Let's get to it . . .
Robert from Jacksonville:
It seems successful teams have a core idea behind building their team. I would give the Colts as an example: Bill Polian built a team that was going to score and score fast, and force opponents to try and keep up with them. Another example: the Giants. They have focused on controlling the line of scrimmage with a great defensive line and dominant run game. Are teams that are not successful just failing to execute their selected team-building or do they lack the correct vision? Or do they even have one?
John: Most organizations have a vision; some don’t have the quarterback to see it through. Polian indeed built the Colts with that vision, which made perfect sense because his first selection with the organization was . . . Peyton Manning. That selection set the direction, and never during Manning’s career were the Colts without enough skill players to execute offensively. The Giants control the line of scrimmage defensively, but the reason they’re successful is . . . Eli Manning. Different, sound visions with one commonality: a very, very, very good quarterback. More often than not, that’s the key to a successful organizational “vision:” find a quarterback who can make plays to win close games late and have the talent, structure and philosophy around him to give him many, many opportunities to do just that.
Carlos from Mississippi:
Michael Vick to Jacksonville???
John: What’s he, going on vacation?
Gigantor from Jacksonville:
If I were Khan, before I made my decision I would want to ask Gene what he has learned about his drafting philosophy and if he would make any changes to his grading/drafting system. Personally, I don't think identifying and scouting the players is the problem. It is how we grade and stack our board. A few small tweaks and maybe we get more hits than misses. Not sure if my point is coming through clear enough.
John: It’s coming through clearly, and that likely is part of what Shad Khan meant when he spoke to the media about this in November. Then, he talked of the combination of people and process and not wanting to make quick-trigger decisions. Shad Khan is certainly evaluating the decision and at 2-11, clearly decisions must be made one way or another. You don’t get to the end of a season like this and not focus on doing what’s necessary to fix things. As Khan has said, improving and changing doesn’t always mean changing people. It can mean improving process, so in that sense the scenario you mention is certainly a possibility. Now, that’s all theoretical talk. As to what will happen at season’s end, perhaps only Khan fully knows.
Steve from Jacksonville:
I am still having difficulty reconciling all the hype and hope for competing for a playoff spot that was around during training camp and the preseason to where we are now.
John: Welcome to the party.
Ray from Jacksonville:
There is a lot of concern about us getting the No. 1 pick. It seems not many No. 1 overall selections have turned the team that drafted them into Super Bowl winners. Peyton would be one of the exceptions (his brother is an unusual case and should probably count as an exception). Before that, Aikman. Maybe one or two a decade – not exactly a surefire formula to lose your way to the Super Bowl.
John: I’m not sure Eli Manning is that unusual. He was selected No. 1 overall and has won two Super Bowls, so I think he counts. As to your bigger point, the No. 1 selection certainly is no guarantee to eventually winning a Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw (1970), a No. 1 overall selection, won four Super Bowls with the team that drafted him, the Steelers. Jim Plunkett (1971) won two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders, but was drafted by New England. John Elway (1983) won two Super Bowls with Denver, the team that drafted him. Aikman and the Mannings have done it. In recent years, far more often than not the No. 1 overall selection has been a quarterback, which makes sense because people are looking for a franchise guy however they can get him – with, of course, varying degrees of success.
Randy from the Pub:
If teams can make the playoffs and Super Bowl with Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, and David Garrard, then I think people should stop whining about our two quarterbacks and look at the other 51 players/coaches/injuries on this team.
John: This is sort of an accompanying question to the above question about the No. 1 selection, and Randy, you’re right: there’s no sure formula. You build a team the best you can acquiring the pieces you can in the ways available: draft, free agency, waiver wire, etc. If you get a quarterback No. 1 overall who becomes Peyton Manning, your road is easier. If you don’t, you need more pieces and your job is more difficult year to year. The Jaguars don’t have a quarterback who has played at an elite level. They also have had injuries. They also have areas where they can improve. There are obviously many areas to improve. That’s why they’re 2-11.
Justin from Jacksonville:
Ok dude, we’re obviously low on certain positions due to injury (left outside linebacker). Do you see the Jags using much of their cap space in free agency this year?
John: Whatever direction the franchise heads this off-season, I see free agency being a part of the overall plan. The Jaguars have cap space to use, and within reason I’m sure they will be a player in free agency. At what position that might be, I have no idea.
Daniel from Egg Harbor Township, NJ:
Maybe Gene Smith is respected so much around the league because he makes all the other general managers look intelligent compared to the horrid picks he makes. Please never EVER try to defend that Alualu pick EVER again. You and Gene Smith might have been the only two people on the planet who had Alualu ranked higher than JPP.
John: Thanks for saying “please.” It’s important to be polite in times of duress, and your understanding of that doesn’t go unnoticed. I never had Alualu “ranked” over Pierre-Paul or otherwise, or vice-versa, and I’m not sure I ever said otherwise. I have often said that many NFL personnel had Alualu as a first-rounder. I’ve said this because it’s true, and I’ve also said that at the time of the 2010 NFL Draft, Pierre-Paul was considered a very risky selection. With the benefit of hindsight, that’s an easy selection to criticize, particularly because Alualu was unknown outside many NFL draft rooms and mostly because Pierre-Paul is very, very good. The truth of the draft that people struggle to grasp is the best general managers hope to bat a little over .500. It’s a percentage game full of hits and misses. As such, it’s an easy thing to judge in hindsight and far more difficult to project in the future and present.
Marcus from New York City via Jacksonville:
The release of Elliott has encouraged me to seek your insight, O-Man. I see the young wide receiver as a good practice guy to develop. Do you think he'll be signed to the practice squad? Also - do you think we'll see the rookie Clemons activated for the Miami game?
John: Clemons was active last week and Mike Mularkey said Friday he will back up Cecil Shorts against Miami Sunday. As for Elliott, he indeed was a developmental, practice-squad type player and that’s how many around the Jaguars saw him. He can’t be signed to the practice squad now, though. He was with the team for 13 games, and practice-squad players can’t have been active for more than eight.
Kyle from St. Augustine, FL:
Kampman and Sessions suffered injuries that ended their seasons. You can’t blame that on Gene Smith. Fact.
John: Try telling my inbox you can’t blame Smith for that.
John from Jacksonville:
Why aren't penalties reviewable? For instance, a 15-yard penalty assessed for a head-to-head blow that really didn't happen can change things dramatically. The spirit of replay is to get it right so why exclude penalties?
John: The idea of replay is to reverse clear situations such as possession, ball placement, change of possession and clearly reviewable situations. Penalties are typically judgment calls, and therefore not reviewable. The feeling is if you reviewed penalties it could come down to one person’s judgment against another too often, negating the idea of a clearly reversible situation.
Ben from Section 203:
I'm a fan of the SEC and the SEC wins a lot of games in the SEC. The SEC then wins another game not in the SEC for the championship. This happens every year in the SEC. If the Jaguars were more SEC then they would be like the SEC and win games. SEC = win.
John: S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!
Gary from Orlando, FL:
John, if Khan offered you $100,000 to run naked across Everbank Field screaming "Help, I escaped from Gene Smith's basement!" Would you do it? It might increase fans' interest.
John: Khan is nothing if not a wise man, so he has better ways to spend his money. On the other hand, he has a razor-sharp sense of humor . . . anyway. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this email is it’s the second I’ve received requesting I run across EverBank Field in this capacity. The first, incidentally, said nothing about Gene Smith’s basement.