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O-Zone: Doing just fine

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Aurora, IL:
Given the teams' ability to unceremoniously cut a player who is no longer best fit midway through a contract, why do the players not have the same right to "cut" a team that no longer presents the best fit for them? The obvious answer may be it hasn't been collectively bargained. That said, why wouldn't the players fight for that equality?
John: The obvious reason players wouldn't get that is it's not realistic. The scenario you describe would create chaos, with the league essentially operating on year-to-year contracts. Plus, remember: the security for players in the current system is the signing bonus. That's guaranteed money. Look, the bottom line is players aren't operating in an ideal world here. There's little doubt about that. They play a violent game and many are indeed at risk of being released after – and sometimes during – any season. Are they part of a system that treats them like usable property more than human beings at times? Perhaps. At the same time, this is no longer the 1950s or 1960s. The players now are well-compensated, some would say staggeringly so, to be part of that system. This is not to say players might not deserve to be treated more fairly in some areas, but it is to say they're paid pretty well to be treated unfairly.
Blaine from Winter Park, FL:
I have had season tickets for 10 years and I love the Jaguars. But if #duval is a state of mind, I'll pass. Not the kind of state I want my mind to be in.
John: Agree to disagree.
Cory from Frankfort, NY:
John, if you're a special-teams player – say, a field-goal kicker or a punter or even a kick-return or coverage player – would you be worried about the future of all of those positions? Could they be slowly be taken out of the game, especially kick return and coverage, and do you think they should get with the Players Association if so?
John: There is an argument to be made that recent rules changes have reduced the importance of the kickoff return – at least somewhat. And there's little doubt the emphasis on safety outweighs the excitement of the kickoff return when it comes to legislating the play. But I don't think you'll see field goals, punts or even kickoffs completely legislated out of the game. Field goals and punts aren't excessively dangerous plays, and you do need a way to score and exchange possessions. And some way, somehow, I think the league will keep kickoffs. But even if the concerns were real, I don't see this being a players' union concern because you can't legislate the evolution of the game. Fullbacks are far less common than they once were. That position may or may not make a comeback, but if it does make one, it will be because of a resurgence of power run-blocking – not the players' union.
Daniel from Windsor Heights, IA:
If all of the money in NFL contracts had to be guaranteed, do you think the total compensation/salary would decrease? Instead of hearing of these $110M/six-year deals with performance clauses built in; would we see much lower salaries and shorter terms?
John: Yes.
Adam from Jagsonville:
Let's just be clear that all of us have significantly better, more productive things to do with our time than read the O-Zone....Or submit questions and comments. Ok, gotta go.
John: Over the course of four-plus years writing the O-Zone, I have had the opportunity to meet many readers. They are fine people. I have enjoyed my time with them. I have valued my time with them. Still, I can say without fear of repudiation that not all of them have significantly better, more productive things to do with their time than read the O-Zone.
Kyle from Ohio:
I once asked you if you thought Matt Miller is a credible expert on player evaluations. I have my answer now. He ranked the top 50 quarterbacks in the NFL right now and basically said that Bortles is just barely better than Henne and that guys like Derek Anderson and Ryan Fitzpatrick were better than Bortles. He also had Bridgewater in the Top 12 quarterbacks, which is an absolute joke. How can these guys actually be paid to evaluate talent when clearly they have no business doing so?
John: I glanced at the Bleacher Report story ranking the NFL's Top 50 quarterbacks. It was like just about every other ranking in that I agree with some and disagree with others. That's the nature of rankings, and I've done enough of my own to know to place very little value on them. I did notice that while Miller's name was on the story, a team of people combined to do the analysis. I also noticed that the people analyzed that Bridgewater is better than Philip Rivers. I wouldn't agree with that analysis, so there's that.
David from Orlando, FL:
O-Man, I don't understand why the NFL Network treats one of its own like a red-headed step child. Why cater to the fans of about five teams, when all 32 teams have large and passionate fan bases? Why not sell the league as a whole, rather than depreciating half of its family?
John: The NFL Network, like pretty much all entities that cover sports leagues nationally, is as much a business that needs ratings as it is a "news network." That means at least somewhat basing coverage on perceived interest. That means covering some teams more than others. This doesn't sit well with fans of many teams. The fact that it doesn't sit well with fans of many teams does not mean the situation will change any time soon.
Jon from Nijmegen, Netherlands:
Mr. O, who does Bortles most remind you of? Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, or David Garrard? To me, he reminds me of Big Ben his first few years in the league. Although, I believe Big Ben had a significantly better surrounding cast (at least along the OL) than Blake had last year.
John: The Roethlisberger comparison certainly has been made, though it's mostly because they are similar in size and they both have an ability to extend plays. I don't know that Bortles plays with the raw, physical presence of Roethlisberger; then again, outside of Steve McNair, I don't know that anyone plays quarterback quite as physically as Roethlisberger. And yeah – the Steelers' 2004 team that went 15-1 had a touch better roster than the Jaguars had last season.
Brian from Charleston, SC:
I am encouraged by the improvement in both the roster and the development of those on the roster. What is Gus Bradley doing to improve as a head coach? He has had some brutally flawed in-game decisions, most notably his horrible challenges. Is he developing as well? A challenge here and there doesn't really kill a team that only wins three games, but going forward those choices could cost a playoff berth.
John: I imagine Bradley would be the first to tell you he can improve as a game manager and decision-maker, and there's little reason he shouldn't. At the same time, I will say some of Bradley's decisions in areas such as going for first downs on fourth downs have been at least somewhat influenced by the Jaguars' circumstances. When your team is struggling and perhaps not as talented as the opponent, a coach might go for a first down in a situation that ordinarily might call for being more conservative.
Justin from Colorado Springs, CO:
John, help me clear something up that isn't discussed much. All we have heard is how good Greg Olson did with Derek Carr. What was Carr's major concern coming out? His low yards per pass. Nothing changed last year. Carr is what he was in college. Short passes. High completion. I don't think he is that special. Curious to hear your thoughts.
John: I don't know that I agree with the statement that "all we have heard about is how good Greg Olson did with Derek Carr." It has been discussed a bit perhaps, but I haven't written about it much and I really haven't heard a whole lot about it. Carr was a rookie quarterback on a struggling team last season and Olson seemed to be able to get him into situations to succeed at times. That's not always easy with a young quarterback in a difficult situation. The thing that's most intriguing to me about Olson is the emphasis he places on protecting the quarterback and reducing sacks. That's huge area of concern for the Jaguars, and if he can improve that area the Jaguars' offense should improve accordingly.
Ed from Danvers, MA:
I am sensing a problem here. You have baited Boselli and Scobee continually and now apparently have landed on Blake Bortles' radar. Your non-stop assault on J.P. Shadrick, a fine individual BTW, is legendary and now you are offering to take on Brian Sexton and his "friends." Combined with your home issues all of this is very concerning, O-Zone. It may be time for an anger management course.
John: After reading your e-mail, I reassessed a lot of things. I sat back. I thought seriously about your points. I did a little pondering. Dare I say … I reflected. And upon reflection, I must say I feel pretty good about how I'm handling things.

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