Let's get to it . . . Ben from Jacksonville:
I am shocked you would compare Tom Coughlin to Gene Smith. Coughlin took us to two AFC Championship games and worked under Bill Parcells. Gene Smith has done absolutely nothing since becoming general manager and has failed miserably to build a team. I would be willing to bet my life savings if Gene Smith is fired he will never be anything more than a low-level scout for a bad team. This comparison was absolutely the craziest thing ever written.
John: Sorry to have shocked you. I hope you're OK. And while I've written crazier things, enough people were "outraged" by this topic that I'll address it. People are very angry and disappointed over the Jaguars' performance, and Smith is understandably bearing much if not all of the blame. That's as it should be and no one understands that more than Smith. I'm not comparing Smith to Coughlin, and on Wednesday I mentioned them in the same paragraph merely to point out that decisions that seem very, very obvious at one moment in time are often seen differently through the lens of history. When Coughlin was fired, it was generally perceived as being the necessary move by Jaguars fans; now, many look back on it and wonder, "What if?" That is always the risk when parting ways with someone. When I mentioned this Wednesday, it was greeted by a slew of emails saying, "How can you defend Gene Smith?" When I have written about Smith this season, I generally have pointed out reasons for decisions that have been made, and noted that while the general manager indeed must take blame for everything, there also is rarely just one thing or one person that causes a season such as this. Smith's seasons as general manager have not been successful ones, and many people believe he will be gone following the season. Perhaps that will be the case or perhaps it won't be. Right now, perhaps only Jaguars Owner Shad Khan knows. A word of advice, though, on your bet: if your life savings is substantial, don't make it. You'd be very unhappy. While things have not gone as Smith or anyone around the Jaguars have liked, he's a respected in football circles and would be valued in many organizations.
Andy from St. Johns, FL:
Does anyone ever write you a question that is positive?
John: Not today.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I just wanted to thank you for all your efforts. I just finished watching your mailbag segments and have to say they made me spit coffee at least once. Your humor and input has been the one constant positive of this otherwise horrible season.
John: Well, I take back my answer to Andy. Here's one. FYI, don't spit the coffee on your keyboard. Liquids are bad for electronics.
Tucker from New York, NY:
Is there such a thing as an outstanding general manager, or are they all just career talent evaluators who either get lucky – like Bill Polian inheriting the No. 1 overall pick in Peyton Manning's draft – or don't? It seems to me that too much stock is put into the "ability" of a GM to make good picks.
John: First, while many have used the Colts' drop-off without Peyton Manning last season to draw a conclusion that Polian got lucky with Manning and did little else in Indianapolis, that's failing to give credit where much is due. Never mind the selection of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Edgerrin James, etc., he also built the Buffalo Bills into a four-time Super Bowl team and built Carolina into a team that made the NFC Championship Game. He clearly has done more than Manning, but to your bigger point: yes, a general manager can be helped dramatically by good fortune. Polian would be the first to tell you Manning made building the Colts far easier than it would have been otherwise, and Packers General Manager Ted Thompson certainly would be perceived differently had Alex Smith slid to him rather than Aaron Rodgers. Getting a franchise quarterback is critical, but once a general manager gets one a winning structure and consistent organization must be built around them, and the good general managers – category into which Polian and Thompson certainly fall – excel at doing just that.
Chip from Madison, WI:
I know it's kinda off to ask, but what chance do you see the Jags going after Matt Flynn??
John: I'd be surprised, but until we know the direction of the franchise, it's hard to predict.
John from Gainesville, FL:
Hey O, I'm calling it now: two sacks for Babin, one from Mincey, and one from a guy on the inside. Wouldn't that be a sight for sore eyes?
John: Yes, it would. The Jaguars have 14 sacks in 13 games, so four in one game would be more than a sight for sore eyes. It would be cause for celebration.
Sean from Fleming Island, FL:
How does the tiebreaker work for No. 1 draft pick?
John: The team with the lowest strength-of-schedule gets the No. 1 selection. Yes, the lowest – meaning that if you played the weaker schedule, you get the better selection. Basically, it's a battle to see who had the worse year.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
The previous franchise record for fewest wins in a season was four back in 1995. That record is at risk of being broken.
John: I checked this with Elias Sports Bureau. You're correct. You have a future in NFL public relations.
William from Section 119:
I'm sorry John, but on the last play for the Jags, that had to be the most pathetic display of offensive line play I've ever seen. Britton is a total waste and Eugene doesn't look much better
John: The last play . . . well, it wasn't good. Britton has struggled, and after a very good start, Monroe and the rest of the line hasn't been as consistent as necessary. The last play against The Jets was rough. Unfortunately, it's part of a bigger issue.
Tom from Clearwater, FL:
We've swung and missed in the draft (a lot), so why not play it safe and go for the Alabama guard that experts are saying will be a Pro Bowl staple for the next bunch of years? If he is that good and ready to start from Day One, I don't care if it's a premium position or not, get the Best Available Player. Thoughts?
John: I think taking a guard in the top two would be a very tough decision for a general manager.
Jesse from Hilton Head, SC:
I keep hearing people within the Jags organization say Gabbert needs game time to develop. Successful organizations around the NFL allow quarterbacks to develop in practice, not under the scrutiny of the media and fans during a real game. Who knows how good Gabbert could have been if he sat behind Aaron Rodgers for a few years and then was given an opportunity to play? Great organizations don't lose games while a quarterback – just another example of poor management.
John: Interesting point. I believe you're incorrect, but it's interesting. Gabbert has every tool needed to succeed, and the exception seems to be experience to develop game awareness – i.e., the ability to see and react to what's going on in a game. That can only be gained with game experience.
Dave from Section 410 and Jacksonville:
If there are no standout players at No. 1 or No. 2 for the Jags why would some other team trade into those spot?
John: I don't know.
George from Savannah, GA:
It seems as though Gene Smith and his scouts have a tendency to go for the no-name players with the exception of one or two players recently. They never seem to go after meat-and-potato-type players from the SEC that have shown to be tough and durable in the long run and have played against tougher opponents. Yes, one can occasionally get a Cecil Shorts but Gene goes after too many potential players not proven players. Look at our roster and you can count on one hand players from the SEC that is by far the toughest division. We need to get players that have shown the ability to play against other elite teams and can handle the physical demands of a grueling season.
John: I'm sorry. I just don't feel like investing much more time and energy in the big-school/small-school argument. The Jaguars are 2-11, so everything's undefendable and open to criticism. Small-school drafting is one more thing that's easy to criticize, so criticize away. Never mind that the players people criticize Smith the most for – Tyson Alualu and Blaine Gabbert – are from big schools, and perhaps his biggest success – Shorts – is from a small school. I also often have said so long as you don't take small-school guys in the first round and can afford to give them a year to get used to the game, there's nothing wrong with going small school. But it's the easy shot right now, so take it if you like.
Gary from Middleburg, FL:
The whole season long, NOBODY has said much of ANYTHING about the O-LINE'S FAILURE to PROTECT THE QUARTERBACK.
John: OH, I'VE heard it MENTIONED ONCE or TWICE.
Laurie from Neptune Beach, FL:
People saw what the Rams did last year when they had the No. 2 pick and that leads them to believe we should be able to do the same thing this year. The difference is there isn't an RGIII in the draft this year that anyone is likely to want to offer half their draft to us to obtain. For that matter, if there were anyone like RGIII out there that could draw that type of a trade, we'd probably want him for ourselves.
John: Ya think?
No RGIII this year
Let's get to it . . . Ben from Jacksonville: