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O-Zone: Powerless feeling

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ric from Jacksonville:
John, do general managers ever take into account the leadership a free agent's experience can bring to their position and players around them? For example, if a team has a fairly young position group and the general manager is trying to decide between free agents to fill one open spot in that group, would he ever take one that is more experienced over one that might have better play on the field because the more experienced player can better help develop the younger players? I have always wondered if general managers take things other than on-field talent when signing free agents.
John: On-field talent usually reigns supreme in the NFL – and all professional sports, for that matter. But there's really no such thing as "always" or "never" when it comes to NFL decision-making, and decisions such as what free agents to pursue aren't usually based on one particular trait. It would be rare for a general manager to consider experience more important than talent or production because of the effect on younger players; generally speaking that's why you hire coaches. Still, there could be times when a general manager signed a more experienced player hoping he could have a positive influence on younger players. You don't want them too experienced, though; the players you have in uniform still need to be able to contribute on the field.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
O-man, teams rotate defensive linemen to keep them fresh; why not do the same with offensive linemen? For instance, why start Zane Beadles and have A.J. Cann ride the pine? Why not use them both? According to Roster Resource, Beadles played 660 snaps last year. You can't tell me he wouldn't play with more energy and power had he played for say, 400-500 snaps?
John: There are a couple of reasons almost all defensive lines rotate extensively while you rarely see it from offensive lines. One is that continuity is a much bigger part of the equation for an offensive line than a defensive line, and the other is that takes more out of a player to chase a runner and pursue a quarterback than to block for a runner and protect a quarterback. I don't see the days of The Rotating Offensive Lineman coming any time soon. As for your final points, I absolutely can tell you that Beadles may not have played with more energy and power with fewer snaps. Now, as for you believing that … that seems to be another issue.
Cory from Upstate, NY:
I'm from Upstate NY and guess what "Duuuuuuuuuuuuvalllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
So, 'Zone, draft is over. Minicamp is over. How good have you been at hiding during the day at the 'Bank, Or excuse me, keeping up on new breaking stories?
John: What?
Damien from Jacksonville:
When a player retires before the end of a contract, what happens to unearned signing bonus money? Do teams try to get that money back or do they negotiate for a lesser amount? I know each situation is different, but what is typical? Thanks.
John: Each situation indeed is different. While a team releasing a player does not recoup any of the player's signing bonus, a retired player often is making the choice to end his career. As such, a team does have the right to try to get a portion of the signing bonus returned. In the case of an unexpected, sudden retirement, a team might try to recoup the bonus whereas a team often wouldn't pursue the signing bonus of a player who has been with the team much of his career or one who was at an age where it seems logical he might retire. There also are cases when a player has burned through all or most of the signing bonus rather quickly. In those cases, a team can pursue the bonus, but getting much isn't particularly realistic.
Dave from Middleburg, FL:
I'm seeing results of the regime change and I like what I see. I'm sold! It's been "Build a Team From Scratch 101." Personally, I'm patient, but it's taking so much time for Dave and Gus' product to be realized that Shad may feel forced to make a change and that change could be Gus. I've heard different theories, but is this the year for the Gus to be in the hot seat? Is there a certain number of games or do we simply need to be in the wild-card race? I don't think three-to-five wins is going to keep him around for another year.
John: I always smile at the notion of Jaguars Owner Shad Khan feeling "forced" to do anything. He's very much his own guy, and I can't imagine him feeling forced into making a decision that he doesn't feel is the correct one. Khan's not going to publish or utter a Magic Number. I doubt he even has one. He knew the Jaguars had a long way to go two offseasons ago, and he understand strides have been made even if the win-loss record doesn't reflect those strides. If improvement continues – and there's no reason so far to believe it won't – then I doubt Khan will feel a need to change. If improvement doesn't continue – and if it's not reflected in the win-loss record – then, yes, I imagine a whole lot will be reassessed.
Michael from Fruit Cove, FL:
I like that Ben from Duval is excited about Gus and Dave, but many people said similar things about GM Gene. He was "building through the draft" and "doing things the right way." Fans and analysts are praising a regime that has yet to win more than four games in a season. To me, the beginning of a rebuild is the easy part. Now comes the hard part - the expectations. As we saw with the Gene Smith version of the Jags: If the quarterback doesn't develop, then the other draft picks that people praise don't really matter. What have you seen Gus and Dave do up to this point that will provide better on field results than we had under Gene Smith?
John: I won't argue this point too much. I and many others believe there is a very good foundation being built. I and many others believe that the last two draft classes in particular have been good ones. That should mean a significantly more competitive team this season, but a lot does depend on Bortles and you're right that it's how the team performs on the field that will decide how this regime is remembered.
Dennis from Port St. Lucie, FL:
It seems every year there are fans unhappy with the regular-season scheduling – some reasonable gripes and some invalid complainants. Why not set some basic requirements to be followed to ensure as fair as possible a schedule for every team? One such rule that comes to mind is no team will have more than two away games during the season. One exception may be teams that play in London with a home-field designation. In that case it may be necessary to schedule three away games counting the London game as one. Every team must have one national TV game a season. I'm sure there may be other issues in the scheduling process that could be addressed with additional basic requirements to prevent unfair scheduling. What say you, O man?
John: I say that I'll assume that you meant no more than two "consecutive" away games because if teams only play two away games a season … well, that would be a weird scheduling dynamic. I also say the schedule-makers do a remarkable job and that you can't put in too many hard, fast rules because scheduling for 32 teams and 31 cities means trying to make 32 sets of needs and desires to satisfy. I say, too, the league already has rules in place; you never see more than three consecutive road games and every team does have a national-television game each season. Finally, I say that even if you put in a bunch of new rules that regulated schedules even more than they are now, you're not going to make fans happy. Fans are gonna fan about many things, schedule included.
Robert from Manassas, VA:
Now, after a team scores a touchdown, the opposing defense has the opportunity to score two points. Why stop there? Why not add boss levels and power ups?
John: I don't completely disagree, though that's probably the curmudgeon in me speaking. The NFL owners on Tuesday indeed voted to move point-after attempts back to make them essentially 33-yard field goals. They also voted to allow defensive teams a chance to score two points on a return. I didn't have a problem with the old system. I didn't spend a lot of time thinking, "Goodness, this game is awful with these easy extra points." Apparently people far smarter and more powerful felt differently. It's not the first time people smarter and more powerful than me have gotten their way and left me feeling powerless and … um, unsmart … and I doubt it will be the last.

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