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O-Zone: Reality check

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jim from Jacksonville:
Just a philosophical question: with all of the free-agent signings and shifting of players from team to team year to year, aren't we really just rooting for a uniform? After all, Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye among others were on other teams a year ago. Why do we suddenly feel compelled to support them now? Only because they're wearing a new uniform is why.
John: There is an element of this with the NFL, but you're pretty much rooting for a uniform in most team sports – and that always has been the case. College football players play at schools for three or four seasons before moving on, and the best college basketball players often play less than that before moving on. Player movement also is the norm in professional baseball, hockey and basketball. I'm not discounting your question, though: I do see why there might be less of a connection for some fans with a professional sports team than there was in the days when players commonly remained with a team for an entire career. As a longtime Washington Redskins fan at the time, I remember being stunned and angry when Gary Clark and Art Monk left that team; fans today might be angry, but there would be little-to-no shock. Is that too bad? Yeah, probably. The trade-off is more teams being able to improve more quickly than in past eras, which gives more fans hope each season than once was the case. As for why you support the players considering this hired-gun feel … yeah, a lot of is the fact that they're with your team now – and I don't know why people seem so compelled to do that. I imagine someone smarter than me with a degree in psychology could help. It indeed is a pretty intriguing, odd phenomenon when you think about it.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
What was the biggest surprise to you about the Super Bowl?
John: That the Patriots lost despite the Eagles getting minimal pressure. I thought the Eagles had a very good chance to win, but that thought was based on them pressuring quarterback Tom Brady and limiting the Patriots offensively. I did not anticipate the Eagles winning a high-scoring game.
Jon from Brentwood, UK:
Zone, when trying to explain to my wife the Myles Jack early-whistle situation, she made what I thought was a very good point. In both rugby and soccer referees have the ability to play "advantage" so that the play continues either until the advantage is lost or the play comes to an end. Would that be workable in the NFL?
John: I would like to see the NFL attempt to employ an element of this because I do believe the NFL needs to do something to reduce inadvertent whistles that so often disallow defensive touchdowns – as well as the "forward-progress" calls that stop plays too early at times. I don't know that you could see the NFL adopt a system that simply allows all plays to carry on after they're obviously over, though. In a violent sport, there is value to the concept of a whistle stopping play and therefore preventing unnecessary hits. It seems the NFL needs to focus on further encouraging officials to allow potential turnover plays to play out. Would that have prevented a quick whistle on the Myles Jack play? I'm not sure, and maybe it will take someone smarter than me to come up with a solution for that one. It's quite possible that was simply unavoidable human error – albeit for the Jaguars, a really unfortunate human error.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, are we not making this "early-whistle" controversy too complicated? There seems to be a relatively simple solution: When there's a turnover or appearance of a turnover, the play isn't whistled dead until the recovering player is tackled to the ground, pushed out of bounds or scores a touchdown. This would eliminate most instances of the early-whistle issues, would it not? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: You make a fair point, and I'm obviously as guilty of mucking this one up as anyone. Your solution would be a good one, but would it have changed the outcome of the Jack play? It seems the official on that play very possibly could have mistakenly still called Jack down by contact – if he hadn't called the ball-carrier down by contact before that.
John from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Two penalties in 120 minutes of football. Do you still believe the referees are not doing everything they can do to help the Patriots win? The stats do not lie.
John: Your email implies NFL officials as a group are scheming for the Patriots to win. I can't buy that. Now, does human nature perhaps cause a bit more leeway or benefit of the doubt to be given to them because officials are used to seeing them play at a high level? Well …
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
Joke of a Super Bowl. Jags would have won with relative ease. Both defenses were embarrassing.
John: I'm sorry you didn't like the game. I do think the Jaguars could have won. I don't know about the "relative-ease" part. That's a hard case to make considering the level both the Eagles and the Patriots were playing offensively.
Kiel from Gloucester, UK:
Hi, John. Obvious question, but after that Super Bowl performance do you think the Jags will think about trying to acquire Nick Foles? I like Blake and I am more than happy with Blake moving forward, but I'm not in charge!
John: I believe the Jaguars will consider every possible option to improve. I would be all for acquiring a player such as Foles to compete at quarterback if the NFL was operated in a vacuum. But the NFL isn't a vacuum. It's tough to know if they would consider Foles without knowing what it would cost to trade for and then sign Foles. Also: Do the Eagles want to trade him? Do the Jaguars see in Foles the player who excelled the last two games? Do they see the one who struggled at times when he first took over as the starter late in the season? This one's worth watching, but there are a lot of questions to be answered.
Ian from Leeds, UK:
I saw after the Super Bowl that Rob Gronkowski is considering retirement. While I doubt that happens, he's an obvious Hall of Famer – albeit with an eight-year resume. Do you think his retirement would help give Hall-of-Fame voters a contemporary angle on Tony Boselli as a dominant-but-short-lived candidate?
John: It might refocus the lens through which a few voters see Boselli, but the problem with predicting and interpreting Pro Football Hall of Fame voting is you have 48 voters with a different lens on 15 different candidates each offseason. I'm no math genius, but that's many lenses, which means many views. I think the lack-of-longevity question about Boselli means less to many voters now than before, and his Top 10 status the past two years means many voters consider him a Hall of Famer. Whether enough consider him in the Top 5 on a particular year is a trickier question – and one we'll be discussing until Boselli receives his deserved place in Canton.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Unusual year. Instead of the Jags' staff coaching in the Senior Bowl, it whizzed by without any notice nor thought. Do you have any idea what we here in Jacksonville missed?
John: Not yet. While those at the Senior Bowl apparently were whizzing, I was covering the AFC Championship Game, Pro Bowl and the Tony Boselli Hall of Fame Watch. I'll start digging my eager draft teeth into the draft and offseason in the coming days and weeks. And maybe then I'll have time to whizz.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
What are they going to do with Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole?
John: The Jaguars aren't likely to "do" anything with Westbrook and Cole beyond telling them when to show up for the offseason program; they were both rookies last season and therefore they remain under contract for the next few seasons. As for Hurns and Lee, I doubt either will be back. While Hurns remains under contract, the Jaguars won't incur dead money on the cap by releasing him – and that makes that a distinct possibility. Lee will be unrestricted free agent and it seems unlikely the Jaguars will re-sign him for what he will command on the open market. Those stories will play out in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
Steven from Arlington:
I just wanted to say what a fantastic season we as fans had. I remember thinking this past season was over before Week 1 started. Then 10 sacks against the Texans happened. We started 3-3 and turned that into 10-4. I drove to watch the Jaguars game in Tennessee, then got a plane ticket to see the Jags win their first playoff game at home (for me personally). It was a fantastic year.
John: #DTWD

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