Grant from Jacksonville:
I’m not one to second guess what Gene Smith is doing but if Matt Moore starts Week 1 for the Dolphins, I’m gonna be second guessing what he has been doing the past five years.
John: I’m not sure why that’s the case. The Jaguars released Garrard last year at least in part because they didn’t believe he was the same player he had been the few years before that. That’s not a knock on Garrard, but players are different at different stages of their careers, and it would be no insult to Garrard this season if he no longer is a starter. It also certainly wouldn’t reflect on Smith, who in fact was the general manager in only two of Garrard’s seasons as a starter. I get that there is a rush to criticize Smith, and as general manager, being criticized is part of the gig, but in this case that wouldn’t really be warranted.
Micah from London, England:
So who were you pulling for? Murray or Federer?
John: Federer. Sunday, and always.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Back in 1996 through 2000 or so the Jags had the dynamic duo of Smith and McCardell as Thunder and Lightning. Those two helped the offense also have a balanced running attack by drawing the safeties back and allowing the O-line to establish a running game. Will the Jags have anything close to that wide receiver tandem this year to help balance the offense?
You’d like to think at some point in the season Laurent Robinson
and Justin Blackmon
will start being such a duo, and that some version of Mike Thomas
, Cecil Shorts and Lee Evans
will form a very nice complementary package. Just how that will play out will only be seen in time. Don’t forget that although Smith emerged as a 1,000-yard receiver in 1996 he didn’t develop into a go-to receiver until later that season. Andre Rison actually started the season opposite Keenan McCardell and the Jaguars as a whole took a while that season to really find their bearings.
Bryan from Rancho Cucamonga, CA:
I just told my wife and my best friend what happened with you, and we all laughed big time. Out of all people and dumb questions you get, you chose to get at me! How awesome. I don't even know you and I love you, O-Man.
John: Thanks. I’m pretty fond of me, too.
Lou from Jacksonville:
Can you put up a practice schedule open to the public? The schedule you have listed is very confusing. Go Jags!
John: The following training camp practices are open to the public: Friday, July 27 (2:15 p.m.); Saturday, July 28 (2:15 p.m.); Monday, July 30 (8:30 a.m.); Tuesday, July 31 (8:30 a.m.); Wednesday, August 1 (8:30 a.m.); Thursday, August 2 (8:30 a.m.); Friday, August 3 (scrimmage, 6:30 p.m.); Sunday, August 5 (3 p.m.).
John from St. Augustine, FL:
I never thought about fans in Slovenia reading these questions or our posts. I am a little embarrassed for our occasional low-brow behavior. At the same time, it’s pleasing to know there are folks half a globe away who will never attend a game and yet are still interested in the Jaguars brand of tough-nosed football and the passion of our fans. I know we’re no Manchester United, but that’s pretty cool.
John: I sort of like to think the folks in Slovenia can get their brows as low as the rest of us.
Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
I know most people are obsessed with the contract situations of MJD and Scobee, but what about the two rookies who are still not under contract yet? I know Blackmon's case is a bit difficult because of the DUI, but why they didn't signed already Anger? Do you know how those contract talks going lately?
John: When rookie contracts don’t get done by the end of the offseason program – i.e., mid-June – they often don’t get done until closer to training camp. That’s a pretty common annual story around the league. The reason often is members of front offices take vacation in in late June and early July. I’d expect the contracts of Blackmon and Anger to get done before training camp begins and I don’t sense any worry around the building that that won’t happen.
Steve from Jacksonville:
To play Devil’s Advocate for a moment I feel the NFL would not be very far off in current level of popularity had the rules allowed for the running game to be better balanced with the passing game. I would argue that a lot of the popularity of the NFL today and in general comes for the explosion in things more related to production quality (like the NFL Network), and unprecedented fan involvement (like fantasy football). Things like the "Red Zone" and the soon-to-be-available "coaches tapes" is an amazing way for an enthusiastic fan to take in the games on heretofore-unprecedented levels. If they were suddenly pounding the ball more I doubt you'd see a significant drop off in popularity – 15 years ago maybe but not now. Two cents.
John: Yes, it would be popular. Even in the run-oriented 1970s the league had taken over as the country’s most popular sports league, but the reality is high-profile quarterbacks draw the biggest ratings – in part because they have the longest time as recognizable figures in the sport – and therefore the league is going to be geared around them. It’s a pretty tried-and-true formula and I don’t see it changing.
Gary from Centerville, OH:
"Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead." This should be your response for any more MJD contract questions.
John: Always look on the bright side of life.
Daniel from Summit, NJ:
On Saturday, I spent a ridiculously hot day in Central Park watching a great concert, met a beautiful woman, and didn't think about checking out the O-Zone until nearly 11 p.m. I almost missed my daily O-Zone. I bet there are a lot of us on the daily streak with you. You ever have a "close call" on the "streak?”
John: We’ve had a few days that almost got dicey, but they’ve usually been days when technical issues or long travel days caused us to be a few hours late. As for your day, I’m just glad to have been the best part.
Jim from Meridian, ID:
Living in Idaho, the big talk is Jerry Kramer and the fact he's the only member of the NFL's 50th Anniversary Team not in the Hall of Fame. Your thoughts.
John: I’m probably biased because my favorite book as a kid was Kramer’s Instant Replay, and having read a lot of books on those Packers years, I am partial to those players. I honestly couldn’t tell you if Kramer was Hall of Fame-worthy, but he was a starter and a key part of the Packers’ famed Power Sweep. He played on five NFL Championship teams. And his books have helped shape how we remember one of the league’s all-time great dynasties. So, should he be in the Hall of Fame? Guys have certainly gotten in contributing less.
Ian from Brantford, ON:
Please Jags fans, stop asking about signing T.O., OchoCinco, Plaxico and Harvin "o". Our receiving corps has improved immensely over the offseason with the additions of Robinson and Blackmon and I believe that Benzo will have a much better season than the previous one. I can't wait to see how much our passing game improves with those additions along with a maturing quarterback who is probably more excited than I am about the options he has to throw to.
John: I’m a little tired of people wanting big-name, free-agent receivers, but I’m not expecting it to stop. People still see the receivers as a weak area and will until the group shows otherwise. People also will always assume that a player with a familiar name is better than an unknown. As far as Gabbert, yes, I would imagine he is more excited than you are. He has tools with which to work this season and the belief around the Jaguars is he and the receivers are going to help produce a vastly improved passing game.
Dave from Ada, OK:
Were you a Howard Cosell fan? Or did you have some other sports announcer/reporter that you've always admired?
John: I wasn’t really a fan or not a fan – he was largely out of the business by the time I started covering college and high school sports – but I do recall vividly being angry at things he said when I a sports fan growing up. The thing about Cosell was whether you liked him or not, you absolutely couldn’t ignore him. He was very much a man of his time. I don’t think in this day of the internet, twitter, and 24-hour news cycle one person will ever become such a dominant figure in sports journalism. I was a great admirer of Mitch Albom early in my career, and Gary Smith did things with the long-form feature in Sports Illustrated that I was wise not to bother trying to emulate.
Shad from Jacksonville:
Those raises were the result of an accounting error. You will be required to pay the money back by washing my car.
John: Just one?