Let's get to it . . . Mike from St. Augustine, FL:
Reassure the masses Brother John: even though fans and national media types around the country may fall for the misinformation of "the players quit," "the owner is cheap," "Gabbert is a wimp," and "the fans are terrible" – the coaches inside the league know the truth and those misconceptions won't affect our new hires or free agents.
John: The misinformation of which you speak is just that – misinformation. And fear not: it can be swept aside quite easily with facts. Players quit? Watch the tape. Nothing could be further from the truth. Owner is cheap? Shahid Khan has no track record and all indications are there is no reason to expect him to be cheap – and besides, the cheap thing attached to Wayne Weaver was a myth, anyway. Facts say differently. Gabbert is a wimp? Again, watch the tape. The fans are terrible? Well, that won't take too long to dissuade once you get in a room and start talking facts. Look, here's the bottom line: this is one of 32 NFL jobs, it's in Florida with no state tax and Shad Khan has said money won't be an object. Forget any talk the job isn't a good one. There's no such thing in the NFL as a bad job. Move on.
Mark from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Five years as head coach in NFL with records of 6-10, 7-9, 7-9, 11-5 (1-1 in playoffs), 5-11. Resigned as head coach. Assistant coach for four years after resigning as head coach. How many Jags fans would hire this man as head coach? How many Patriot fans are glad they did?
John: You're referring, of course, to Bill Belichick – and you make a sound point. The lesson to be learned is you can only lean so much on past results and background to make the head coaching hire. Whatever happened previously – whether it was success or failure at the college or pro level, or whether it was being a successful assistant – the bottom line is the most important part of the hiring process is the owner/decision maker determining whether or not the candidate in question is the right fit at the right time for the organization. It's not a science. There are many moving parts during the process and many unknowns and hurdles once a coach is hired. If there was a formula, everyone would be using it.
Martin from Fernandina Beach, FL:
How many consecutive days have you posted an O-Zone? How about a running count in the lead-in, until the streak is over. Thanks for all you do!
John: This is the 138th consecutive day. I don't know about a running count, even though it's the 138th consecutive day. That seems a little self-congratulatory, and I'm not one for talking about my accolades, accomplish or work ethic in a public forum. Did I mention it's the 138th consecutive day?
Loftur from Reykjavik, Iceland:
How likely do you think it will be we will see a possible head coach coming from the college ranks? One coach I think should be a strong candidate is Jim Tressel. His track record was outstanding when he was coaching at the college level and I would love to see him get a chance in the NFL.
John: I'm usually not one to speak in broad generalities when it comes to these things. That's because experience has taught me in the NFL that making decisions based on a formula that worked or didn't work in the past usually means nothing in the NFL. Just because Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier struggled in the NFL after successful college careers doesn't mean a successful transition can't be made. After all, look at Jimmy Johnson. One thing working against Tressel, though, is his lack of NFL experience. Tom Coughlin, for example, was the head coach at Boston College, but had many years experience as an assistant in the NFL. Having been in the NFL for multiple seasons is absolutely critical because it allows the head coach to have the proper feel for the NFL calendar and for what it truly takes to win at the professional level and how to properly handle professional athletes. It's definitely a different beast, and while college coaches can coach professional athletes successfully it helps immeasurably to have the innate understanding of the situation that only can come with first-hand experience.
John from Jacksonville:
You should get nominated to the Pro Football Writers HOF for putting up with all our crazy questions and comments every day this season.
John: I get emails along these lines quite a bit, and they're appreciated, but here's the reality: I'm answering questions about football, and even on the days most filled with emails of anger and frustration, the bottom line is answering questions about football is fun. My objective is to make this column entertaining, informative, timely and pertinent with as little animosity as possible. Who am I to mind when fans ask crazy questions or post angry, frustrated comments? This is football, and fans are fans. It's supposed to be fun and as the end of this admittedly difficult season approaches, the hope here is that the O-Zone on some level has helped the season be as enjoyable as possible.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
Now that the big rush of IR questions is over would you address a few rules questions about IR? If a team has a large number of injured players can they reduce the active roster or must they always have a minimum number active? If a player and a team reach an injury settlement and the player is cut can they sign with another team or even the same team? Do teams keep players on IR only because they think they will be back the next season or is it cheaper than an injury settlement? If the senior writer gets carpal tunnel from typing so many O Zones would he get put on IR and if so who would fill in on the active roster?
John: A team can have a maximum of 80 players on the roster with a maximum of eight on the practice squad and 53 on the active roster. That means a team can place 19 on injured reserve if those numbers remain unchanged. In the case of the Jaguars, they have 23 players on injured reserve and have reduced the practice squad to four. And theoretically, yes, a team could reduce the number of active players to make room for players on IR. A player can re-sign with another team or the same team after an injury settlement is reached. Generally, players are kept on injured reserve when the team wants to have the option of having that player return the following season, or when the team wants that player to be able to use its facilities and staff during the rehabilitation process. Lastly, the senior writer would do whatever he could not to go on IR, but Maurice Jones-Drew has filled in in this space in the past. I'm sure he could be talked into doing $omething along those lines again if the senior writer were to sustain a season-ending index-finger injury.
Lee from Jacksonville:
Keeping with the true idiot theme, Todd McShay at ESPN has posted his first 2012 Mock Draft. McShay has the Jaguars picking fifth and taking a defensive end – Quinton Coples from North Carolina. He also has none of the four teams above the Jaguars taking Justin Blackmon. Do you think that with a top five defense Gene Smith would still draft a defensive end if the best college wide receiver is still on the board?
John: The Jaguars are still in the process of building their roster, and pass rusher and wide receiver are perhaps the two areas the team most obviously still needs to add elite-level talent. Smith is a Best Available Player guy, and if in your scenario Coples is the best available player, that wouldn't be idiotic. Remember, Smith believes in addressing need in free agency while going "BAP" on draft day. With the draft again after free agency this season, there's every possibility wide receiver will be less of a perceived need in April than it is in December.
Justin from Jacksonville Beach:
Can you remind Jacksonville that Shahid Khan did not invest $760 million for childish excuses, anonymous anger, apathy, fearfulness, or an inferiority complex?
John: I told Shad I'll take care of handling the childish excuses, anonymous anger, apathy, fearfulness and inferiority complexes in the O-Zone – and I can do it for a lot less than $760 million.
Mark from St. Augustine, FL:
What kind of interaction will Gabbert have with the coaching staff once the season is over? Can he still go in and use the facility to review film and get teaching? Once the new coaches are in place will he be able to start right away or does he need to wait until there is an official minicamp? I'm not sure with the new CBA rules about practicing if this is still possible.
John: Gabbert essentially will be able to use the facility whenever he chooses, although there will be a period at the end of the season where all players are encouraged to get away. If changes are made on the coaching staff, there also will be a period when that group will evaluate and prepare. The off-season program likely will begin sometime in late March, and I'd expect Gabbert will be around the facility extensively from that point on, if not before.
Randy from Oxford, PA:
John, I thought about you working out. I laughed until I cried.....
John: I thought about me working out, too, then I walked to the break room for a Snickerdoodle. Later, alone, I cried.
Let's get to it . . . Mike from St. Augustine, FL: