The Grabster from Jacksonville and Section 216:
I saw a fan poll on one of the most popular sports websites: "If you could watch any NFL game, would you prefer to watch it on television or pay to see it live?" The two responses to choose from were: "Home: Tickets and food cost too much" and "Stadium: Nothing beats seeing it live." Sadly, as of Friday morning, the poll results were 72 percent to 28 percent, respectively. This is a stunning revelation to me as a Jaguar and NFL fan. Do you think the NFL and the owners are beginning to see how large of a problem this could be? The advent of modern technology is greatly increasing the home television viewing experience. Will we reach a point where the stadiums will no longer be full or will have to be downsized?
John: First, I don't know how scientific that poll is. The inclusion of "tickets and food cost too much" would seem to naturally tilt it in one direction, a definite no-no when it comes to polling. Still, I'm not surprised that watching it at home would win and most definitely the NFL and its owners already are aware of the problem. The league as a group is clearly making enhancing the in-game experience a major priority. We're going to see it in Jacksonville as early as this season with several improvements. As for your final question, will we reach a point where stadiums are no longer full? It seems we have reached that point in many markets. Right now, most of the full stadiums are either traditional markets with years of "generational" fans or markets in which the team has caught fire and is winning. That's not the scenario the league wants and it's an important league initiative right now.
John from St. Augustine, FL:
Luck just signed for $22 million. How much was Gabbert's contract again?
John: Gabbert's deal is for four years, $12 million.
Jack from Jacksonville:
Is there any concern inside the building that Gabbert will suffer from the Byron Leftwich Syndrome? In that he was given the job by default and therefore never really had to earn it. Has Gabbert ever had to compete for a starting quarterback position or has he been handed everything up until this point?
John: I've heard no such concern. He started two seasons at Missouri and started in high school. And when it comes to the syndrome, while I get your point, I think you'll find that a lot of quarterbacks never had to "earn" an NFL starting position as you define it. Did Cam Newton earn it? Andy Dalton? Peyton Manning? Quarterbacks drafted early typically start pretty quickly in the NFL these days, and the instances when two quarterbacks enter training camp and compete on even footing are in reality pretty rare. Besides, when quarterbacks are good enough to be drafted early, it usually follows that at some point they've worked enough to have earned something.
Mike from Section 148:
So what's your take on the recent rash of DUI's among NFL players? Seems to me that there have been a lot more of these occurrences this offseason. Do you think this is something the league/players association will need to address in the near future?
John: Perhaps, but I'm not sure how much more it can be addressed. This is in no way meant to be glib, but there are pretty strict laws in this country against driving under the influence, and it's not as if it is a subject that's not in the national consciousness. The league obviously talks with players about it beginning at the rookie symposium, and coaches and officials from every team talk about it. Some things are the responsibility of the league, but some things are common sense, too.
Brandon from Starkville, MS:
O-man. I need your wedding advice. I'm attending a wedding with no alcohol. What do you do?
John: I think you took a wrong turn when you agreed to go. This isn't your fault. It's an ill-conceived plan on their part. The more I think about it, you can't go. This is an ethical decision. Be strong.
Richard from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Give Blackmon upfront money that his draft position deserves, but defer a large part of it to be paid yearly if he stays out of trouble. If he stays clean but doesn't play well, cut him but pay the bonus you would have paid any other player.
John: Your question contradicts itself. Upfront money is money the player receives at signing. Anything deferred is not upfront money. My guess is Blackmon will receive a contract that defers a lot of would-be upfront money to later in his contract, but I doubt there will be anything that specifies him getting paid anything if he is released for not playing well.
Bryan from Tampa, FL:
Once a football season has ended, do general managers ever look back at that season's total draft class and say, "Dang, I should've drafted so-and-so!?" Minimally, do they evaluate which NFL rookies were successful for the purpose of identifying characteristics for which to look in subsequent drafts?
John: There's not a whole lot of the former done, meaning general managers typically don't go through a draft class and look at selections just after theirs and regret their selection. People who do this for a living know that the draft is a percentage game, that it's impossible to know for sure who will develop and who won't. There is also a multitude of reasons teams target or don't target players, so picking apart the draft position by position is a fruitless practice of frustration. Teams absolutely do study past drafts to look for trends and learn from mistakes, but it isn't done with a sense of regret over past mistakes. More accurately, it is done to try to draft better in the future.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
It is recognized that Coach Sullivan is very good and will improve the wide receiver corps. He was, however, in retirement. What is it about Mike Mularkey or the Jaguars that lured him back to the sideline?
John: Sullivan has said on several occasions Mularkey played a huge role in his decision to return. He has said he likes a lot about what Mularkey stands for, and that he had heard very good things about Mularkey from people he respected. Sullivan I believe also looked forward to the challenge of helping the receiving corps rebuild and retool, but I've gotten the feeling Mularkey was the biggest reason.
Erik from Bridgeport, CT:
Top 25 videos on the website are great and must see for any Jaguar fan!
John: I appreciate that. The Top 25 was an enjoyable project for those of us working for jaguars.com, and thanks to our panel of Gene Frenette, Pete Prisco, Vito Stellino, Dan Hicken, Sam Kouvaris, Brian Sexton and Jeff Lageman, I think we got a pretty comprehensive list. Credit also goes to Jaguars Video Director Patrick Kavanaugh for the presentation of the videos, to Ryan Robinson for the original idea, and to Steve Hall and Chris Burdett of jaguars.com for putting it all together. The videos indeed are good viewing and intriguing for anyone following the team.
Strnbiker from Dothan, AL:
Question for you. Do you think the current Mojo contract situation will cause future running back agents and players to delve more closely into future negotiations regarding age, length, usage and etc. given both sides of the equation?
John: I don't think the Jones-Drew situation by itself will shape the future of running back contracts. More than Jones-Drew's contract I believe the contracts of Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson will help shape the future of running back contracts. There is a widespread feeling around the league those contracts were too high. The Vikings essentially paid Peterson franchise quarterback money, which is a phenomenal step away from the norm in this era. If you combine those contracts with the reality of the NFL – running backs being perceived as less critical than they were, the game being more pass-oriented, the shorter shelf life for a running back – then, yes, I think you'll have an idea why teams and players are going to have more heated discussions when it comes to running back contracts.
Scott from Jacksonville:
I read your column faithfully every day, and I have a tip for readers who want to read your column without everyone at work walking behind them and seeing their computer screen with the Jaguar formatting all over it. I copy/paste just the text of your column into a Word document and read it there. That way when people walk behind me and see me intently reading a Word document on my computer screen, they think I am working on something important.
John: Good tip. I tried the same thing with the Cheerleader photos and just wound up getting very irritated.
Getting pretty irritated
The Grabster from Jacksonville and Section 216: