JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . .
John from Ramsey, NJ:
What did you think of Blake Bortles' performance in the Fiesta Bowl? I thought he played exceptionally well, especially following the two picks. The first pick was an acrobatic grab by the Baylor defense, and the second was a tipped ball. Several sites are predicting him the No. 2 quarterback overall. I like the way he plays. What do you think of the kid from Oviedo?
John: He's a long way from can't-miss, but in a quarterback-hungry world, it's easy to see why people like him. He has size, composure and can run. His accuracy at times on Wednesday was concerning. It's easy to see why some believe he could be the second quarterback selected. It's also easy to see why some aren't sure what that means in terms of where he will be selected. The coming months will be key for Bortles – not necessarily how he performs at the NFL Scouting Combine and personal workouts, but what teams see as they study and re-study video of his college career. I imagine he will go in the Top 5. Top 3? We'll see.
Josh from Griffin, GA:
I heard Caldwell say he basically was not going to go after "bigger names" in free agency. Does this mean he will sign more players like last year's bunch? Can you explain what you think he meant.
John: I must have missed that. Caldwell's approach is basically that he's not going to go after names for the sake of names, and the Jaguars certainly aren't going to make big-name, free-agency a primary means of player acquisition. If you want this team to be good for an extended period, you like hearing that.
Glenn from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I agree with your thought that Gabbert could be a backup heading into camp, and that if we resign Henne and draft a quarterback, he could be gone after that. Having said that, if the Jags trade or cut Gabbert and he gets picked up by a new team, his contract is still guaranteed by us, correct? So would we pay him AND his new team?
John: In your scenario, the team signing Gabbert likely would essentially pay him the standard minimum for a fourth-year player and the Jaguars would pay him the difference.
Ryan from Boone, NC:
I don't get why fans are upset about Caldwell letting Maurice Jones-Drew test free agency. It would be irresponsible of ageneral manager to offer a 29-year-old running back with the number of carries Jones-Drew has a contract big enough that he accepted it with without looking at other options. This way he sees what he's truly worth and if that means a big contract elsewhere, good for him; if not Caldwell can sign him to the short incentive deal he wants. It is a better move for everyone.
John: People upset with Caldwell for not re-signing Jones-Drew immediately fail to understand how the NFL really works. A 29-year-old running back is not a player to whom you sign a core-player contract. There are those fans who respond to this, "But HE'S YOUR BEST PLAYER! HE'S THE FACE OF THE FRANCHISE!!!!!" Yes, that has been the case for the last half decade, but half a decade is a long time in the NFL. Eight years is even longer for a running back. That means the wise move is to approach Jones-Drew's contract situation in exactly the manner Caldwell is approaching it. If Jones-Drew's market value is a two- or three-year deal with incentives to allow him to reach $5 or $6 million a year, then the Jaguars probably won't mind paying that market value. If it's not, then it's not a prudent decision to retain him.
Paul from Grimsby, England:
My question is about college players. We get to watch four-to-five college games a week and all the bowl games in the UK. Having said that, I have never understood why some fans go nuts about certain players (e.g., Tebow and now Manziel) Do these guys get a lot more media exposure than just the games? Statements about losing all faith if a certain person isn't drafted makes it seem like these players are already celebrities before they leave college. How does this happen? And can there really be a benefit to that much pressure being loaded on a young player?
John: Yes, certain players in college football get a lot more media exposure than others. And without question Tebow and Manziel are such players. Jameis Winston and Jadeveon Clowney are, too. Those players are celebrities well before they leave college, and it happens because the media covers college football pretty intensely – perhaps not quite to the degree it covers the NFL, but not far off. Of course it doesn't benefit the player, but beyond banning college football coverage, I don't see a solution. And college football coverage probably isn't going to be banned anytime soon.
Bryan from Pittsford, NY:
With all of the recent questions concerning Manziel and how his play will translate to the NFL, I'm surprised no one has raised concerns as to his maturity. I'm okay with athletes being athletes and not priests, but quarterback is unique. I watched the Alabama/A&M game and, after handing the ball off for a touchdown, Manziel kissed his (relatively small) biceps. I'm not OK with that as the face of my franchise. Has he done anything to convince teams he has grown up and do you foresee that being an issue?
John: NFL teams will certainly question Manziel's character and off-field ongoings. With his profile, position and the likelihood he will be a Top 10 selection, teams will question everything about him. They also will investigate his background pretty heavily. But let's keep some perspective about Manziel when it comes to character/maturity questions. From what I've seen so far, Manziel hasn't done very much that concerns me a whole lot. He appears to be a pretty normal college 20-to-21-year-old college kid, and frankly, I probably would have enjoyed hanging out with him when I was a 20-to-21-year-old college kid. He reportedly works very hard at football and teammates reportedly enjoy playing with him, and he may turn out to be a guy whose personality fits in quite well in an NFL locker room. There are, of course, questions about whether his physical ability translates to the NFL, but let's keep the "off-field/maturity" issue in perspective.
Adam from Jacksonville:
Let me tell you why it scares people so much to keep Gabbert around. It's one thing to have unproven players on the roster with potential. You can always hypothesize about how good they might be if only they had an opportunity to step into the spotlight. It's entirely another thing to keep players on the roster who have already had their chance and FAILED MISERABLY.He is one of the worst quarterbacks to play in the league over the last couple of years and it scares the heck out of Jags fans to think there's any scenario where he could end up taking more snaps here in the future. Please release him. Now.
John: I'm sorry you're frightened. But releasing him now isn't going to happen. As much as fans may recoil at the thought of Gabbert playing, it's the job of the people running the Jaguars to make moves to strengthen the roster. To release Gabbert now, before any offseason moves are made, wouldn't do that. I don't see Gabbert starting next season and if I had to guess, the guess will be a rookie starting with Henne as a backup. But there's no need to eliminate Gabbert from that equation in January.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Regarding your impression that Clowney could be a liability against the run, what did you mean by, "That won't matter when Clowney is rushing the passer in the NFL?"
John: First off, I don't know that Clowney will be a liability against the run. I saw some plays Wednesday that looked like he didn't play the run well. That's a few plays in one game. What I meant when I said "That won't matter when Clowney is rushing the passer in the NFL" was that Clowney's pass-rushing ability likely will make him effective enough doing that that there will be teams that can overlook it if he happens to be weaker against the run.
Chris from Jacksonville:
I'm concerned about the Jaguars drafting an underclassman quarterback early. Isn't that how we got in trouble with Gabbert? If the new quarterback sits that means we start Henneor Gabbert next year. Neither of those options will go over well with the fans. I realize Gus and Dave will do what's best for the team in the long run, but you still gotta sell tickets.
John: One, if the Jaguars draft a quarterback early, he likely won't sit for long. And whatever underclassmen would be drafted, he will have played more than Gabbert had played at Missouri. Don't worry about how the options will go over with fans or selling tickets. You can't worry about that when drafting, and the Jaguars won't.
Kevin from Duuvall:
Master Oehser, your response to James from NY about Johnny Football reminded me why I will never lose faith in this organization. The Jaguars believe in hiring competent individuals to make the decisions about the direction of the franchise, regardless of what the fans are clamoring for. I love that! Say what you mean and execute. That includes you O-postle. Fine work, sir (insert golf clap sound).
John: One fer O-Zone!
O-Zone: A show of support
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . .
John from Ramsey, NJ: