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O-Zone: Focused on the future

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Jason from Hagerstown, MD:
The Jaguars and Chiefs both were awful last season. The Chiefs made five moves and with Luke Joeckel, the team should be .500. Why is what they are doing so frowned upon in Jacksonville at No. 2?
John: The difference is one of philosophy. The Chiefs obviously believe they're close to contending, and believe that with some free-agent acquisitions – and with the addition of quarterback Alex Smith – they can win immediately. The Jaguars believe there are some significant upgrades to be made around the roster, and that the best way to win long-term is to make those upgrades largely through the draft. One word of caution, though: you say "should be .500." Free-agent moves that on paper in March look like they should improve teams quickly more often than not fail to yield the desired results. The situation could be different in Kansas City. We shall see.
Trevor from Albuquerque, NM:
After reading the O-Zone and the comments that followed, I started to feel bad for you. You are getting ripped for your opinion and the choices the new regime has made. I enjoy your comments and will follow faithfully Head Coach Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell. I am looking forward to the next season and the many more that are yet to come. But how are you handling the pressure the "fans" are placing on your shoulders?
John: I'm great.
Nicholas from Fort Lee, VA:
O-man: How upset were you when you were not selected to be the new Pope? You rocked the fedora last year and would have rocked the papal hat and red shoes. Also, you could get divine intervention on behalf of the Jaguars. There's a story behind this. I'll share a few quick details. iPhone off. Couldn't find cord. Didn't charge for two days. Decision made in Rome. Let's just say when I checked my voice mail,
John: I had some messages.
Chris from Columbus, GA:
Honestly, I understand the trepidation on resigning Cox (injury prone), Smith (transitioning to a 3-4), Knighton (inconsistent), and releasing Ross because he was just horrible. I am still perplexed about Landry, though (even after reading your article and Twitter comments). However, my biggest concern is our draft focus. We are clearly focusing on defense in this draft, and we have a serious issue with our offensive line. I am not sold on Gabbert as the answer, but we do need to build the offensive line to give him a fair shot at the position (just like we revamped the WR Corps). I do not want anyone making any excuses for him this year.
John: There won't be excuses for Gabbert this year, and don't assume the Jaguars aren't focused on the offensive line. They may not be as vocal as the fans – and they may not have exactly the same thoughts on what's needed to improve it – but they know the unit must play better.
Franklin from St. Augustine, FL:
So if I understand the Jaguars front office's idea of a successful strategy correctly, it is to field a pro team with mostly college amateurs that were not worthy of being drafted? Are you sure it is the fans that are the ones being unrealistic?
John: Not all of them.
Keisha from Virginia Beach, VA:
I noticed Rashad Jennings is not listed on the team roster on the Jaguars website. I haven't heard any news regarding him. Did he sign with another team or has he been released from the team?
John: He became a free agent March 12. That means he is no longer on the roster.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
How many stop-gap veterans do you think would be signed?
John: Probably three or four more, at least.
Marjorie from Jacksonville:
Not a fortune teller?? Yeah, more like a Shagging Oracle Austin Powers Baby. By the way, do you really think Daryl Smith was an underperformer?
John: No, and if I've said anything to indicate otherwise, I was mistaken. The issue with Smith is age and to an extent, playing a position where it is difficult to justify paying core-player money to a player with 10 years in the league.
Craig from Raleigh, NC:
Look at how active teams like the Giants, Patriots, Steelers, Packers were as free agency begins. You never hear them make a big splash, and it's not a coincidence that they are generally in the playoff hunt. We need to all be patient, and rebuild through the draft.
John: I'll play Devil's Advocate here and point out that all four of those teams have franchise quarterbacks. That makes it far easier to have and stick to a plan. Still, your point is clear – that no matter how feverish the passion and how tempting the fruit of free agency, spending huge in the early days of free agency just is not the way to build a roster.
Jacob from Washington, DC:
You are missing the point in regards to the recent player releases angering Jags fans. I am not upset that we released Daryl Smith, arguably the most talented of the released players. Why? Because we got 10 good years out of him. Acquiring him was therefore a successful move. What is upsetting is that many of the releases represent failed moves. For example, we move up in the draft for Cox, but he is not good enough to keep. We spend $30M for Robinson, but he is not good enough to keep. Releasing the players is not what is frustrating. What is frustrating is that we made the acquisitions in the first place.
John: First, the Jaguars didn't release Smith. He became a free agent. The difference may be subtle, but it's significant. But I know your point is that it's frustrating, something neither I nor the Jaguars or management can fix. But remember: just because it's frustrating doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do. The Jaguars at this stage can't look back. They can't worry about what might have been. Bradley and Caldwell have to deal with the here and now, and that means making decisions that might at times be frustrating.
Kathy from St. Augustine, FL:
So you decided to answer some of the negative ninnies that reside in the comment section. They complain that you are afraid to confront them.
John: Being afraid would first require being aware of their existence.
Kevin from Jacksonville and Section 115:
How can the fans get excited when we watch the other teams in our division making roster moves that make them significantly better while we appear to sit on the sidelines? I understand they are signing big names for big $$$, but they are big names for a reason. Their level of play precedes them. We sign a previous sixth-round draft choice, and have guys coming in that can't seem to stick with one team. Let's hope these moves make us better in the long term, because the short term doesn't look so bright.
John: ". . . other teams in our division making roster moves that make them significantly better while we appear to sit on the sidelines? . . . they are big names for a reason." Within those words is the enticing, cruel elixir that has led to the downfall of many organizations over the last 20 years.
Chris from Middleburg, FL:
I trust in Bradley and Caldwell, I really do. But man...there is a relatively deep cornerback and safety class in free agency. Some of those guys have to be relatively cost-effective, right?
John: Free agency is not over yet.
Rick from Tampa, FL:
Do you still defend Gene Smith? It sure seems this new regime is trying to fix the deplorable way in which he left this roster. Bad drafting and so so free agent signings.
John: I understandably get this question a lot, and from time to time, I answer it. Yes, I still think Gene Smith a very capable football man. Yes, the regime is trying to fix a lot of what has gone wrong. Just because players don't work out doesn't always mean the decisions were horrible or that the person making the decisions weren't capable. Could Smith have done better? Obviously. Were there mistakes made? Obviously. Would things have been different had the quarterback play been better? No question, and in the end, that is still what usually writes the story for most general managers.
Dane from Jacksonville:
I think it's safe to say that the majority of large free agency contracts do not live up to the money involved. That being the case, and assuming free agency is driven by the market, why do large free agency contracts continue to occur?
John: Pressure. Short-sightedness. Lack of perspective. At times, a fervent belief – perhaps based on fact, perhaps based on wishful thinking – that a team is close. Ego. Delusion. Failure to grasp history.
John from Jacksonville:
Welker, Freeney, Asomghua! Is Caldwell sleeping? We still need someone to throw to Blackmon and Shorts! Palmer looked good in pre-season. I think "D" McNabb would sign if they coaxed him a little bit. Believe me, they need him to. I thought Caldwell would definitely bring in Michael Turner. What is he thinking about?
John: The future.

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