Let's get to it . . . Dave from Cranston, RI:
Hey O-Man just wondering if you got a chance to read Michael Lombardi's "letter to Blaine Gabbert" on nfl.com and what your thoughts on it were?
John: I thought it was juvenile and that it smacked of inexperience as a writer. I'm not big on criticizing other media. I know how difficult it is to come up with story ideas and to always hit on the right tone. Usually with Lombardi, I enjoy his work and while he has been critical of Gabbert, that's his job. But with the "open-letter" piece, it seemed as if it became personal. Lombardi is a personnel guy and not a writer by nature, and a more experienced writer might have known how it would come across. As a young writer, I wrote stories I later regretted – that I thought at the time were appropriate, but that looking back I wished I had handled slightly differently. My thought when I read it was, "I bet if you asked him in a year, Lombardi would tell you he wishes he had handled it differently." My second was, "An editor or higher-up with more experience should have saved him on this one."
Scott from Harlem, NY:
Any chance we can convince you to do a live blog during the draft? I'm sure Ryan will pick up the tab if you do.
John: Right now, I'm planning to live blog. As for Ryan picking up the tab on anything, you must know a different Ryan than I know.
John from Jacksonville:
With the draft in a week, are Gene Smith and Company more wanting to get it over with or are they wishing there was more time to prepare/evaluate? Is it common to have pressure at the last minute to finalize the draft board or is it pretty solid a week or two ahead of the draft?
John: For the most part, the work is done. Preparing for the draft is not a mad scramble. There aren't papers flying around offices and interns frantically running the halls. Personnel people have been doing this for years and stick to a schedule. That's not to say there won't be last-minute phone calls and fact-checking next week. EverBank will be busy, but for the most part the draft board is set and the work being done now is of the calm, last-minute variety.
Steve from Jacksonville:
How many Super Bowls did the teams that Reggie White and Deion Sanders played on win? I didn't google but I'm betting Sanders played on more. Also, Madden has stated that Sanders was one of the most dominant players in NFL history. Something to that effect and I'd say he knows what he's talking about. Me? I'll take Sanders.
John: Sanders played on two, joining teams that were already strong and helping put them over the top. White played on one, and also played on one of the dominant defenses of his era. When football people talk of White they talk of a player who did things at his position no one else has done. I actually think at their respective positions they're very comparable, and if it's comparable, I take the more important position. As far as keeping score with Super Bowls, Charles Haley played on five, so I guess he's the greatest player of all-time. This is a team sport. The Super Bowl as the ultimate measure is a tired enough argument when used with quarterbacks. With any other position, it's irrelevant.
Marlin from Middleburg, FL:
O-man, for the most part I trust GM Gene but there is one unanswered question that keeps bugging me. Who made the decision to bench Garrard at the last moment, JDR or GM Gene? It is hard to believe that GM Gene made that call.
John: Ultimately, the head coach makes the call on the quarterback.
Andrew from Lakeland, FL:
From the very little that we saw during the three-day camp and what you may have been hearing around Everbank, what do you expect from Rackley this season?
John: I expect Will Rackley to be much improved. Not because of mini-camp, but because of what I continually heard last season – that as a rookie he wasn't overwhelmed and that he showed the signs of improving you want from a rookie. It's difficult for a rookie to play at a high level, particularly without an off-season, and when one can hold his own and not seem overwhelmed, that bodes well for the future. Players take their biggest jump between Year One and Year Two. Considering what I know of Rackley's work ethic, that should happen with him.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
So would the league be upset if D-Day came through and spray painted the lense on the spy camera over Everbank field...ala Animal House?
John: I don't think it's a joke the league would enjoy.
Andrew from Section 232:
Would you trade back and risk that "your guy" will still be there at whatever spot you trade back to? Or would you stay and pick the guy you want? From what I remember of the 2010 draft, Gene Smith entertained offers for the 10th pick, though ultimately stayed and picked Tyson Alualu.
John: You only trade back if you're confident there will be multiple players you want available at a spot to which you were trading. You can't trade back to get one player. The draft is too unpredictable and you never want to be sitting on the clock wondering what in the world you want to do now.
Ray from Jacksonville:
I saw that the Jaguars practiced indoors, in the club area. I am wondering if the beer taps were working? You checked them, didn't you?
John: No. No. No . . . NO!!. No. Huh-uh. No.
Zachary from Jacksonville:
Should the Jaguars draft Stephen Hill if they're on the clock and can't trade down? Or should they go with a "safer pick" like a Melvin Ingram or a Fletcher Cox?
John: No. 7 is too early to take Stephen Hill. I've said before I'm not sure Melvin Ingram fits what the Jaguars do defensively and that Fletcher Cox makes a lot of sense for the Jaguars in the Top 10. One more word on Ingram: it's not absurd that the Jaguars would take him at No. 7, and if they take him, they could find a way to use him. But he's not a 4-3, hand-on-the-ground defensive end and therefore if they take him, it's not a fill-a-need situation.
Loftur from Columbus, OH:
I'm a firm believer in BAP and the picks, not players, philosophy but I just noticed something with the Washington Redskins. From 1969 to 1990, they traded away their first round draft pick every year except 1980, 1981 and 1983. With those first-round picks they picked Art Monk, Mark May and Darrell Green; two Hall of Famers and a member of the Hogs. With a roster without almost any first-round draft choices that team won three Super Bowls and made it to two others. I know that George Allen favored older players and he had his "Over the Hill Gang," but this started when Lombardi was the coach and continued all the way through the Joe Gibbs era, that's five coaches and three general managers. Since you followed the Redskins growing up could you shed some light on this and give some explanation as to how they were so successful without their own first-rounders, which are usually the core of every team.
John: The Redskins of those years certainly built in a different way, and that was also a different era. George Allen traded away draft selections in favor of veterans, and partly as a result of that, the roster was actually pretty depleted when he left after 1977. Jack Pardee was the coach from 1978-1980, and that was pretty much a lost era except for 1979, which ended with a loss to Dallas that still haunts my dreams in weaker moments. The version of the team that actually had its most significant run of success was 1981-1992 with Joe Gibbs as coach and Bobby Beathard and Charley Casserly as general manager. During that time the Redskins excelled at finding players in the later rounds and taking advantage of free-agency when it was available. After the USFL folded, they signed Gary Clark and Doug Williams, for example, and they also signed Wilber Marshall as a free agent in the 1980s. This was before the salary cap, and the team often outspent other teams. Now, with teams able to protect core players and trades less frequent, it's much more difficult to build teams without first-round selections and I'm not sure you ever will see a team go so long with so few first-round selections. Not a contending one, anyway.
Charles from Orange Park, FL:
Don't you think one of the greatest needs of this draft is a premier offensive tackle? And that one will be available at No. 7. It's very difficult to throw the ball from a horizontal position. Too much is being counted on Britton returning--backs are real funky.
John: Premier tackles don't play right tackle, and you don't use the seventh pick on the position, either.
The work is mostly done
Let's get to it . . . Dave from Cranston, RI: