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Not an off-season feel

Let's get to it . . . Josh from Harrisburg, PA:
Looking at the weekend's games – some stellar defenses knocked out some of the most explosive offenses. I know a team that had a stellar defense even after being ravaged by injuries – what's their name again?
John: That would be the Jaguars, and as much as the weekend's games showed that there is still a place at the top of the league for defense, it seemed the weekend showed something else, too – that there is very much a place for teams that play with a balanced offense. A concern some observers had this week when the Jaguars hired Mike Mularkey as head coach was whether or not a balanced offense could win in the NFL. Mularkey's offense in Atlanta emphasized such balance, and he plans to utilize the same approach here. There were times this season that that approach seemed overwhelmed and maybe a little outdated by offenses such as the Saints and Packers, teams that emphasized the pass and seemed at times to be not only dominating the league, but perhaps changing how the game is played. Well, here we are with four teams remaining in the playoffs and three of them – the Giants, Ravens and 49ers – are balanced teams with strong defenses and strong running games. The lone team left that is a pass-all-over-the-place, offensive-oriented team is the Patriots; the others play the style the Jaguars likely will feature under Mularkey next season and in his first few seasons. Maybe the Jaguars' approach will fit in with what the NFL is doing after all.
Steve from Section 122:
If this is not out of line I would like to propose that Season Ticket Holders put their stadium section as their hometown when asking a question. It would be interesting to see the different perspectives of fans and fans that are financially invested in this team. I am one of the 4,000. North End Zone rocks. J-A-G-U-A-R-S.
John: I think it's a darned good idea, actually.
Scott from Orlando, FL:
Are you ever going to take a day off? My prediction is that since I'm asking this, you are going to take MLK day off.
John: Nice prediction, Scott.
Michael from Jonesboro, GA:
Gene is proving every day of these playoffs that he is building the right way. He is fixing the defense first because that is what builds championships. Both top offenses were toppled this weekend by great defenses. Shouldn't that justify Gene to this fan base?
John: The only thing that will justify Smith and anyone involved in scouting or coaching is winning. That's as it should be, because winning and playing in the post-season is the annual goal in the NFL. I would say that the results of the post-season thus far would suggest strongly that it's OK to build with a good defense and balanced offense, and while some observers temporarily lost sight of that this season, few franchises – even those that play with a heavy emphasis on the pass – ever made a conscious effort to stray from those things.
Paul from Jacksonville:
We know that the coaches' contracts expired after this season. What about other personnel such as scouts and directors? Do they have contracts like coaches, or are they hired indefinitely?
John: Like Gene Smith, many of the scouts had contracts that were to expire at the end of the 2011 season. Smith and many of those scouts signed new contracts. Smith's contract, like that of new head coach Mike Mularkey's, runs three more years.
Ivan from Jacksonville:
How exciting was that NFL vs. College game?
John: The fans of the NFL team enjoyed it quite a bit.
Tim from St. Petersburg, FL:
How do teams find out what coaches may be interested in openings? Is there an NFL page on or do the agents play crucial roles?
John: Generally, teams contact teams and request permission to interview with coaches they covet, and usually those coaches agree to be interviewed. Sometimes, they don't and sometimes upon interviewing, one or both of the sides decide it's not a good fit. In the latter sense, it's not unlike a lot of professions, just a lot more high-profile.
Matt from Jacksonville:
What good are coaches' challenges if the refs will continue to make the wrong call even in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary? I'm talking about Greg Jennings' blatant fumble that was ruled down by contact, but it happened to the Jags earlier in the season (the challenge that pass interference couldn't have been called against the Jags in the end zone because the pass had been tipped by a defensive lineman. Remember that?) and has happened on several other occasions to other teams. Can we please get rid of challenges? Then again, they ARE crucial in allowing the networks to ram six more commercials down our throats each time.
John: I agree that the calls you mentioned should have been overturned, and I was shocked Jennings' fumble Sunday wasn't reversed. That said, replay isn't in existence to allow for commercial time. And it really is overall a good system. Sometimes the overwhelming-visual-evidence-needed-to-overturn clause causes the mistakes of which you spoke, but overall, I'd rather have replay in than not.
Mike from Jacksonville:
I know the Captain patches on the jerseys are to represent the captains of the teams. What do the stars on the patches represent? And why do some players have the whole patch in gold?
John: A player is awarded a star for each consecutive year he has been named a captain. If a players has been named a captain for more than four years, the C on the patch is gold.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
I've been feature in the O-zone many a time O-man. I was your third question answered overall. But the title question still eludes me. That one question that you so carefully pick to set the tone of the O-Zone. In this League, it's all about the title...and I must have it!
John: In this league, it's all about consistency and often, players must be satisfied being a professional and doing a good job without fanfare. Not everyone gets the headline, Kevin. Keep doing what you're doing, and someday, when the time is right, your time will come.
Jonathan from Lawrence, KS:
What more evidence of a crapshoot do you need than the '06 AFC Championship Game? What if that Harrison fumble on the game-winning drive doesn't fly straight up and straight back into his hands? Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes the ball doesn't. That being said, the ball bouncing right back to Harrison is meaningless if the Colts don't finish that drive. Good teams can get a few breaks, but great teams are the ones who can capitalize on those breaks.
John: It was actually Reggie Wayne who fumbled and caught it out of the air, and something that is often forgotten is there was a roughing-the-passer penalty on the play, so the Colts would have maintained possession either way. But the gist of your email is correct. Teams are presented opportunities in nearly every game. The great ones and the ones that are remembered indeed are the ones that capitalize on those opportunities.
Josh from Bowling Green, Ohio:
There are some big-name receivers that are scheduled to be free agents this year. Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston and DeSean Jackson, just to name a couple. Do you see us making a play at one or more of them?
John: Yes, I do.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Just so we are all crystal clear, our number one need on this team is at wide receiver followed closely by a pass rusher?
John: I'm not that big on ranking such things, but there's little question the Jaguars must upgrade the receiver position to be competitive next season. The Jaguars are competitive defensively, and in fact are better than that, but if there's one thing lacking it's a premier, game-changing defensive end. To be fair, many, many franchises lack that, so I wouldn't say the Jaguars are deficient in the area, but if they can add one, it certainly would make an already strong defense potentially a dominant one.
Jodi from Fleming Island, FL:
Your answers are starting to lengthen by a significant degree; you are challenging my attention span. Can we go back to the good ole days of one sentence answers please?
John: No.
David from Duval, FL:
Hypothetical situation: Say a team was going for a two-point conversion and turned the ball over. Can the defense advance that ball? If so, say the Origonal offensive team then forces a fumble and scores – is that worth two points or six?
John: In the NFL, the two-point conversion is dead if there is a turnover.
Sunil from Jacksonville:
Isn't it about time for a day off, John? You deserve it!
John: Soon enough. This doesn't feel like the off-season yet.
Jeremy from Navarre, FL:
So, can Gabbert have a third party-consultant type work with him over the off-season (before April) on his mechanics and fundamentals? Or is that against the CBA too? Also, can Gabbert and the receivers work together on an unofficial basis at the local public park or grass of their choosing? Or does the CBA apply in Canada? Thanks for the Saturday O-Zone!!
John: Gabbert could do either of the things you suggest. I haven't heard that he will, and frankly, I'm not sure how necessary it is. Gabbert will have from April through mid-June to work extensively with the new coaching staff. Between then and now, he will have a chance to begin looking at the playbook and also to reflect upon his rookie season and begin to refocus and look toward his second season. There is value in having a month or two to get away and to reassess and refocus. If he comes back to Jacksonville for the beginning of the off-season in the correct mindset – which I believe he will – he will have plenty of time and for the first time, he will have extended time in a structured, calm environment to start learning the fundamentals and basics of NFL quarterbacking. That's when the progress should start. Anything else he does is fine, but the key is what happens in April in Jacksonville.

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