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Deserving of equal scrutiny

Grrrr. Angry in-box. Last day of talking Browns before we move on. All right!

Let's get to it . . . Jimmy from Jacksonville:
You have to call time out on the last first down and take four shots at the end zone.
John: Normally, I agree, but the Jaguars are a running team and without the threat of a run there what they're doing is very obvious – and probably destined for failure. I am more of the belief that the Jaguars should have been at the line of scrimmage after Maurice Jones-Drew got the first down far more quickly and that if they had been, they would have had time to run four plays. Here's what I also find interesting: I have gotten a slew of emails in the last 24 hours about how the Jaguars needed to use their best player – Jones-Drew – on the goal line late in the game. I also have gotten just as many that the Jaguars should have taken the timeout with 30 seconds remaining so they could have four shots in the end zone. Having four shots into the end zone means throwing four times into the end zone – at the very least, three. These arguments seem by definition to contradict themselves.
Eduardo from Ponte Vedra, FL:
How many remarks did you get about the coaches losing that game, not the players?
John: Quite a few.
Bryce from Algona, IA:
I read this column every day and I feel you do a good job. That's what keeps me coming back. I am disappointed in hearing you make excuses for valid criticism. You said that we haven't played well in short-yardage this season as your justification to not run the ball at the end. Are you telling me that you would rather leave the game in the hands of your rookie quarterback and unproven wide receivers as opposed to your elite running back? Del Rio and Koetter are big boys who can defend themselves. Please don't use lame excuses to placate us fans.
John: I never said the criticism wasn't valid, and the coaches in this organization certainly don't need me to defend them. I just know there have been times this season when the Jaguars have struggled to get the ball in the end zone in short yardage – they are 28th in the NFL in that situation – just as there have been times they have failed when trying to pass. Without question Maurice Jones-Drew is the Jaguars' best player. But two plays before, a run by Jones-Drew did not produce a touchdown. Play-calling is always easy to criticize in retrospect. If Jones-Drew had run and not gotten in, the criticism would have been that the call was too predictable. Also, it's not as simple as saying, "Get the ball in the hands of your best player." You go with the play that gives you the best chance to win. Gabbert made the right read and had the ball in Jason Hill's chest on the first play. The pass to Thomas had a chance had Thomas ran a better rout and Gabbert made a better throw. The play calls weren't the issue. Not in that situation.
Biff from Jacksonville:
I am simply amazed at the need to scapegoat Jason Hill. While it was nice to see you qualify it as a "difficult catch" the simple fact is that Haden was pulling his left wrist making it a one-armed catch. This is not an excuse; it is a fact, a reason. I am not claiming Hill is an answer but the fan base needs to be a bit more honest in their placement of blame. Even in spite of that "drop" there were three seconds left and Gabbert failed to execute by throwing behind Thomas. Furthermore, Thomas failed to execute by stopping his route. If fans feel the need to grab at one play as "the" reason this team lost then it should be the final play and not the one before it. Or even better, blame them both.
John: I can certainly buy the argument that I emphasized too much the final play when discussing the loss Sunday. I would agree the execution of each of the last two plays left much to be desired, and all three players probably deserve equal scrutiny.
Jeff from Melbourne, FL:
Best showing for the offensive line this year?
John: I believe so. The offensive line has played far better than most people seemed to believe this season, and on Sunday, it not only run-blocked well but gave Gabbert plenty of time for the most part as well.
John from Jacksonville:
Are you not going to address Del Rio's comment that the offensive coordinator calls the plays? One of the lamest things I've ever heard a head coach say. At least respect your position.
John: Until this question, I hadn't been asked. Del Rio's stance Monday was reaction to what he said was overblown, and that he was simply telling the media that if it had specific questions about the play-calling it needed to ask Dirk Koetter. In that circumstance, it just sounded like bad form to bring the coordinator into it. Coaches typically would be best advised to not answer questions after the game with "talk to the coordinator." Whether intended or not, it gives the impression of not taking blame and in a post-game environment, the head coach rightly or wrongly always is to blame.
Alan from Pasadena, CA:
Gabbert looked better but I have major concerns over the deep ball to Hill in the beginning of the third. I know he had pressure but he curled up and tossed the ball instead of stepping into the throw and taking the hit. If he wants to be a leader he has to take the hit in order make the proper throw. What are your thoughts on that play?
John: I thought he should have stepped into the throw more. I get the impression he was upset with himself when he didn't do it. My overall impression of Gabbert is that this is an area on which he knows he must work and that he has gotten better in the area in recent weeks. Occasionally, there's going to be a step back. There's also the argument that a quarterback has to protect himself in that situation. You don't want to always leave yourself exposed to injury.
Tom from Jacksonville:
In the last two minutes, Marcedes caught a pass near midfield and ran or was pushed out of bounds, but the clock didn't stop. Why?
John: If officials ruled that forward momentum has stopped before the player goes out of bounds, the clock doesn't stop.
Silly Max from Tucson, AZ:
Two observations, John...I'm glad Steve from Woodbine doesn't have a front office or scouting position with the team, as Mathis was sorely missed on Sunday. Second, Jason Hill sure does like to catch the ball into his pads instead of with his hands. Could this be a new trend league-wide?
John: Mathis obviously was missed and mostly likely will continue to be. A starting-level corner is difficult to find in the NFL with reason. I don't think catching the ball into pads will be a trend in the NFL. I certainly hope not.
Joe from Aurora, IL:
I have no problem with throwing twice at the end of the game. If I had any say in the way those plays were run though, at least one of them would have been to my 6'6" Pro Bowl tight end.
John: Lewis said after the game he was bracketed on the final play, meaning the Browns made it impossible for Gabbert to throw in his direction. That makes sense. If there's a player you want to take away on the goal line, it would be the 6-6 tight end. I would have liked a throw to Lewis there and Lewis would have, too, but you can't force what's not there.
Hill from Northridge, CA:
In regards to your response about the Jaguars using their last time out, I still feel 30 seconds would be enough time to get four plays called with one being a run. I feel that, regardless, they should have passed on first down, but on second or third there's no reason they couldn't call two plays in the huddle and rush back to the line for the second (pass) play if the first (run) play didn't work. With that being said, I do also want to say that we have had three times now at least this season where it has been a one score game in the final minutes of the drive and we have gotten the ball back, and while we didn't score this time either, we moved the ball down the field better than we ever have this year during crunch time. We indeed did see progress, and all we can hope is that we continue to see more out of Blaine and the offense.
John: There was improvement. As far as the offense needing to be able to rush back to the line for a second play, you're right that that should be the case. Too often this season, it hasn't happened that way. That's a problem.
Adam from Jacksonville:
A friend of mine told me the Jaguars drafted the wrong QB due to recent "success" by other rookie QBs. I found this amazing because Newton, Ponder and Dalton threw four, three and three interceptions respectively Sunday. Gabbert makes smarter decisions, is younger and has far fewer receiving weapons.
John: I wouldn't put Gabbert ahead of the other rookie quarterbacks, but by the same token I do agree with you that Gabbert isn't as far behind as many believe. People are measuring success for the other quarterbacks in yards and to a lesser degree, touchdowns, and seem to ignore the interceptions. Honestly, I haven't spent much time doing a statistical comparison. I know Gabbert has a lot of progress to make and it seemed to me Sunday at times he was making some. He seems to have an awareness of what he needs to improve and I see steps being taken in those areas. How he compares to other rookie quarterbacks is an issue for some, but one that's very hard to make accurately because of the different circumstances involved.

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