Super Bowl Sunday O-Zone. A few hours until the game. Unfortunately, that also means a few more hours than that until the end of the season. Ah, well . . .
Let's get to it . . . Trevor from Jacksonville:
Gene Smith has a lot of base hits so far, which is a compliment on draft picks. Do you think he's ready to swing for the fences this year and go for a more well-known star type player or is that really not his style at all? What I mean are guys like Clay Mathews or Dez Bryant that are more flashy, highlight-type guys.
John: I doubt he'll swing for the fences, and I hope he doesn't. "Swing for the fences" means to go after a player who either is a home run or a strike out. More often than not, when you swing for the fences, it's a strikeout and over time, that means you have a lot of unproductive players on the roster. Now, that doesn't mean you can't get a big-time contributor. Remember, Smiths' first-round selections thus far have been left tackle Eugene Monroe, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The first two play positions that aren't going to be high-profile no matter how well they play – and each has played well. Monroe had his best season this past season and many around the NFL believed he moved further toward being a premier left tackle. Alualu was a key to a defensive line that was a big reason the Jaguars' defense ranked sixth in the NFL. As a quarterback, Gabbert has home-run or strikeout potential. He obviously wasn't what he wanted to be as a rookie, but I tend to think of him as having one or two plate appearances with a long way to go before you can judge him.
Richard from Woonsocket, RI:
I know JDR released Leftwich and Garrard a week before opening day but how do you explain Belichick letting Tiquan Underwood go on the eve of the Super Bowl?
John: Belichick didn't indicate a reason for the move, but while many observers have questioned it, there's a chance it's simply a football move. In the NFL, moves are often made that aren't about a player deserving to get cut, but rather about roster manipulation. The Patriots activated defensive end Alex Silvestro from the practice squad, so apparently Belichick believed the Patriots needed a pass rusher more than the reserve wide receiver. That's life in the NFL. It's professional football.
Pauly from Section 141:
A 34-team NFL? No sweat! Two conferences with no divisions. Play every team in your conference once. BAM! A 16-game schedule. Home and away flip flops season-to-season. Finally, a fair schedule. Top six teams in AFC and NFC make the playoffs. Top two get a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. No inter league play? So what?
John: Pauly, I mean this in the nicest way possible when I say that's a horrible plan. First off, the NFL would never go for no interleague play and to have teams playing once a season would chip away at twice-a-year, long-standing rivalries such as Chicago-Green Bay, Kansas City-Oakland and Baltimore-Pittsburgh. In a vacuum, perhaps the plan works, but in reality you won't see it. But that doesn't mean you can't go to 34 teams; it just wouldn't be with this format.
Loftur from Columbus, OH:
Who is the Jacksonville media representative on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee?
John: Sam Kouvaris.
Kathy from St. Augustine:
Brandon's article reminded me of the surgeon who tells the family, I was brilliant but the patient died.
John: It didn't remind me of anything. It just confirmed to me what I've heard often – that the Jaguars' scouting department is one of the NFL's best and not an area in need of an overhaul. As I've said a few times in the last few weeks, that's not a popular stance to some these days, and it's hard for people to accept that a 5-11 team has a good scouting staff. The reality is if you parted ways with this scouting staff you'd turn around the next day and have trouble finding equally-qualified people to replace them.
James from Jacksonville:
I don't understand why the Jaguars were not able to consistently pressure (elite) quarterbacks with four down linemen when they had Stroud, Henderson, etc. The Giants' defensive line can do that consistently and when the playoffs come around, that group seems to have the proverbal playoff gear. Is it a matter of coaching, ability, confidence or is it something else? Speaking of coaching, why is most of the Giants coaching staff former Jaguars coaches? How and why did that happen?
John: First, the Jaguars' line with Stroud and Henderson did get pretty good pressure, particularly for a line that lacked an elite-level pass rusher. Those teams often played the Colts very, very tough in that era, and one of the reasons was the Jaguars could get legitimate pressure from the front. I wouldn't pin those Jaguars teams' not getting further in the post-season on the defense line – although they likely would have benefitted from outside pass rush. The reason the Giants' staff has so many former Jaguars coaches is simple: The Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin after the 2002 season and he has been the Giants' coach since 2003. He has hired many of the same coaches from his Jaguars staffs with the Giants. That's how it works in coaching; you usually surround yourself with people you know.
Trey from Jacksonville:
Well if Rob Rang said it . . .
John: Rob Rang didn't say it. He wrote a story after talking to personnel people around the NFL. There's a huge difference.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Getting to the Super Bowl is not a matter of if, but when. When the Jaguars get to the Super Bowl, do you expect them to be the underdog or the favored? I'm asking this in small market terms.
John: I expect them to be favored if the oddsmakers think by favoring them they can get people to wager more on the game. I honestly don't spend any time looking at odds, certainly not for a game that is as of now just theoretical.
E.J. from C. Islip, NY:
Do you think in the future, teams will hold off signing a quarterbacks coach to a contract, let the developmental quarterback hire and work with eventual quarterbacks coach during the off season, then the team signs him in April? Thanks.
John: I do not. First off, you could maybe do it once, but most coaches won't come to a place for a one-year deal. Secondly, you'd be asking a coach to trust you to hire him in April, and there would be the obvious issue of benefits, health insurance, etc. Finally, it's outside the spirit of the rule, and once it was done once or twice there would be something put in place to curtail the practice. It's a legitimate point to bring up, but logistically it won't happen.
Lance from Jacksonville:
You burnt out yet?
Joe from Orange Park, FL:
I keep hearing from various sports anchors that Indianapolis is one of the best hosts of the Super Bowl ever. My question is what are they doing differently than cities in years past to make them stand out so much?
John: Not being there, I can't say for sure, but my guess is Indianapolis' popularity with the media probably stems from logistics as much as anything. I'm sure the people are gracious and mindful hosts, but that's not unusual. For the media, a good Super Bowl is usually about convenience and because there are so many hotels and restaurants downtown so close to Lucas Oil Stadium, I imagine very few media had to travel very far very often this week. Downtown Indianapolis is set up perfectly for a big event, and all reports are that has played to the city's advantage this week.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Well, not JUST writin' lies & drinkin'....
John: You're right. I tweet and nap, too.
Mike from St. Augustine, FL:
I'll let the "sense of humor" and "always looks disappointed" lobs go. Tell us about Tim Mingey, "who won the C.O. Brocato award last year as the Hall of Fame's Scout of the Year." What area does he cover and who has he discovered?
John: Mingey is the Jaguars' Assistant Director of College Personnel and – like Smith – has been with the franchise since 1994. He primarily scouts the southeast region of the country, so most players from that area Mingey "discovered" in the sense that he probably was the first of the Jaguars' staff to become aware of the player. He also cross checks, which means he puts a second set of eyes on players already scouted.
James from West Liberty, KY:
I've heard a lot of talk about "Magic Hat #9" but living in KY there's not a whole lot of "drinking" selections. I ended up going to an alcohol store and lo and behold I see something called "Magic Hat #9" in the refrigerated section! I eagerly purchased it. Fifty minutes later at home, I finally am able to take the first swig. Not knowing what to expect it was pretty good! But you know what John? It tastes even better with some pizza!
John: Well, James, thanks for that. Who knows? Around 6:30, I may just join you.