard how much players like Mularkey. A 2-14 season is a disappointing, long season, and human nature is by the end there are a lot of irritated people ticked off and looking for reasons. Were some players irritated with the coaches by then? Perhaps. Were some coaches irritated with players? Perhaps. Life at 2-14 can be, well, irritating.
Scott from Chelsea, NY:
With so many "potential" starters for other teams entering free agency, can you refresh us on the rules for compensatory draft picks? I know they are somewhat complicated. Cox, Mathis, Knighton all strike me at the type of players that may be able to garner respectable compensatory selections should the Jags choose to not resign them.
John: They are complicated because there aren't really hard, fast rules – compensatory selections are determined by the league office based on contracts and performance. Teams are issued compensatory selections in 2013 based on free agency in 2012, so the Jaguars wouldn't receive compensatory selections for the players you mention until next off-season. Basically how it works is that the league awards compensatory selections for the following draft based on the quality of players signed and the quality of players lost in free agency. So, if you sign as many players at a certain level as you lose, you're probably not going to get compensatory selections.
John from Savannah, GA:
When a new GM is hired, how far down will the changes go with regards to player personnel and scouting? I don't remember a lot of turnover when Smith took over but that's because IMO he worked his way up through the organization and had relationships with everyone already established.
John: The changes will depend on the general manager. He likely will have some of his own people in mind and likely also has relationships with some members of the Jaguars' staff as well. The scouting world is a very small one, as many scouts know one another from games, college practices and events such as the Senior Bowl. Also, there are often some scouts retained on a staff when a new general manager takes over to ensure continuity of information.
Duran from Rapid City, SD:
With players' jobs on the line when the new general manager gets here, how difficult is it going to be for the new general manager to determine where our biggest lack of talent is on this roster? With the season being over, is the majority of the evaluation done by watching game film? And what about injured players that don't have a lot of film time? Does the general manager just go off of Mike Mularkey's word? What if he brings in his own guy? What then? I'm excited, and extremely worried at the same time.
John: Worry not. Yes, film is involved and there also is practice film from the time the player joined the team. And don't forget: The new general manager, whoever that may be, likely will have scouted the majority of the players on the roster coming out of college. There is time for the evaluations that are necessary. It will be a process, but there will be time.
Chris from Columbus, GA:
I'm sorry, but I disagree with your assessment of the O-Line. They were atrocious this year. No quarterback can play behind a line that gives up multiple sacks a game. While I agree with you that our defensive front seven needs to be bolstered, I believe we need to address the interior O-Line and right tackle position as well. It starts with the trenches on both sides of the ball.
John: No need to apologize. I think the areas of the offensive line you mention could be addressed, but remember: it's difficult to overhaul a roster in one year and there may be areas that the team believes can improve without major overhaul. There's a chance offensive line could be such an area.
Daniel from Orange, TX:
Does nobody remember the game Gabbert was having before he got hurt in Oakland?
John: He probably does.
Ken from Jacksonville:
When someone is fired such as Gene Smith and the Jaguars honor his contract for the next two years, can they prevent him from taking a job with another organization? Obviously, they did not prevent JDR from taking a job with the Broncos, but could they have?
John: No. The way that works is a team hiring Gene Smith or any coach/general manager hires him, then the Jaguars must continue to pay any part of the salary that doesn't match the salary contracted with the Jaguars for the duration of the contract. Basically, if a general manager is making $1 million a year for the Jaguars and he is fired, then goes somewhere else and works as a scout for $100,000 a year, the new team pays him $100,000 and the Jaguars pay him $900,000.
Christian from Coconut Creek, FL:
I have read on two different websites / blogs that the Jags will have the first pick of the second round. I thought we had the second pick of the second round.
John: The Chiefs and Jaguars will swap the first and second selections of each round, with the Chiefs picking first in the first round, the Jaguars picking first in the second round and so on.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
Regarding Gene Smith, ESPN analyst Paul Kuharsky said "Smith loved character guys, team captains and straight arrows. That's hardly a bad thing, but it can be overemphasized. Sometimes it seemed he fell in love with storylines and potentials over actual talent, athleticism and football acumen." I would agree with his assessment and wondered if you thought there was any truth to the thought that character can be emphasized too much at the expense of true game changing talent?
John: Character is important, and there are those who agree with Kuharsky that perhaps the Jaguars overdid it on that front. There are also those who believed he picked too many players from small schools. There are those who believe he just got unlucky and didn't find the right quarterback. I don't know that if I was the general manager I would have eliminated quite so many players because of character as Smith did, but I also know a franchise can go awry very quickly with bad character guys causing distractions and missing games because of disciplinary issues. It's a fine line.

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