Let's get to it . . . Daniel from Section 146 Since Day One:
I grew up watching NFL football like most serious fans. I can't believe how many people (media & fans) have declared Gabbert a lost cause. Didn't every serious football aficionado get exactly what was expected last year from Blaine? I saw lots of inexperience and lots of raw talent. Inexperience goes away, but talent doesn't grow. I saw fumbled snaps and dozens of dropped passes. Without any plans or expectations to be the starter, and without a real training camp? How is it possible that so many people can believe that a 22-year-old kid is a failure? I'm betting Blaine's going to be pretty good this year and has the potential to be really good very soon. And that's based on watching him play every snap last year.
John: We live in a world of snap judgments and in a world in which it's more vogue to criticize than it is to have hope and patience. The vast majority of fans writing to the O-Zone last training camp wanted the Jaguars to give Gabbert a chance to start last year, and in the same breath, the vast majority added that they didn't mind growing pains that first year, that the important thing was to gain experience. Well, guess what? What they got was growing pains and a lot of people didn't like that. I'll continue to say what I've said on Gabbert throughout the off-season. Now is when we get a chance to start seeing what he can do. People will moan and groan over that response, and say, "Well, he had his rookie year. When does the free pass stop?" I guess it stops when it stops. What you want to see beginning early this season is progress. You want to see improvement. You want to see a quarterback starting to figure things out and you want to see the offense functioning. You want to see that he's working within the framework of what's going on. You're not going to see perfection, and you're going see mistakes. But if you see progress, and see a young player responding to coaching, then you're seeing what the Jaguars want to see.
Trey from Rincon, PR:
Hey John, what's the status of D'Anthony Smith, and do the coaches expect him to contribute this season?
John: Sometimes, I wonder why I try.
Chris from Section 232:
Ding, ding, ding. Thank you, John. Winning is what matters and in a time when it was very, very hard to throw the football, Otto Graham won six straight championships. Not many people bring him up when talking about the greatest quarterbacks ever, it's almost like pre-Super Bowl-era doesn't matter...what's up with that? I also happen to think Bill Russell is more valuable than Michael Jordan, but that's just me.
John: Winning matters and it has to be factored in. That's why I mention Graham. At the same time, football is a team game, so championships have to be kept in perspective. I've said before I put a lot of stock in a quarterback's ability to get his team to the postseason every season and give his team an opportunity to win, and not so much in the number of Super Bowl rings. I use Tom Brady as an argument there. I think most people would tell you that Brady has been a better quarterback in the last four or five years than he was from, say, 2001-2005. Yet, the argument you hear most often for Brady as great is about his Super Bowl rings. He got all of those from 2001-2004. Has he gotten worse? Is he less of a winner now? No, his defenses aren't as good and he has run into the Giants in the Super Bowl twice. Get your team there every year and give the franchise a chance to win. That's the mark of a great quarterback.
Jimmy from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on Luke Kuechly? The more I focus on BAP, I realize that he may the the BAP if we can't trade back. Agree?
John: He was a productive player people like coming out of Boston College. As far as BAP, position value is a factor there and a player has to be awfully special to be the best available player in the Top 10 playing linebacker.
Milton from Los Angeles, CA:
I don't know how you do it, making Love outta nothi'n at all.
John: I like the part at 1:41 where the band's just "jamming" on the plane.
Mike from Kissimmee, FL:
I think the Evening with the Coaches film really showed just how good Tyson Alualu is. On every play they showed he was getting double teamed and still was able to disrupt running plays. Same goes with Terrance Knighton. It is so impressive how just two guys in the middle of the line can disrupt an entire play, making it easier for the linebackers. The Jaguars have something special with the combination of Knighton and Alualu. I don't understand how anyone could question Gene about picking Alualu at 10. Kid is a stud.
John: I understand how it could be questioned. If you're not paying really close attention, it's easy to question because those not paying really close attention see the mania around Tim Tebow and associate him with the Jaguars selecting Alualu. That's an issue of perception and perception doesn't always fit with the right football decisions. Alualu also plays a position – defensive tackle – that's not stats-oriented and where playing at a high level doesn't lend itself to sexy highlights and therefore isn't usually broken down on NFL Live. That's OK. Not everything in life has to get broken down on NFL Live, and what's impressive about Alualu is he doesn't seem bothered by people wondering why he was drafted where he was. He's as self-confident and unassuming a player as there is in the Jaguars locker room. He's a professional who's here to do a job and that's what the Jaguars want from him.
Richard from Jacksonville:
I hear everyone talk about the wide receiver position and leave out MSW. Where does he fit in the team's plans?
John: Right now, he doesn't. Mike Sims-Walker isn't on the roster.
Scott from Harlem, NY:
What sort of changes are taking place with the remodeling of the locker room and other facilities? Any chance they are going to give the O-man an updated office with a smart board and magnetic wallpaper?
John: They've remodeled the weight room, and they're in the process of doing the same to the locker room. They've touched up the cafeteria with one of the highlights there being the addition of flat-screen televisions. As for my office, no upgrades yet. The key still works, the cot still unfolds and as long as those two things are true, I'm happy – comparatively speaking, anyway.
Chris from Section 102:
Why do you think the Jags have been unable to find a decent receiver since Jimmy Smith retired? They have drafted two wide receivers in the first round, drafted players in the late rounds, traded for receivers and signed free agents, and un-drafted free agents. Why can't they find somebody? Is it bad talent evaluation or just bad luck?
John: I don't know exactly what went into some of the decisions in the 2000s with Matt Jones and Reggie Williams and the like. Clearly, the team was trying to get strong at the position and it didn't work out. I do know that receiver is a hard position to evaluate, and it's very much a feast-or-famine deal when selecting them in the first round. I can speak to what I understand of the Jaguars' building process under Gene Smith and how it relates to the receiver position. The team under Smith has tried to build from the inside out with the understanding that you can't add first-round, high-priced free-agent talent at every position every year. Until now under Smith, receiver hasn't been an area where the Jaguars have spent big equity – i.e., early draft selections or big free-agent money. Instead, that equity has been spent building other areas of the team. The Jaguars already signed Laurent Robinson this off-season and I'd expect a receiver in the first two days of the draft. We'll see if that approach changes the success rate.
Ken from Jacksonville:
Austen Lane, DE of the future.
John: You know what? That's an intriguing storyline for next season. I'm looking forward to catching up with Lane soon. If he can progress this off-season as he seemed to do early in his career he could be a contributor.
Jordan from Lincoln, NE:
People need to look back when Gene Smith took control of this team. Remember the constant roster moves literally week after week just to scrape together a somewhat competitive team? Now we have a couple of defensive tackles you wouldn't trade for a first-round pick, solid safeties, deep corners, and an offensive line that appears to be moving in a very positive direction. It didn't take that long for him to accomplish that and now we just need to wait and see if Gabbert is the quarterback Smith thinks he is. If his past draft selections are any indicator, Gabbert is gonna be that quarterback.
John: The team also has a linebacker corps that is one of the NFL's best. You're right that the roster is much more stable in some spots, and also right that the development of the quarterback remains the key. The critical thing many observers fail to grasp is that the building of an NFL roster is not a one-season, snap-your-fingers process and that there will be misses and hits along the way. There was a feeling when Smith took over that it would take five years to build a contending, deep, solid roster. That time frame takes into account that players don't always play to their maximum ability as rookies. This next season will be the fourth season, so we're coming up on the time at which the process can be accurately judged.
Gary from Broken Arrow, OK:
Your laziness knows no bounds. I admire that. That was tough, I think I'll take a nap now.
John: It's a lot of work being this lazy.
A lot of work being like this
Let's get to it . . . Daniel from Section 146 Since Day One: