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Best for the long haul

Posted Nov 13, 2012

Let's get to it . . .

Daniel from Jacksonville:
Thanks, John. You helped me make a connection that will help me preach patience to the panicked fans. Shad Khan wants to wait until after the season for a proper evaluation. You mentioned Khan's engineering background. It would seem foolish for an engineer to make changes while whatever he's engineering is in progress. It's easy to see each week of an NFL season as a separate activity, but in reality each week is a small part of a single process. It may seem clear as day what the problem is right now, but what happens over the next few weeks might provide real insight that will keep this team from overreacting and making a mistake that could lead to years of even more depressing football.
John: That was Khan’s point, precisely, when he spoke on this issue last week. He understands that fans are upset. He dreamed for many years of owning an NFL team; do people believe he isn’t also upset? Do people think he likes 1-8? Of course he wants to win and win now. But while it’s the fans’ job to be upset and demand change, it’s the job of the owner to see the big picture, to take a measured, business-like approach and make sure decisions get made for the right, unemotional reasons.
Bruce from Mississauga, ON:
People don't see the world as it is....they see it as they are.
John: And wherever you go, there you are.
Rick from Tampa, FL:
Time to give up and concede this team isn't very good and won't win much if any more games this season.
John: Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of giving up. I’ve given up a lot in more than four decades and “extra effort” isn’t exactly my middle name. But when it comes to pro football, there’s no point in giving up and conceding anything. It’s the NFL and there are seven games remaining. I suppose a team could theoretically give up, but if they do, it’s a pretty sad thing.
Ron from Jacksonville:
Everybody thinks the Jags are a decade from being good; I don't buy it. I've watched too many teams go from 3-13 to 10-6 in a year to know having the talent and getting players on the same page are two different things. This team is trying to learn to play as a unit and it's missing the people who have been the glue for a long time. No Greg Jones and no Daryl Smith is killing this team. When did the running game stop running? When did we suddenly forget how to stop the run? Without those two elements, it's putting too much pressure on the secondary and the passing game, which are the Jags weaknesses when the team is healthy. I'll trade any skill position on the field right now for either of those guys.
John: I don’t know about *any” skill position, but you make a good point. There have been a couple of pretty important positions missing pretty much all season. I don’t know that it’s fair to say that’s the difference in 1-8 and 8-1, but I feel safe saying a healthy team would be more competitive. I continue to believe that this team is capable of being more competitive than it is, but it’s running out of time to prove me right.
Michael from Jacksonville:
Were the fans in Jacksonville always this impatient on young players? Michael Irvin only caught a total of 78 passes in three years. He's a Hall of Famer now. Herman Moore only caught 11 passes as a rookie. He was an All-Pro wide receiver. I'm going to get heat for this comment. But, do you think our fans don't understand how the NFL works in rebuilding a roster?
John: Fans are usually impatient with young players. That’s because fans think of players as a finished product upon arriving in the NFL, and nothing could be further from the truth. The NFL is a different game than college, and there are often skills to be learned, work ethics to be developed and maturity to be gained before players reach their peaks. Now, as far as rebuilding the roster, no way am I going to criticize fans for being impatient. The Jaguars are 1-8. When you’re 1-8, if you don’t improve, serious evaluation must be done and serious decisions much be made.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
Can you honestly say this team has looked well prepared for one game lately? As soon as there is a setback (sack, penalty, dropped pass) they can't seem to recover from it like a good team might.
John: I actually think the team has come into most games playing pretty well, so that would lead me to believe the preparation has been OK. I agree that the team has had difficulty overcoming adversity. As much as anything, that seems to have defined the season. They had opportunities against Cincinnati, Houston and Chicago and one play seemed to send those games off the rails. A team is going to have bad circumstances. The good ones do something about them.
Adam from Long Island, NY:
I have been one of the more patient fans when it comes to this team and Gabbert, but I do not see a kid who has only won five games out of 24 and who only threw for one 300-yd game making a significant turnaround in his career. He's a great kid with all the tolls but he is not a winner.
John: I wish I’d known Gabbert when I was growing up in Jacksonville. Back then, I never had quarters for tolls.
Doug from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Cecil Shorts is making a lot of very big plays. Blake has developed into a solid special teams gunner. Anger is consistently kicking the crap out of the ball. Amid all this negativity, what has been the biggest player development positive surprise so far this season?
John: I’d have to say Shorts. A lot of fans wrote him off last season, and with reason. He caught two passes and looked lost at times. He showed remarkable progress under receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and has emerged as the team’s No. 1 receiver.
Aaron from Jacksonville:
How well do you think our defense has pressured opposing quarterbacks? I don't see the sack numbers climbing, but it "feels" like they are getting more pressure - what say you?
John: The line indeed has pressured quarterbacks more in recent weeks, although – as you said – the numbers don’t reflect it. One reason is the Jaguars don’t have that dominant pass rusher who is going to pile up huge numbers. Another is that while the Jaguars have applied more pressure, they haven’t always finished. Finally, the Jaguars have trailed a lot this season and when you’re trailing there are far fewer opportunities for sacks than when you’re ahead.
Ryan from Syracuse, NY:
Why has this team abandoned man-to-man coverage this year? Last year, it was a big part of the defensive game plan and worked very effectively. Now this year, we've gone back to the Cover 2 that got us gashed in 2010. I really don't understand why we wouldn't stick with what worked so effectively last year. Play physically at the line and man up on the receivers.
John: Personnel often dictates approach.
Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Mike Mularkey has made the point recently that successful NFL coaches who win regularly don't ever significantly change their philosophies. Likewise he says that he and his staff will stay the course and keep doing what they're doing. But isn't that kind of attitude missing the obvious point there? The reason those successful coaches don't change their philosophies is because THEY'RE SUCCESSFUL. When you're as far from successful as the Jaguars have been this season, I think it may be prudent to reevaluate a few things after nine games, No?
John: No. The reason those coaches don’t change philosophies isn’t because they’re successful. Part of what makes a great coach is the ability to stay true to his beliefs even in difficult times. Mularkey is a believer in Chuck Noll’s approach. Noll endured a 1-13 season in his first season. Joe Gibbs endured a tough start in Washington. Tony Dungy endured a bad start in Tampa Bay. Bill Belichick was 6-10 his first season in New England. Most coaches go through tough times. The great ones know you can’t wildly flail around and change approaches based on outside conversation.
Ivan from Jacksonville:
Would the team under Shad Khan be willing to stand the public backlash that would come with keeping Gene Smith if they truly believed it’s what’s best for the team?
John: Yes, and that’s a good thing for the future of the organization. Whatever happens in terms of going forward, Khan will make that decision based on what he believes will be the best thing for the long haul. That might mean making a popular decision and it might not, but that can’t concern Khan. What must concern him is doing what’s right.

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