JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Seamus from Sioux Falls, SD
I've noticed you rarely print multitopic Zone questions, but I'm going to roll the dice anyway. 1) I'm glad there are no plans to change uniforms; I like the teal. 2) Refs do a good job for the highest level of sports, despite being human. 3) Good for Shadrick; keep it real! 4) Outstanding season. 5) Why do we have to put in our email? I have NEVER gotten an email directly from you... 6) MAIN QUESTION: For me, I think the confusion about contracts is the idea of where the $$ comes from. We know that there is pooling of income among the teams, but when someone says the "owner has deep pockets" or similar, are they saying that money comes from the owner's bank account, or are they saying the owner is willing to approve spending the league-share in the way the general manager is wanting to do to sign the player?
I never answer multitopic emails in the O-Zone. This is a rule I never break because to do so would reveal a tragic flaw in my character. 1) Good to know. 2) OK. 3) Please don't encourage that. 4) Yep. 5) I email all readers directly except you. 6) As far as your "deep-pockets question" … not all NFL teams have the same wealth – or money available for free agency and contracts – because local revenue is not shared and is dramatically different from team to team. When a small-market owner such as Jaguars Owner Shad Khan spends as he has spent during his tenure, it shows a commitment to winning. It doesn't make him more committed than larger-market owners. But it does mean he's spending a larger percentage of team revenue toward that commitment than many larger-market owners.
Dan from Jacksonville
So, with various alcoholic companies sponsoring the NFL, you think we'll be seeing beer pong in the skills competition along with seeing which team of tackle and guard duo can toss the quarterback furthest in the swimming pool?
I doubt we will see this. I have gotten many emails in recent days criticizing the format of the 2023 Pro Bowl Games. I get it. It's not football. Skills competitions aren't the best television. I didn't watch. There's no rule that says you must. But the NFL this year made a good faith effort to provide an alternative to a game that has become less like football in recent seasons because players don't want to risk injury in meaningless game. There's no great solution. The good news is it's a pretty unimportant topic. Wait a few days and it all will go away.
Robert from Alexandria, VA
Assuming Tom Brady stays retired, I feel like an honest assessment of his career is that he's a first ballot Hall of Famer. Would you agree?
He has a chance.
Trevor from Jacksonville
How about no kicking of any kind during overtime? No kickoffs, no punts, no field goals. First team to score a touchdown wins. Defensive teams may want to defer if they win the coin toss and think they can get four stops to give their offense better field position.
This would add decision-making elements to NFL overtime that could be compelling. But the NFL typically strives to keep overtime as much like the rest of the game as possible. It's one reason there never has been much taste for implementing the college system of giving each team a possession from the opponent's 25-yard line.
Michael from Orange Park, FL
What did you think of the Pro Bowl?
I was glad for Jaguars wide receiver Jamal Agnew and quarterback Trevor Lawrence that they were able to attend. I didn't care much about it beyond and didn't watch.
Cliff from Everywhere with a Helicopter
I hope I'm not the only one who noticed the irony of February 4's O-Zone containing mention of a player suspended for gambling and the league's new "wanna bet on NFL games, fans?" in-your-face sports betting every commercial break and in-game non-stop advertising. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!
You're not the only one to notice the irony. The league long has steered from any association with gambling/bookmaking because of perception. The money to be gained from the association became such that the association is now OK. It's the world and times in which we live.
Sean from Oakleaf
You recently talked about former Jaguars quarterbacks Gardner Minshew II and Chad Henne facing each other in the Super Bowl this week. It is nice to see former Jaguar players making a go of it after their time with this team is up. Kicker Jason Myers comes to mind who struggled at times with the Jaguars but has been a consistent placekicker for the Seahawks for the last three years. Obviously former Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey got his ring last year with the Los Angeles Rams and tight end Marcedes Lewis has had five productive years with the Green Bay Packers. Can you think of any other former Jaguar players of significance?
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has been a productive pass rusher for the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts since leaving the Jaguars just before the 2020 season and running back Leonard Fournette has had some moments with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since leaving around the same time. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell has contributed positively to the Ravens since leaving in the 2020 offseason. Those three stand out, if one is given to discuss such things.
Michael from Fruit Cove, FL
I don't think many people really believe the refs are part of a conspiracy, but it seems most people do think the refs are just plain bad. If you watch every play closely in a game, my guess is that the refs get something wrong on at least half of the plays. We have so many cameras and technology that there's no reason to not do better. They have a hard job calling games on the field, but why not use those cameras if it is easier for me to see the missed calls while drinking beer on my couch. It makes no sense to make it so hard on the only people whose calls actually matter. If you were in charge, how would you change the way games are officiated? Changing the system doesn't have to slow the game down if they do it right. They could simply get more calls right and probably speed the game up compared to the way they currently handle challenges and missed calls.
I think referees do a good job. I think there always have been fans who watched games and thought officials did a bad job. I think the people who think this are heard more now because social media has allowed everyone to be "heard." I wouldn't change much about how games are officiated because I think there's a limit to how much officiating is a good thing and I don't know that more technology is going to mean fans agreeing on judgement calls. I don't believe you calling penalties from your couch drinking beer will improve things, either. But maybe that's wrong. Hell, I just work here.
Stuart from Cottonwood, AZ
Often in knowledgeable circles, the difference between 40 times and "game speed" is stressed. Do you think it is increased conditioning after the draft, the lack of 40 times in really determining "game speed" or a combination? Would love to find Jimmy Smith with that "extra gear."
I think some players play fast, and that the difference between a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and 4.5 isn't as great as the difference between a good player and an average one.
Hi, John. Like you, I don't believe that the NFL is rigged. But the overall quality of officiating, rules tilted too much in favor of the offense, ridiculous trash-talking from players/wives-GFs/mayors, bad tackling etc., have made NFL into more of an entertainment sport than a real one. On the lines of pro wrestling. Yes, it is not rigged, but the optics are getting worse every year for the NFL with no effort to acknowledge let alone address it. For the first time in a while, I am no longer interested in watching the Super Bowl for the sake of the game. It will be more a party for me and less football. Sad but true.
Lee from Fleming Island
ZONEY, how long do you think it will be until the league uses ultra-high definition cameras connected to a computer to assist the officials on the like penalties, catches and touchdowns? Trial basis only of course.
I expect this perhaps in the foreseeable future. And it could help on areas such as ball placement, breaking the plane and offsides – all of which are calls that can be measured. I don't know how much technology will help in judgment areas such as holding or interference. Eventually, a human must make a judgment in this area. When that happens, there will be debate. You can't legislate and rule everything away.