Happy New Year.
Let's get to it . . . Taylor from Baltimore, MD:
I wish the best to Gene Smith, his family and his future endeavors. I am also very excited for you to have the opportunity to 'provide insight and perspective' into the thought processes that go behind solid, winning decisions. As much as the 'process' may have been sound, the articles I have read have found even more solid evidence of failures in this general manager regime than the Shack Harris one. I am addicted to your column, and after airing my endless grievances against our personnel decisions here, I can finally say "ahhh" and look forward to the potential of winning football.
John: Whatever the articles may have said, you're not going to get a lot of criticism about the job Smith did in this space. That irritated readers this season, and maybe it still will. That's fine, but I continue to respect Smith as a football man and that won't change. Smith's tenure wasn't successful here, but there was still a solid process. Sometimes that process doesn't work for a variety of reasons, but I remain confident that Smith will go somewhere in the NFL and have success. It's just too bad for Smith and the Jaguars it didn't happen here.
Richard from Jacksonville:
As far as playing for the first overall pick, don't forget how we got Tony Boselli. We lost to the Panthers in the Hall of Fame game.
John: Uh, no. The Carolina Panthers won a coin flip for the No. 1 selection in 1995. When the Jaguars lost the Hall of Fame game to open the '95 preseason, Boselli was already on the roster.
Richard from Atlantic Beach, FL:
With the appearance of the read-option success of RG3 and others, is the NFL entering a new era of the running quarterback?
John: Not likely, at least not in terms of the running quarterback dominating the NFL. While the success of RGIII – and to a lesser degree, Cam Newton – has shown that a running quarterback can be a key part of a successful offense, I still don't know if it's something that franchises are going to flock toward. The problem remains that running leaves the quarterback exposed to injury, and while that is poo-pooed at times by fans and media, it's a very real concern. RGIII on Sunday, for example, was clearly limited by injury, and while the Redskins won the game, he wasn't nearly as effective as he had been in past games. How long he can hold up taking hits as he does remains a significant question.
Tim from Charleston, SC:
The fans screamed for Gene's head and now they've got it. With your best guess after a new general manager, where do we start? Offense, defense or quarterback? They all need to be rebuilt, but you can't do it all at one time.
John: My guess is the Jaguars will focus heavily on the defensive front seven. I don't believe the offensive line is as talent-deficient as many others believe, and that's an easier spot to get by without elite-level talent than defensive line. The Jaguars up front on defense need to get faster and deeper. Jason Babin improved the pass rush, but the team needs to get better against the run and getting to the quarterback. That starts up front.
David from Charleston, SC:
Let me start by saying Mularkey did everything he could with what he was given (at least it appeared that way to me), but do you see any of the fired coaches coming to Jax, (Lovie, Reid, so on).
John: Well, Mike Mularkey is the head coach of the Jaguars until further notice, so let's not assume anything to the contrary. I don't expect the Jaguars to be without a general manager for long, so I think we'll know a lot more about Mularkey's future in the next few days. Smith and Reid each are intriguing candidates, because each fall into that category of very successful coaches who were fired as much on circumstances as ability. I don't believe Reid suddenly lost the ability to coach, and Smith . . . well, the Bears were 10-6 this season. That suddenly has become a fire-able offense in the NFL, and I'm not sure why.
I don't understand all this hate towards Henne. You guys saw how Gabbert played before he got injured, right? I would rather have an aggressive quarterback that plays to WIN than a conservative quarterback who's trying not to lose. I'm not saying that Henne is the answer long-term, but in my opinion, he is a better quarterback right now than Blaine.
John: I'm sorry. I can't get past your name. It's either very complementary or very disturbing, or more likely, an odd combination of both.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
What surprised me the most Sunday is all that happened didn't surprise me.
John: There's truth in what you say.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Here is a bit of good news. In 2010, we ranked 24th in stadium attendance. Last year, we ranked 25th. This year, we ranked 20th with almost 65,000 fans per game. So even though the team seems to be getting worse, our attendance is improving. That has to say something about us fans.
John: It does. The fan support was off the charts this season. The follow-up question many have is, "Well, when is the national media going to notice?" Probably not until the team starts winning. When you're 2-14 and struggling, no one bothers to rethink what they're thinking about you. You have to win to change the conversation with most people.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
Can you give us an approximate timeframe on when talking about the draft will be Ozone-approved?
John: Very soon. I start dipping the toe into draft stuff at the Senior Bowl, then build from there.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Which team do you feel is the most dangerous heading into the playoffs? The least? I wouldn't want to play Seattle right now, but the Texans sure look weaker than expected.
John: New England, Denver and Green Bay are the most dangerous. They have the best, most-experienced quarterbacks.
Howard from Homestead, FL:
The greatest success we've had as a franchise was when one man wore both GM and HC hats. Why not merge the two again and make this position a bit more attractive to some top guys who might not otherwise look this way?
John: The NFL in recent seasons has gone away from that trend, primarily because most believe the two roles demanding enough that it's difficult for one person to do both. Now, in reality there are organizations in which the head coach has the decision-making power. In those organizations, there are personnel people who do the research and much of the leg work with the head coach making the final decisions. But overall, the trend lately is to have two people with powers pretty much split.
Steve from Jacksonville:
During a bad Jaguars game, do you, or the radio guys, ever have a hard time doing your job? Don't you want to just turn the game off and go do something else?
John: It's certainly easier when the game is better, but I wouldn't say it was "hard." We're talking about/writing about football. There are harder things.
Steve from Indianapolis:
What do Gene Smith, Mike Mularkey, and John Oehser have in common? They all need to be fired. The Jaguars are 7-25 in the 2 years you have been senior writer for Jaguars.com. Clearly, you are part of the problem as well.
John: Well, at least you spelled my name right.
Lloyd from Hollywood, FL:
John, Khan should make you the next GM. Seriously. Is it a possibility?
John: I like you better than I like Steve from Indianapolis.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Don't you think part of being the GM is having good luck? You do the research, you complete the backgrounds, you watch the tape and a team of people make a decision for the board. Then if the player is a bust then you are the fall guy. I say the next general manager, we look and see if he has a horseshoe up his butt before we hire him.
John: Yes, I believe part of being a good general manager is having good luck – the luck to find a good quarterback. As far as looking for that horseshoe, I guess I'm glad in this instance Shad Khan is doing the vetting and not me.
Edward from Jacksonville:
Twenty-three of the last 24 Super Bowl victors have had an elite quarterback or a quarterback who had an elite season. Moral of the story: If you want to dance, you better bring a hot date.
Jeremy from Andover, KS:
The coming days, weeks, months are going to show us what Khan is made of. He says he's committed to building a champion and has taken the first step toward that. Let's hope the new general manager/head coach decision, future roster moves, etc. give Jags' fans hope that Khan is indeed the man.' Let's hope he has the clout and suave to pull in the right guys into the organization and bring a Lombardi trophy to Jacksonville.
John: I admire your enthusiasm. What I wonder is how you'll know in the coming days or even months. The choices Khan makes in the coming days may excite the heck out of people, or they may send people into a chorus of, "What is he thinking?" Either way, excitement level over a hire typically is based on either name recognition or on that person having a resume that includes a team that has been winning lately. Neither is necessarily a guarantee of success. My point is that no matter who Khan hires, you realistically won't know is the right guy for a year, maybe longer.