JACKSONVILLE – Happy birthday to me.
It's awesome to be 38 and wonderfully optimistic about the world around me. It's retaining a rosy, optimistic, wide-eyed, child-like outlook on life – i.e., seeing the good in those around me, being kind and generous as a rule, putting others' needs before my own – that keeps me young.
Let's get to it … Jonathan from Yulee, FL:
How would you rate, or what are your thoughts, on our strength of schedule? I know any given Sunday ... but being in the dead zone and evaluating the teams on our schedule, it looks pretty favorable. I feel like we're gearing up for another year like '99 where it's between us and the Titans for the division. I hope we get to party like it's 1999, but we beat the Titans this time.
John: I spend very little time breaking down strength of schedule. While it's good fodder for offseason discussion, the reality is you often know little about how good or bad most NFL teams will be until the season begins. I like the rule of thumb that you don't really know what a team is in a certain season until about Week 6. Remember: When the 2015 season began, most observers believed the Jaguars' schedule would be difficult. By season's end, people were upset that the Jaguars hadn't fared better or even made the postseason against what in the end was perceived as an easy schedule. As for this season's schedule … yes, the Jaguars play a few teams that on paper look as if they could and even should be weak. Many fans believe these are winnable games for the Jaguars, and perhaps that's the case. But remember: the Jaguars went 3-13 last season and haven't had a winning season in nearly decade, so fans from those cities around the NFL probably see the Jaguars as a "winnable game." That's not to say the Jaguars can't get a bunch of victories this season. But it is to say it might be best to let the Jaguars win at least a couple of games in succession before circling opponents and assuming victories.
Steven from Memphis, TN:
Very sad about the Fowler incident in St. Petersburg. I do not know the entire story, but his actions seem very immature and do not reflect well. I know last year he had a lot of penalties that seemed to be selfish, uncontrolled, immature behavior. I was hoping he has grown up a little, but stepping on a guy's glasses and throwing his beer in the lake do not seem to me he has grown up one bit.
John: That's fair.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
The news regarding Dante Fowler's arrest, and the revelations of a previous arrest and numerous traffic violations, is extremely disappointing. Although no alcohol or drugs were involved (according to the news sources), it seems Mr. Fowler needs to do some quick maturing. Now, we face a possibility of starting the season without him. So many positive things have happened this offseason that we fans are building a genuine hope of a winning team. Dante Fowler's childish antics could be the first crack in the dam.
John: It may be time to pump the brakes on the far-reaching, catastrophic impact of Fowler's actions this week. Do his actions show some immaturity? Perhaps. Would the Jaguars have preferred Fowler not have off-field issues? Certainly. At the same time, I would be stunned if Fowler's incident – while obviously ill-timed – has the season-changing impact on the Jaguars' season so many fans fear. The incidents involving Fowler that have been reported aren't nothing, but they're also not horrific on the grand scale of off-field incidents. Will Fowler's off-field issues hurt his ability to develop? Is his perceived immaturity a reason he wasn't more successful last season? It's easy to jump to that conclusion, but we simply don't know that yet – and either way, his off-field issues won't be the deciding factor in the Jaguars' season. This is not to say that I believe Fowler will have double-digit sacks or make the Pro Bowl this season. And I have no idea of Fowler's career trajectory. Maybe he will be an All-Pro pass rusher. Maybe he will be a bust. And Fowler does need to mature. But this arrest – on a misdemeanor charge – is not of a serious enough nature to crush fans' hopes of a winning season.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Dante Fowler is an angel compared to Charles Haley and Lawrence Taylor. Give the young man a break. He made a mistake. It's not the end of the world for him or the team. He had a pretty good year coming off injury and playing his first season. When your children make mistakes, do you put them up for adoption? I like Dante and I think he has the potential to be special. Those groceries will get replaced by a lot of green cabbage and all will be forgiven. Go Jaguars!
John: This point is hardly without merit.
Fred from Naples, FL:
For the record, I am a big Blake Bortles fan and hope he has a big turnaround this year. I have always felt he has never had a strong running game to complement the offensive balance we need to be successful. In your opinion, if Blake did not have a strong game to finish last year against Tennessee and Indy do the Jaguars pick up his option?
John: Yes, because picking up the fifth-year option doesn't mean the Jaguars have committed to Bortles for the long-term. It also doesn't even mean they have committed to him for the fifth year. It means they have control of whether or not he plays for the Jaguars in 2018. That gives the Jaguars security if Bortles has a good season – with minimal risk if he does not.
Jonathan from Yulee, FL:
Hey O, I like these mic'd up videos. Marion Hobby has got me fired up. Keep 'em coming. Shame he wasn't in the passenger side with Dante to remind him about "positive energy."
John: The mic'd up videos are cool. People like them. And yeah …
Aaron from Phoenix, AZ:
How much time Fowler could be suspended?
John: It's early in this process because the Jaguars are gathering information. I don't imagine it will be more than two games, and my gut is one. But my gut has been wrong a lot, so we'll see.
Brian from Orlando, FL:
John: What is the meaning of life and does it include football?
John: I've spent some time working on the "meaning-of-life" issue in recent months. It's one of my offseason projects. Good news: I'm close.
Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I have a problem with the lenient attitude we as a society have towards athletes that are 20-plus years old. When they violate the law, we say "they are just immature young men," as if somehow they are not responsible for their actions, or they should be excused. If they had been taught discipline and responsibility in the first place these issues wouldn't keep coming up in their lives. My point is we shouldn't continue to excuse 22-year-olds when they violate the law ... make them pay the price, maybe they can still learn what responsibility means.
John: I suppose I'm not as judgmental on the mistakes some young people make as some people. Maybe my opinion on this is shaped by recalling my own actions and people I knew at that age, and realizing that many young people – not just athletes – do silly, immature things and that sometimes those things bring authorities into the equation. I'm not defending Fowler's actions. I'm not advocating actions that cause the involvement of law enforcement. I am saying that such actions don't always have to define a person's entire being, and not all such actions are created equal.
Ty from Fleming Island, FL:
Considering all the quarterback struggles we have had, it could be said that our last quarterback who played well consistently was David Garrard. Please refresh my memory as to why he was let go. It seems to me his accuracy, arm strength and mobility were all pretty solid at that time. Were there durability concerns, or did they just feel that he had reached his ceiling and were looking for a quarterback to make the offense more high-powered?
John: Injuries were beginning to catch up with Garrard, and there was a consensus feeling within the organization when Garrard was released the week of the 2011 regular-season opener that it was time to make the move. There also was a feeling that it would be time to start rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert sooner rather than later. That last part did happen, though you're correct that the team really hasn't had consistent quarterback play since Garrard's release – at least not over the long term. Finding a quarterback in the NFL is hard. Bortles has a chance this season to show that the Jaguars found one. Stay tuned.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
JJ Watt has 76 sacks in 83 starts. We need someone to average nearly a sack a game for several years.
John: Thanks, Glen.