Let's get to it . . .
Steve from Jacksonville:
As far as free agents have gone for Gene Smith, there is a lot of talk about Kampman. It was a risk to take him and didn't work out as well as the team would like, but what if the Jaguars had rolled the dice on Brees? I wanted them to look at Brees and am still disappointed they didn't. You have to take a swing at the fence every now and again.
John: Your risks must be calculated, and that was certainly the case with Kampman. He was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament when he signed with the Jaguars in 2010, but before that he had been healthy. He sustained an ACL tear in the other knee eight games into his Jaguars career in the 2010 season, and although he had returned quickly from the previous year's injury, when he tried to return this season it never worked out. This year's ACL was a different beast than last year's and it's hard to predict such a thing. If the Jaguars hadn't signed a pass rusher in free agency that year they would have been criticized for that, and they were criticized because Kampman didn't work out. Such is the way of the NFL. That's why general managers can't make decisions based on the opinions of observers and fans. You have to have a plan and you have to stick to it even when it's unpopular, because if you stick the plan of the fans, not everyone's going to like it anyway and it's almost certainly doomed to fail.
Sean from Mount Laurel, NJ:
Derek Cox is great this year. Do you think he has the potential to continue playing like this and maybe be one of this league's top defensive backs? Figured I'd let you answer a question that not many people ask about.
John: Cox seems to be on the correct path for a younger player. He has improved each season and was playing close to or at a Pro Bowl level this season. If he can get to a place where he's on the field more consistently he appears capable of reaching a Pro Bowl level. The key will be availability.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Next year's home schedule: Colts, Texans, Titans, Jets, Patriots, Bears, Lions and an AFC team to be determined. Wow.....awesome!
John: Tough schedule. Good. The NFL's not supposed to be easy.
Hunter from Duval, FL:
Why do you always give me one-word answers?
John from Starke, FL:
Very few players in the NFL have very long careers. Players have to audition all the time to keep their job, if not with their current team but with the other 31 teams as well. So if a player slacks up towards the end of the season he will be on film and GM's do big evaluations all year long. So this bunk of tanking it towards the end of the season because you're not going to be in the playoffs is not the case unless that player has decided to retire at the end of that year. That is logical or am I all messed up John?
John: It's not only logical, it's how it is. Players on struggling teams talk about getting their play on tape and that's what they mean – that in a real sense most players are either playing for their own team or their next team. This is a business, and it's a tough business and comparatively few players can risk playing poorly for more than a handful of games – no matter their team's record or playoff positioning.
Gary from Palm Beach, FL:
Why don't you let a fan answer the questions for a day? We're all kinda sick of you, John.
John: I'm sick of me, too.
Dave from Jacksonville:
Something just occurred to me as I was listening to Bob and Doug McKenzie's 12 days of Christmas. I always thought that they were saying, "Take off, you hoser," but now I know that they were actually saying, "Take off, you Oehser." Now I get it that's much worse than being called a hoser.
John: This should just be the two days of Christmas. It's too hard for us.
Phil from Fort Collins, CO:
I'm really tired of you defending the small-school draft picks. I've heard enough of, "You get players where you get players." How's that philosophy working out for the Jags? I do believe it's possible to find a diamond in rough in small schools, but the best players go to the SEC, Big 12, Pac 12 for a reason. The Jags have the highest number of small school players in the NFL and that's a fact. I agree that not every player drafted from a major conference works out – i.e. Harvey, Groves and a few others — but the numbers don't lie. The majority of the best players in the NFL come from the bigger conferences and those players should be the core of your team.
John: If you're that tired, take a nap. I don't think of myself as defending the small-school players thing, because I honestly don't think of it that way – as small school, or big school. As hard as it may be for those who aren't paid to build teams, most personnel people don't think of it that way, either. Personnel people – the good ones, anyway – study film, gauge measurable, talk to coaches and people around the player and set their board based on a player, not on a school. And you said "a few others" from major conferences don't work out? Players from major conferences don't work out all the time. Players from small schools fail, too. A great percentage of players fail whatever the size of their school. It's the nature of looking at human beings and trying to predict the future.
Jimmie from Jacksonville:
You have mentioned many times that most successful franchises do not rely on rookies to start in their first season. Even first-rounders. I believe Gene will be at his most effective once this team gets to that point. I can't wait to see what Gene can do for this franchise once he doesn't have the immense pressure of throwing rookies out there every year. What's your assessment of this?
John: I believe that's right. The three Jaguars rookies who have come under fire the most this season – Blaine Gabbert, Will Rackley and Cecil Shorts – ideally would have been asked to do much less. And all three should improve dramatically next season.
Marco from Lima, Peru:
I like Gabbert and understand that he needs better wide receivers and more time. I believe in Gene and think he has done a great job creating a competitive roster. But I think it would be a good idea to draft a quarterback if the right wide receiver is not available. Not because I do not believe in Gabbert but because of what Arizona gave up for Kevin Kolb. A first-round pick and a pretty good cornerback! What do you think?
John: The theory you put forth is one of the benefits of best available player. If you draft good players who can't make your roster, you theoretically can trade that player. What will the Jaguars do? That's anybody's guess, but that is the theory.
Mike from Kissimmee, FL:
In the beginning of the season when a receiver dropped a pass, Gabbert just walked back to the huddle. Now when a receiver drops a pass you can see his frustration and he gives the receivers the look of doom. Am I crazy for liking that about Gabbert? My girlfriend thinks I'm just mean.
John: You're mean, but I sort of like it, too – provided it means Gabbert is gaining confidence and knowledge of the offense.
Chase from Jacksonville:
I'm sorry, John. I feel like most of the people that email you don't know the slightest thing about football. I would like to see one of them use the draft, free agency, and great coaching to turn a 28th-ranked defense into a Top 5 almost overnight. Gene Smith is doing a great job in my books. I believe with an elite pass rusher to pair with Mincey and a young CB to step into Mathis's shoes in a few years, we could be in the top two defenses (barring injury) for years to come. Thoughts?
John: I agree with you that the Jaguars have a strong base defensively. And I agree that they have a chance to be a good defense for the foreseeable future. I always hesitate to say one or two moves could ensure any defense stays among the elite for many, many years. To stay on top on either side of the ball or as a team in the NFL you have to constantly monitor and tweak the roster, ensuring you stay strong at all levels and as many positions as possible.
Dwayne from Jacksonville:
I heard someone say they read on the Internet that Maurice Jones-Drew is awesome. You might agree. My question is do you think we need to give Blaine Gabbert more time or draft a new quarterback? And don't you think we should draft Justin Blackmon or BA reciever as well as sign a wide receiver in free agency? PS. Any idea which one?
John: I have no idea what you're talking about.