Here's the final game-day O-Zone for the 2011 regular season.
We spent the week covering the storylines – MJD's run at the record, the Weavers' last game and the beginning of the Shahid Khan era – just as we have spent the year covering a sometimes-difficult season, but remember this as we prepare for the regular-season finale:
It's a long off-season without football, so don't wish your life away.
Enjoy the day. Root for the Jaguars. Savor the moment. Say good-bye to the Weavers. Welcome the Khans. Cheer Mo-Jo – and for that matter, cheer all of the other guys who have given a whole lot in what admittedly has been a difficult season.
The off-season will come soon enough. For now, it's game day. Enjoy it.
Let's get to it . . . Ken from Jacksonville:
John: I see Blue.
Gigantor from Jacksonville:
I have read over the course of the season that Alualu is not healthy and needs to get his knee worked on in the offseason. Why would they even consider playing him in a meaningless game at the end of the season? Only bad things can happen. Make him sit and schedule surgery and rehab as soon as possible. I agree he has huge upside when he gets healthy. I also will not be happy if he further damages the knee in the last game of the year with absolutely nothing on the line.
John: It obviously long ago was determined that Alualu's knee issue was something that could be played through and that he would not risk further damage by playing. He has played the entire season and the plan is for him to play the regular-season finale. If there was undue risk beyond the normal risks associated with playing football, he certainly would not play.
Geoffrey from Virginia Beach, VA:
O-Man!!! Great job this year with the O-Zoning every day. No blackouts this year!!! I have two questions. First, is it safe to assume that your challenge to the fans, along with the reward of daily O-Zones throughout the year, has helped with the fight against blackouts? Second, I know we have a game left this season, yadda yadda, but, I wanted your opinion on Peyton Hillis and whether he may/may not be a good pickup this offseason? MJD is still a stud, but Hillis is a beast as well at 25 and is coming off a very disappointing year.
John: I'd love to think that my challenge and the lure of daily O-Zones had something do with it, and while my vanity certainly is far-reaching, I am realistic enough to know that it is the dedication of others that likely had far more to do with the streak of non-blackouts. As for Payton Hillis, don't lose sleep. The Jaguars have needs this off-season, and a front-line running back is pretty low on the list.
Fred from Naples, FL:
I just finished listening to the near one-hour podcast with Peter King interviewing Shad Khan. It's easy to see why this guy is so successful. Towards the end of the interview he asked Peter King what HE thought of the Jaguar's situation and solicited some advice from him. WOW! It became less and less of an interview as time went on and became, frankly, a wonderful discussion between a knowledgeable football person and a great listener and future great owner. I am extremely excited regarding the future of this franchise.
John: I'm excited, too. I like that Khan doesn't feel as if he knows everything about everything, and I like that he knows he is in a new situation and that he wants to learn as much as he can about that situation. He clearly is not burdened with an overinflated opinion of his own knowledge. What he is blessed with seems to be an ability to learn about a new situation and figure what it takes to succeed. It is that quality that I believe bodes particularly well for the Jaguars' future.
Steve from Columbus, OH:
Saturday's O-Zone was disgracefully short and certainly lacked FULL CONSISTENCY. Even though it is the end of the year and your weekend O-Zone posts are about to end, us as readers still expect full and total effort from you. Anytime there is a subpar O-Zone post, the "Suck for Ryan Robinson" talk gets louder and louder.
John: Talk about a draft pick that would set a franchise back . . .
Greg from Jacksonville:
I keep seeing letters always talking about Pro Bowl Players. Why is a selection to the Pro Bowl such a big deal? Since they have included fan voting as part of the process, the entire thing has become a popularity contest and not truly honoring those who exceled during the season. I say this because Jacksonville is a small market and thus will never compete with New England or other big market teams in terms of Pro Bowl Selections. I would rather acknowledge Smith's selections by getting wins and a title eventually.
John: So would he. That time is coming, and I believe it's coming sooner not later.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Gene Smith has had to draft the way he does because the Jaguars needed players, not potential stars, and he did not have enough draft picks to take any chances. I think his role might change a little with a new coach and I think Mr. Khan will be the guy who makes the decision on the coach. The organizational chart will be prepared by the guy who just paid over 700 million. Shahid Khan makes his own decisions, I would guess. I am sure he has his ears wide open!
John: There seems to be this misconception that Gene Smith somehow doesn't try to draft star players. That's not true. Smith drafts the player available at the time who has the best chance of contributing successfully at the NFL level and making an impact. This is not a science. You draft the best possible players based on years of study and scouting and if you do that, you will build a roster full of good players. The more good players you have the better over the long haul your team will be. Build a roster of really good players and superstars will emerge. If they don't, victories will emerge and victories are better than superstars. I don't think Smith will change a lot about the way he drafts and builds a team. I hope he doesn't. Building the way he does is what will build a roster that will be solid and competitive for the long haul, which – incidentally – is what he is paid to do.
Michael from Kentwood, MI:
Of course, we don't know what the future holds for certain, but seriously: a meaningless win to hand the Colts Luck – who seems highly likely to be a Manning-quality quarterback — is foolish. Even if we don't know for certain what the future holds, it seems really foolish to risk it to get to five wins. If we win, we might as well gift wrap them four of the next 10 division titles. The odds seem to favor Luck, why bother betting against the house?
John: I can only assume you're trying to bait me, but oh well – I've been baited before and I'll be baited again. The first thing I would take issue with is the notion that Luck seems highly likely to be a Manning-quality quarterback. I may as well start the New Year by making the readership angry, so let's make this clear: there is no such thing as a college quarterback "highly likely" to be a Manning-quality quarterback. Talk to any coordinator who had to play Manning in his prime and he'll tell you he did things that no other quarterback – and yes, that includes Brady and Rodgers and any other elite quarterback – did to defenses. I know fans here love to talk the guy down, but there is a mammoth difference between being Manning and being a No. 1-drafted quarterback who plays at a high level. Even if Luck is not a bust and even if he is very good, it would be very unlikely for Luck to play at Manning's level. The Colts under Manning made nine consecutive playoff appearances and 11 in 12 years. I don't care how good Luck is: that sort of consistent success is unlikely. Here's what you do if the Colts get Luck and if Luck is good – even if he is very good: You get good, too, and you beat the Colts.
Jack from Jacksonville:
Given Gene Smith's penchant for all things Midwest what are the odds of Iowa coach, Kirk Ferentz, becoming the next Jaguars head coach?
John: Ferentz would be at the top of the list of many, many NFL teams. He has a sterling reputation among NFL general managers. It is my understanding that he doesn't want to leave Iowa while his children are still in school. If and when Ferentz wants to coach in the NFL, he undoubtedly will have his pick of jobs. I'd just be surprised if that's now.
Ken from Jacksonville Beach:
What is your New Year's resolution?
John: Through January, I'd really like to fill in the gaps in my Sarah McClachlin CD library. After that, all bets are off.