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Self-loathing for the New Year

Let's get to it . . . Chase from Jacksonville:
The way Gene Smith drafts is perfect, in my opinion. We don't get knock-out, Pro Bowl players but it seems like every player he drafts is a solid, hard-working player. I would rather have a team full of players like that rather than a team of a few Pro Bowl players and the rest busts. Thoughts?
John: I agree on part of your point, that it's important to draft hard-working players who turn into solid players. I think it's too early to tell if you don't get knockout, Pro Bowl players with Smith's style. I would be surprised if Eugene Monroe and Tyson Alualu don't become Pro Bowl players at some point in their careers – probably sooner rather than later. I also believe it's far too early to write off Blaine Gabbert as someone who won't be a knockout player. He has been under criticism this season and the simple truth is it's too early to judge. Many around the Jaguars believe he's destined for many Pro Bowls and a special career. Here's the bottom line: we're entering Year 4 under Gene Smith, and when he took over, the roster needed rebuilding. We'll see in the coming seasons how the draft process should be graded. But not yet.
Jason from Des Moines, IA:
Thanks for all you do, John-O! The interview with Fred made me almost cry (manly tears, of course)! I appreciate the time you devote to your (mostly) rabid fans.
John: I enjoyed catching up with Taylor Thursday, too. Taylor was one of my all-time favorite players to cover when he was playing, and he remains what he always was – an insightful honest guy with as much integrity as any athlete I've been around. He expressed a lot of what fans feel about Jones-Drew and Weaver, and it was great to have him put things in perspective.
Jason from Mims, FL:
I think it's funny that fans and media alike are throwing around big-name coaches. Has no one learned from our previous several drafts? Gene Smith is involved in the coaching search, and he seems to care little for how often a name is mentioned in the media. See Alualu and Cox specifically. The potentials will be evaluated on their strengths, graded, made to run the 40 and do the long jump to see if they are an explosive coach, and then the most deserving will likely be hired. I know there's a lot of excitement around it, but I hope fans won't lose that enthusiasm if the coach they hire is a name they've never heard of, or in Jags parlance, a small-school guy.
John: I get the humor in your email, and there's a lot of truth in what you say. The Jaguars' coach may be a big name or may be a small name, but the name won't be the reason for the hire. The coach will be hired based on whether or not he is the best person for the job. Excitement in a coach's first off-season is nice. Winning during the regular seasons that follow is far nicer.
Dustin from Jacksonville:
The other 31 teams don't drop the ball? I'm happy to give Gabbert another season but I don't feel like our receivers dropped that many more passes than other teams. A few were crucial (pay attention here Mr. Lewis) and cost us touchdowns, which is heartbreaking, but I think the tight windows played more into it than drops.
John: I'd say both factors hurt, as well as a lot of others, but I agree with one point: the tight windows hurt more overall.
Greg from Carlsbad, CA:
Interesting MJD tidbit I read somewhere, and if it was in one of your columns, I apologize, but Maurice has more 10-yard runs than all but one player this year. The perception that he only pounds out a couple yards each run and has big yardage because he carries a lot isn't accurate.
John: As Jaguars Stat Maven Ryan Robinson notes, Jones-Drew has 38 rushes of 10-plus yards this season. Fred Taylor had 45 in 2003 and 40 in 2000. For perspective, Taylor set the franchise rushing record of 1,572 yards in 2003, and 2000 was the season Taylor rushed for 100 yards in nine consecutive games – the best single-season rushing performance I ever had witnessed. So, you're right – any perception that Jones-Drew is pounding out two-yard runs is inaccurate. It has been remarkable this season to see Jones-Drew produce 6- to 12-yard runs at a consistent pace. Those are the sorts of runs that don't make SportsCenter, but they're the kind that mean first downs and production, and they're the kind that show just why he should be an All-Pro.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
Recognizing pass rusher and wide receiver are must haves this off-season, I would rather "buy" the wide receivers and draft the pass rusher with our first-round pick – understanding you draft development guys at both positions later. Which position historically is more likely to be a success in the free agency market? (The Jags' record with trying to get free agent end has not been very successful . . . now that I think about it, neither has free agent wide receivers).
John: Each position has a hit-and-miss history leaguewide, and each is littered with players who have been busts. That's why most football people believe it best to draft and develop the spot. But the truth of free agency is the same as the truth of the draft: if you target the right kinds of players – high-character players who are willing to fit into your concept – you can get production. I think the Jaguars will go after two wide receivers in free agency and a defensive end, but that's speculation at this point. We'll get a better idea as we move closer.
Mike from Bridgeport, CT:
MJD not starting in the Pro Bowl is a joke, but quite frankly, I'd rather him skip the game all together and avoid injury in a meaningless exhibition game. Now, if MJD isn't an All-Pro, then I'll stomp my feet endlessly.
John: You'd be right to be stomping.
Margy from Jacksonville:
Perhaps you overlooked the fact that Peyton actually was taught his entire life on how to be a great quarterback by Archie. Thinking Peyton was not mentored is nonsense.
John: Of course, he was. That wasn't the question. The question was about veterans mentoring young players, and the answer was that Manning was not. Movin' on.
Augie from Atlanta, GA:
If Mel Tucker is not selected as the Jaguars' head coach, do you think he would be offered to stay on as the defensive coordinator, and take the position?
John: It's extremely difficult to say. First off, there's little question in anyone's mind around the Jaguars that Tucker is absolutely qualified to be a head coach, and there is a strong belief that he will be a successful coach in the NFL. I have had the good fortune to spend a lot of time with Tucker in my 10 months with the Jaguars, and the more I get to know about him, the more I believe he will be a successful head coach. Now, whether he will be the right fit for this position remains to be seen, and in the NFL, opportunities often depend on fit and timing. If Tucker doesn't get the head job, there are other factors that will determine if he stays. Would the coach who does get the job have his own guy as defensive coordinator? Would Tucker get a better opportunity elsewhere? All are possibilities in a process that has yet to play out. I will say this: whatever staff he is on - - be it Jacksonville as head coach or coordinator or somewhere else in either capacity – will have a very good coach, and one players respect.
Johnny from Palatka, FL:
First, congrats to our CATSIZE MJD. Most excellent. Second, and equally important, thank you for a helluva year. You had very large shoes to fill, and you did so admirably, and well beyond our expectations. Thank you. Also, thanks for doing the O-zone every day all season. Go Jags.
John: Appreciated – although from everything I've heard, the expectations were pretty low.
Julian from Princeton, NJ:
I'm 100 percent for playing to win, but let's say the Jags do win on Sunday and the Colts go on to draft Luck. If he takes the team to another decade of division dominance, do you think the national media would turn to this Sunday's game and say the Jaguars should have lost it purposely, or do you think they'd know better?
John: Some would know better and still say it. Some would say it and believe it. And you know what? If the Jaguars win and the Colts draft Luck and he's terrible, they'll say the Jaguars did the right thing. Here's the other thing. What if the Jaguars win and the Colts slip to No. 2? Under that scenario, what if they keep Peyton Manning and draft RGIII – and that will probably be the scenario. Under that scenario what if they win three more Super Bowls with Manning and 10 consecutive Super Bowls with RGIII? Then what? Huh? Huh!!? Here's the point: you don't know what the future holds. You don't know if Luck will be great and RGIII will bust or vice versa. You. Just. Don't. Know.
Nick from London, England:
John, I like you. Not a lot, but I like you. Happy New Year.
John: I don't like me much, either. The particular holiday matters almost not at all.

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