THE JAGS NEED MUCH MORE. How real is this late-season push by the Jags? Any indications that the arrow is truly pointing up for next season and beyond? What should David Caldwell and Gus Bradley be focusing on to make this thing truly a consistent and long-term turnaround?
I once asked George Young, the former GM of the Giants (now deceased), about building a strong franchise. He talked about building the two lines and making sure those were solid before worrying about some of the more starry skill players. It didn’t quite work out that way for the Giants, who drafted Phil Simms soon after Young arrived, but his point was that a team can’t be strong until it can protect the quarterback and attack the quarterback with equal skill. That’s why I believe that David Caldwell and Gus Bradley will look to solidify both lines in free agency and the draft in 2014.
For instance, following the injury to first-round pick Luke Joeckel this year, the Jaguars had to resort to rookie free agents and guys signed off the street to play the tackle positions. So Jacksonville must buttress its offensive line, probably above anything else. On defense, there isn’t one pass rusher that would keep an offensive coordinator awake at night. Jason Babin is a useful piece, but not a franchise rusher. So if you asked me what the Jags must look for in the off-season, I would say three things: a tackle to compliment Joeckel, one pass-rush prospect, and obviously a quarterback. It’s unrealistic to think they’ll get all in one offseason.
SHOULD TRIPLETTE BE FIRED? After reading your excellent series on NFL referees, I find it very interesting that Jeff Triplette continues to keep his job. Think of the headlines he has made over the past 10 or more years: Hitting Orlando Brown in the eye with his flag, essentially ending his career, misstating the overtime rules, the back-to-back debacles this year. How many “warnings” does an official get before he is shown the door?
—Jeff Buchholtz, Columbus, Ohio
The problem with anecdotal evidence like the moments you point to is that it’s possible that Jeff Triplette is a highly-rated referee. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but these grades are behind an iron curtain of secrecy and I think that we could probably look at any official and point out three or four egregious errors over a decade or longer. I’m not defending Triplette. I just don’t know for sure that he is the worst referee in the league or worthy of dismissal, even though I believe he’s had some grievous errors this year.
A BUT FOR BREES. It seems like you and a number of other members of the national media can never give Drew Brees a straight compliment. It is always tempered with a “but.” Like in this week’s column, after Brees got to 50,000 yards eight games faster than anyone in history, you wrote that he is “fortunate, obviously, to have great receivers like Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham.” No other elite quarterback (Manning, Brady, Rodgers, etc.) is tempered with the buts about the obvious talent around them.
In my opinion, you’re being too sensitive. Please go back and search “Peter King Drew Brees” and look at some of the things I’ve written about Brees — you’d think I was writing about some combination of Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana. If you watched Sunday night’s game and don’t acknowledge the fact that Marques Colston made a couple of superb catches, and Jimmy Graham is the most dangerous tight end in football, I think you and I are watching a different game. I remember a couple of years ago when I said that you could make a very smart argument that Drew Brees has been the best quarterback in football since arriving in New Orleans, the Brady and Manning fans killed me for it. That’s my thought anyway.
SEND A BUC TO THE BEACH. I know nobody notices Lavonte David because he plays for Tampa, but he deserves some recognition. On Sunday he became the only linebacker in history to record six sacks and five interceptions in a season, and he’s top 5 in tackles. He’s also ninth in pro bowl voting at his position, which is a complete joke. Please show him some love, and help get Lavonte David to Hawaii!
You just helped the cause, my man. Thank you.
THE HISTORY OF ONSIDE KICKS. Would you consider doing a story about the history of the onside kick? I’m interested in knowing if the onside kick was intended in the original rules. It’s always seemed like the silliest rule in sports, and possibly an unintended loophole. Think about it. Why would the scoring team even have the possibility of gaining possession? Most people I ask say, “Well, it makes the game exciting, and keeps fans’ hopes alive.” That seems silly. And games won where a team had to recover an onside kick feel shallow.
—Daniel Ludwig, West Hartford, Conn.
This is a really cool question. I love it. Thanks for bringing it up. I am going to put it on my offseason story list.
I’ll quibble with your last point, though, as I would be shocked if you could find one Patriots fan today who feels as though the win over Cleveland was cheapened because it included the recovery of an onside kick. I could see if they felt it was cheapened because they were the beneficiaries of a bad pass interference call. But not because they recovered an onside kick.