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O-Zone: Hype it up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Jacksonville:
John, NFL players play in the most dangerous league, with the least financial protections, and yet the NFL simply continues to grow in popularity and profit. How is it that players in the NFL – by far the most popular and profitable professional league in America - are represented by a union that offers the fewest protections and the least leverage? Thanks.
John: This answer won't be a definitive explanation as I don't pretend to be an expert in the evolution of league/union relations in the NBA, MLB and NHL. I do know this often becomes a topic at this time of year – the NBA free agency period – because NBA players often have it better than NFL players in terms of guaranteed contracts. A couple of factors play into it from an NFL perspective. One is that NFL teams hesitate to fully guarantee four-, five- or six-year contracts because football career spans are comparatively short; in the case of many free agents signing "second contracts" and therefore entering their fifth seasons, a player's peak production often won't last the length of a four-, five-, or six-year contract. NFL teams therefore sign players to big guaranteed money up front with the idea that they can get the player "off the books" and be free of a player's salary-cap ramifications if the player is released after two or three years. The guaranteed up-front money is the "protection" in the NFL. That has been the system since free agency began in the 1990s. As to why NFL players and agents don't leverage for more guaranteed money, my best theory is the players in position to leverage – elite quarterbacks – make enough in upfront bonus and guaranteed portions of the contract that they don't have a pressing need to hold out for more guaranteed years. They also are more likely to see more contract years than other position players. Is this fair overall to NFL players? I would say elite players who sign second contracts typically make enough guaranteed money that I would define them as fairly compensated. Is it as fair as other leagues? I'm probably not smart enough to know what's fair when it comes to those kinds of millions.
Nate from York, PA:
But Staubach!
John: You people are just mean.
Travis from High Springs, FL:
Hi John, I can't believe it! Ike Taylor said on NFL Network Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye were his top corner tandem in the league right now. I know they're both young and haven't even played a game together yet. But it's nice to see the Jags get some national recognition for something good for a change.
John: Ike Taylor has been saying that for a few weeks now. While it's probably premature to call Bouye/Ramsey the NFL's best, it does show the potential of the pair.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
Who is the greater force: Tinker with a double-bladed battle axe or Shadrick on a mission to the soft serve machine?
John: While Shadrick does enjoy a good soft serve, you never bet against Tinker in anything. Besides, J.P. Shadrick is a fine, upstanding member of the staff and he deserves – nay, commands – our respect. I'd appreciate it in the future if our readers remember this.
Galen from Colorado Springs, CO:
In response to the Derek-Carr-versus-Blake-Bortles comparison - if their situations were reversed, and Blake was playing behind one of the two best lines in football (Cowboys with No. 1) while Derek played behind our offensive line from recent years, I think the narrative around each quarterback would be quite a bit different. That said, I still think BB5 can improve to be the guy for our franchise and lead us to the playoffs. This is only his fourth year! Go JAGS!
John: It's inaccurate to say the Jaguars' offensive line has been elite in recent seasons. It's just as inaccurate – and perhaps significantly more so – to say that is why Bortles is not considered elite.
Dave from Oviedo, FL:
Based on your age and favorite musicians, I feel it safe to say that little Johnny spent endless hours wide-eyed in front of the idiot box soaking up the glow of his MTV. Did early-MTV played a major role in shaping your musical tastes? #chicks4free
John: I was a junior at Episcopal High School when MTV first came available on Cablevision. I am as guilty as the rest of my generation of being glued to MTV for a time, but I can honestly say it did little to shape my musical tastes. My older brother, Don, gave me "My Aim is True" by Elvis Costello and "Road to Ruin" by the Ramones for Christmas in 1978, and my friend Tim Berg a few summers later introduced me to bands such as the Clash, Squeeze, Devo on a visit to Atlanta. That music shaped my musical interest through late high school and early college. The last time I remember any real awareness of MTV was the summer of 1984, when Prince's "Purple Rain" and Springsteen's "Born in the USA," reigned supreme. If you were college age, which I was, it was difficult not to be aware of those albums – and I, like most of my generation, sung loudly whenever driving alone with "Let's Go Crazy" on the radio. But for the most part, I can't lay claim to being a huge Prince guy – and "Born in the USA" wasn't really my Springsteen era. By that point, I was moving on to R.E.M., the Alarm and decidedly less MTV-friendly sounds.
Eric from St. Augustine, FL:
John, how could you leave Ernie Nevers off the list of great running backs? Since he retired, how many NFL championships have the Duluth Eskimos won?
John: I sense you're kidding, but you may be right.
Dave from Arlington:
What makes the streets of Arlington so mean? And where are the meanest streets in the world? I'd take a guess at Where The Streets Have No Name?
John: I don't know the meanest streets in the world, though I do know that when a pre-teen and teen-aged John Oehser was walking the mean streets of Arlington, he was not one to be reckoned with. Or maybe he was. Or maybe … come to think of it, no one sweated reckoning with him all that much.
Chris from Orlando, FL:
John you did not really answer Mark from Archer, FL question, so let me rephrase it. I believe he is referring but not mentioning the same scenario we had where David Garrard had a great year of 18 touchdowns to three interceptions in 2007. We then proceeded to give David a big contract and he gave us Blake Bortles-like touchdowns and interceptions. So, can you re-answer his question?
John: Mark expressed in his question worry about quarterback salaries getting out of control, and he also said he would want a few more years of consistency from Bortles before giving him a big contract. I answered the question by pointing out that quarterback contracts have long since been out of control. As far as worrying about Bortles getting a big contract off one good year … yes, that's a possibility. It has happened before and if Bortles has a monster year it's very likely he would get a big contract extension. That contract extension would make observers nervous. It would probably make those extending it nervous, but it would be extended because franchise quarterbacks are hard to find. Would Bortles play up to the level of that contract? I have no way to answer that, which probably means I'll be asked to re-answer his question and then I'll start getting nervous, too.
Rod from London, England:
Zone, Me wife Maggie May disagree with you at times, but I find a reason to believe. Seems like a long time. That's alright. Tomorrow is a long time. I am very encouraged about the Jaguars this season. More importantly in any old Mandolin Wind, don't you think Rod Stewart was underrated? (I know) I'm losing you, here, but, remember zone? Every picture tells a story ... don't it!
John: It does, and yes – Rod was underrated.
Jake from Illinois:
I think Doug said something like talented is what they call you until you actually achieve something (win). Thought that was pretty good. Now for the important stuff: when are you dropping the 2017 O-Zone hype video?
John: Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone actually did more than say that: he told the team that was the case during a team meeting shortly after he became interim coach. It was a pretty accurate way to set the tone that while the Jaguars were considered a talented team, they weren't at the time a team that had achieved much with that talent. As for the hype video, we haven't yet determined the when, ifs or whys. And there actually remains internal debate over just how much O-Zone needs to be hyped – or indeed, if it needs to be hyped at all.

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