Let's get to it . . .
Howard from Homestead, FL:
Contracts in this league have always been fluid. Owners want it that way. It works both ways, and MJD is just treating the Jaguars the way the Jaguars (and every team) treat their players. If GM Gene doesn't like it, he should offer only full guaranteed contracts. But we know that's not going to happen. Bottom line: MJD's the best running back in the NFL and should be paid like the best.
John: In the NFL, the guarantee is the signing bonus. Veteran players understand this. Jones-Drew wanting a raise is fine. He has the right to want what he wants, but contracts are not fluid. The owners commit signing bonus money because players want to paid up front. The tradeoff is they can be released at any time during the contract. And really, your bottom line is inaccurate. You don't pay contracts in the NFL based on past performance. You pay based on your projections on a player moving forward, and teams are generally unwise to tear up contracts – especially contracts with two years remaining – and renegotiate with veteran players. If you do that once, where do you stop?
Scott from Chelsea, NY:
Several reports have surfaced that Spitz and Morgan got into a tussle Tuesday. What has impressed me about the character of the team is the way the two of them have responded after the incident. It shows they have both passion and respect for the team. Gene should get judged on the full roster – not just on one or two players.
John: NFL players fight in practice. It's not as common as it used to be, but it's also not a real big deal. Spitz and Morgan did each handle it well afterward. They moved on, and so will we.
Matt from Manassas, VA:
Players tend to generally downplay the "noise" from the media, but do they seem eager to put the team critics to rest? The media has set themselves up for a major foot in the mouth situation this off-season with the direction it has chosen to go.
John: The feeling I get from players is they want to win, and believe there is a structure now in place in which that's possible. There also is a belief that the team is far better than most national media and observers believe. Would players like to shut up the outsiders? Sure, but I don't get the idea that's necessarily the main focus. The main focus is winning, and shutting up the outsiders would be a happy result of that.
Jon from Durham, NC:
Shall I panic now? Am I wrong in looking at this through MJDs eyes? He has overdelivered on his 2009 contract and sees that the market value for his services has gone vociferously up. Sort of don't blame him for using the leverage he has now.
John: That's certainly Jones-Drew's view, and you're not wrong to see it that way. The problem is I don't know that the market value for a running back actually has risen as much as you might believe. I don't know that Jones-Drew – because of the number of carries he already has in his career and because he is entering his seventh season – would command a huge contract on the open market. That's not to say he's not a very good player. It's just the nature of the NFL right now: backs don't draw much value. I don't blame Jones-Drew for using the leverage, and I don't blame the Jaguars for not wanting to redo a contract with two years remaining for a running back in his seventh season. Each side has leverage.
Nathan from Jacksonville:
A couple of days ago you defended the Hall of Fame saying it wasn't a joke, but how can this be when only two of the top 25 all-time leading scorers have been inducted? Until the Hall of Fame puts more than one kicker in it's a joke. Especially if Morten Andersen never gets in. His all-time record of points scored will probably never be beaten. Defend yourself, please.
John: Oh, to have your passion. And I do find it fascinating when people say things like, "Defend yourself, please," like they are winning some manly battle by challenging something I have said. Kickers don't generally make the Hall of Fame because generally speaking they're not considered players who dramatically impact the game. I do think Morten Andersen ought to be in. I think Adam Vinatieri may get in because of his ability to convert in clutch situations. I certainly don't feel the Hall of Fame would be a joke if they don't get it. But indeed keep fighting. You are far more passionate about the position of kicker than I, but I do admire your spunk.
Taylor from Ellicott City, MD:
The readers got you on this one O-Man. We've been peppering you with angst over Jones-Drew's non-participation - to which you've responded with a high level of assurance that this was not a situation to worry about. We all saw this coming.... and now it could last into September. What made you think he was going to show up for mandatory events? 60K is little to a man looking to leverage $5-10 million.
John: I didn't think Jones-Drew would show because of $60,000. I thought he'd show because it was mandatory and because considering the rest of his teammates are here and working toward next season, it would have been the right thing to do. I also thought he would show because I figured there was little to gain by not being here – i.e., the team already knew his position. As far as the readers being right in their angst, that's a little like throwing enough at the wall until it sticks. They're "angsty" a lot. This time, they happened to be right.
Bryan from Tampa, FL:
From a fan's perspective, the frustrating part about the MJD holdout is the effect it has on our morale. It is possible that players and coaches go about their business emotionally unaffected, but with us it is not so. Just when things are looking up for Jags, a contract dispute has to come along and take wind out of the sails. It's a downer during a time when hope and excitement should be the residing feeling.
John: My best advice is to not let it get you down. There's a perception among the fans that if Jones-Drew holds out, it's a disaster. I don't see it that way. I think this team is going to be improved, and that feeling isn't dependent on Jones-Drew. Are they better with him than without? Certainly? Does the sky fall without him? I'm not sure that's the case.
Anthony from Madison, WI:
As you say, it's OK to disagree, but two things I could never conceivably agree with you on is the legitimacy of the HoF and the importance of the Pro Bowl. I'll give the HoF a lot more credit than the Pro Bowl, but they're both about as useful as the NFL's Top 100 list.
John: I don't know that I've ever argued very strongly about the importance of the Pro Bowl. If I have, it must have been a strange day, because I can't say I feel too passionately about it. As for the Hall of Fame, I get that people are down on the process and I won't say that the process is perfect. If there is a better one, I'm all for it, but to me, a better one doesn't involve ex-players or fans. I don't believe as a whole a system involving them would be better than the current system because I don't believe as high a percentage of those people would spend the time trying to do the job the right way as the current voters do. But I do think it's more useful than the NFL's Top 100. Players cry when they go into the Hall of Fame. I'm not sure there are that many tears being shed over the Top 100.
Roger in Section 211:
More than any other lesson Vic tried to drill into the heads of passionate fans was this: "It's professional football--it's about the money." I know you agree with that. At the end of the day, the two sides will stand together, smiling to the cameras, and everyone will feel foolish for having expended so much emotional energy agonizing over a dispute that has nothing to do with team loyalty. The business side of professional football is hard for fans to accept, but it is what drives the entire league, and when you understand that, contract disagreements are put into much better perspective.
John: I don't know that I've touched on it as much as my predecessor, but yeah—it's about the money. I'd never tell you it's not.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, why can't it be as simple as MJD is the arguably the No. 1 or 2 running back in the NFL, yet has the contract of the 7th best NFL RB? Seems pretty cut and dry to me.
John: It ought to be. It would be great if it was. But it's just not.
Not that cut and dry
Let's get to it . . .
Howard from Homestead, FL: