Victory Monday in the O-Zone. Amazingly, not everybody's happy, but it's close enough.
Smile. It's almost Christmas.
Let's get to it . . . Eric from Boise, ID:
Why'd the Jaguars go and win for? That was STUPID. Oh well, at least they scored 41.
John: It wasn't stupid and it wasn't close to being stupid. In the NFL, you play to win. The Jaguars needed that victory over Tampa Bay Sunday. They needed to know the feeling of winning like that and because this is a young team with a core of young players, they needed the work they had put in this season to pay off with a victory. You don't worry about draft position at this time of the year, or any time of year for that matter. This is not a one-player-makes-all-the-difference league. The Jaguars needed Blaine Gabbert to play well and they needed to feel good about themselves. He did and they do and that will be a good thing moving forward. Call it hokey if you like, but it's true.
Dustin from Jacksonville:
He stood in there, looked down the barrel and pulled the trigger. Anyone who denies that Gabbert took a huge step forward is either intentionally trying to bad-mouth him despite the facts or doesn't understand football.
John: It was a good performance on a day with tough conditions. We may not look back and remember this as the day he came of age, but it was a very good step.
Julie from Jacksonville:
I think Aaron Rogers should win MVP, but I also think that MJD should be in the discussion and no one is talking about him in that manner. Am I just being a homer or do you agree?
John: You probably are being a bit of a homer, but I do agree that Jones-Drew's season has been remarkable. It's absolutely a Pro Bowl season, and probably an All-Pro one. He's having one of the best seasons of any player in the NFL, although I'd stop short at calling it an MVP season. It's tough for a player from a 4-9 team to garner MVP support because in the grand scheme of things NFL, most people believe an MVP should help a team to the post-season. I agree, but that doesn't mean Jones-Drew's season hasn't been special.
Lance from Jacksonville:
I saw a stranger yesterday. He was wearing a Jaguars jersey with the number 11 on it and the name Gabbert, but clearly that wasn't him. Who was that impostor who stood tall in the pocket and took the hits but delivered passes down the field? Couldn't have been Blaine, could it?
John: We have talked all season about growing pains, and how there would be steps forward and steps back. Sunday was a step forward. Yes, Gabbert had two interceptions, but they were aggressive interceptions, and when you think of it, they were your normal "rookie-mistake" interceptions – i.e., throwing into coverage, forcing it a little, etc. What's interesting is that a lot of readers don't seem upset about those, and they were able to see that despite those mistakes the overall body of work for Gabbert on Sunday was impressive. I agree. Gabbert looked confident in the pocket for the most part, and he was able to make some of the downfield, ball-on-a-line throws that made him a Top-10 pick. He also stood strong and made some throws while being hit. That's also four touchdowns in the last two games and that's good stuff.
Stan from Bakersfield, CA:
Blaine Gabbert 62 yards to Marcedes Lewis. Unless there's one I'm forgetting I think that was his best play of the season. Felt pressure, good footwork, stepped up and delivered a strike.
John: It was certainly his biggest outside of the 74-yarder to a wide-open Jason Hill against Cincinnati, and Sunday's was certainly the tougher play of the two. The best thing I can tell you about Gabbert is this: On and off the record, for public consumption and in private conversations, players support him. They believe he's going to be big-time – and players can turn on a guy in a hurry in the NFL if they don't think he brings anything to the table. Sunday was a very positive step in the right direction.
Aaron from Chehalis, WA:
Do you play golf John? 'cause golf is tough. It's a difficult game and you can spend hours and hours on the driving range getting instruction and still not have it show up on the course. Then you hit one of those shots. It feels perfect coming off the club and goes exactly where you want it to. You feel great. You get excited, the rest of your round goes better, and you can see all your hard work pay off. Plus, you get excited about the next round and improving even further. That's what this game was for the Jaguars and more specifically, Gabbert, and it started with that 62 yard bomb to Lewis. That was a 4-iron from 177 out that lands 5 inches from the hole. You can see the hard work starting to pay off John, and I'm excited for the future.
John: No. I don't play golf.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
So, Gene was right when he said Gabbert just needed time. WOW. As soon as he started to step up in the pocket more, he started completing more passes. Is this a game that can carry the team through next year or the next game?
John: Gabbert, I'm sure, would be the first to tell you while Sunday was good it must be built upon. The most impressive thing about Gabbert so far has been his ability to keep fighting, keep playing, keep preparing, despite a lot of criticism. There are times this season that had to be discouraging and times when he has had to hear a lot of the criticism. That's difficult for a veteran and it's certainly difficult for a 22-year-old kid. When I was 22, I hated my stories being edited and would stress out whenever my mean, nasty editor, Nico, would change the first sentence in my story. I can't imagine how I would have been if an entire city had been looking on and if Jon Gruden had been criticizing my stories on national television. Gabbert's pushing through that, and certainly will grow from it. It's still going to take time, but Sunday was a good sign.
Greg from Rochester:
John, you taught me everything I know about exterior illumination.
John: "What about the kids?" "His kids can fend for themselves."
Sean from Mount Laurel, NJ:
I like looking at the players that not many other fans talk about and I've noticed that Eugene Monroe has quietly played great. It's especially noticeable since recently there hasn't been much bust talk about him. Do you think he was worth the pick?
John: Monroe, like any Top 10 selection, is going to be held to an extremely high standard. He was criticized when he struggled in the preseason, but he has been very good this regular season and is a player on whom the Jaguars can rely moving forward. As far as being worth the pick, I think it's still a case where time will tell but he's moving in that direction and probably is playing better than any left tackle in his draft class. If he continues to improve and be solid for the foreseeable future, then, yes, it will have been a very good pick.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
You and everyone else can have whatever opinion on Tim Tebow, Blaine Gabbert, and Gene Smith that they want to but, the fact is this: Gene Smith had a fifth-round grade on Tebow and a Top Five grade on Gabbert. I guess we'll see what happens. My thoughts are "In Gene we trust" may be what leads to the death of pro football in Jacksonville, Florida.
John: Really? The Jaguars turn in a solid victory in which Gabbert shows solid signs and you bring talk about Tebow? Good for him. Good for the Broncos. They're having a remarkable season and he's a remarkable story. Bottom line: Tebow has nothing to do with Gabbert, and the two are not intertwined, despite the tendency of many to make them so. Probably the most irritating thing about the Tebow story is this whole idea that it has to be this philosophical line in the sand. The Jaguars passed on Tebow and chose Alualu because of what they saw on film and what their draft grades indicated. And you know what? Just about everyone else in the NFL did, too. And as far as the long-term future, you're right. We'll all see what happens.
Branden from Staten Island, NY:
Thank you, Santa Ozone. I knew you could do it! I probably should have come to you earlier in the year.
John: Ho, ho, ho.