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NFL Quarterbacks

Apr 24, 2015 -- 10:05am

Talking about NFL quarterbacks . . . 

  • When I studied the Jaguars schedule I didn’t pay much attention to when and where the Jaguars play their various opponents but which quarterbacks they’ll face. And the first conclusion I came to was they’d better find people to rush the passer or they’ll be in for another long and miserable season.

The Jaguars will face their share of top tier quarterbacks, a list topped by Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck (twice). Cam Newton is a rising star.

Depending on next week’s draft, they also could face the quarterback cream, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota (twice), of the rookie signal-callers.

Such a lineup likely will influence to some degree what the Jaguars will do with the third pick in the draft. It’s no secret rushing the passer in one of the Jaguars’ major weaknesses – and this year’s draft is top-heavy with pass rushers.

How do you think Dante Fowler will look in teal and black?

  • Please Tim Tebow fans. Don’t get your hopes up.

Listen, I feel your joy about Tebow signing with the Eagles. I’m one of you when it comes to loving and admiring and respecting Tim. I think the same things you do” Why can’t more athletes be like Tim? Wouldn’t it be a better world if all of our athletes were as good a role model as Tim?

Where I differ from many of you is I understand why such a great college quarterback can’t cut it in the NFL.

It’s a different game – certainly at the quarterback position. The main reason for that is money, not talent. Considering what today’s quarterbacks are paid, team’s can’t afford to have them running around and taking too many hits.

Tebow is Tebow because he runs around so well before passing – or running some more. He proved in Denver it could work -- but for how long?

NFL coaches are a conservative bunch. They make changes slowly. Is the Eagles’ Chip Kelly the exception? He likes to stir the pot more than most coaches. He thinks he’s the smartest coach.

Maybe he’ll find a way to do what the Broncos, Jets and Patriots coaches couldn’t: Find a role for Tebow in the NFL.

Maybe he will, but probably not. I expect Tebow to be back in the broadcast booth soon.

As Joeckel Goes, so Go the Jags

Apr 22, 2015 -- 9:00am

The key to any NFL team’s success starts with its quarterback. Certainly the Jaguars will sink or swim depending on how well Blake Bortles performs.

That’s a given.

But if you peek just below the obvious I think the next most important player for the Jaguars may well be left tackle Luke Joeckel. That’s the case if, indeed, the Jaguars’ offseason moves prove to be successful.

A major emphasis of this offseason was to provide better protection for Bortles. Jeremy Parnell is seen as the answer at right tackle. Veteran Stefen Wisniewski was signed to replace or push second-year center Luke Bowanko.  The Jaguars seem satisfied with guards Brandon Linder and Zane Beadles, who played better last season after a rough start.

And, of course, tight end Julius Thomas was signed to provide Bortles with a play-making safety net in the passing game.

But does any of it matter if Joeckel, a former No. 2 overall pick entering his third season, continues to struggle? Bortles’ improvement likely will be tied directly to how well his blind side is protected.

I got a kick out of a recent conversation I heard about how the Jaguars hadn’t done much in the way of meeting their offseason goal of providing Bortles with more “weapons”. In NFL talk, “weapons” are wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

But let me tell you what every passing quarterback in football history would rank as their No. 1 “weapon”: Protection.

Indeed, a quarterback’s best friends are those mammoth humans who make up his offensive line. Give a top quarterback time and he’s great. Give an average quarterback time and he’s very good. Give a mediocre quarterback time and he’s serviceable.

Certainly outstanding receivers and talented running backs make life easier for quarterbacks, but nothing helps more than “those big uglies” doing their jobs well.

I think it’s accurate to say the pressure is on Joeckel, perhaps even more pressure than Bortles feels.

The Players Continues to get Better

Apr 20, 2015 -- 4:12pm

As one of the few people who’ve covered all of The Players since the tournament moved to its current location, the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, in 1982, I feel qualified to talk about how far it has come.

A quick answer is it has come a long, long way and has done so in a most impressive fashion. Keep in mind The Players immediately became the PGA Tour’s best tournament the day it was born.

At least that’s true from a spectator’s viewpoint. The golfers actually hated the new Pete Dye course. Generally speaking, the golfers despised Dye, who was then trying to establish a name for himself by resorting to “tricks” that seemed more suitable for a Goofy Golf course than a championship layout. Dye’s original greens on the Stadium Course all looked like they had elephants buried in them.

The players screamed about how unfair the greens were and they were right. There was actually talk of the players boycotting the tournament. No voice was louder than that of Tom Kite, a serious-minded 10-top player not known to cause waves.

The result was Dye’s greens went through a major renovation and by Year 3 we had basically the course you see today.

Now as a 33-year-old, The Players has never looked better.

More covered grandstand seating has been added every year. The Stadium Course is literally a series of stadiums overlooking many holes. Modern restrooms and areas for an amazing variety of food and shopping are convenient.  Since last year a new permanent restroom facility near the 16th hole has been built for $1.5 million.

To the PGA Tour’s credit, many of grandstand areas, as well as the food and restroom areas, don’t require a special ticket.

It is difficult to imagine what improvements will be made after this year’s tournament but it’s a good bet there will be some. Tournament Director Matt Rapp likes to say every year that “as good as this year tournament is next year’s will be better.” So far he hasn’t been wrong.

Inside the ropes The Players has always given us the best field in golf. Outside the ropes the venue is unlike -- and better -- than any other in golf.

The Players comes up in three weeks. If you go I promise you’ll be more impressed than ever.

NFL Draft and NBA MVP

Apr 17, 2015 -- 9:24am

My thoughts on the NFL draft and the NBA MVP:

The cliché “paralysis by analysis” wasn’t first uttered about the NFL draft but it could have been.

Is anything more dissected, researched, double checked, triple checked, examined, re-examined, x-rayed and debated more than the NFL draft?

The sports media are obsessed with it. The fans can’t seem to get enough of it. NFL general managers and coaches live in fear of it.

How many times can you study film on a player? How many times can you test their speed and strength? How much do you really learn from someone in a 15-minute interview?

I’m not saying teams shouldn’t do their homework on players they’re about to hand millions of dollars and the keys to their future. I’m just saying enough is enough.

There’s less than two weeks before the draft. My advice to GMs is it’s time to trust their guts and take a vacation.

They should check the daily police reports, however.

  • With the NBA’s regular season finally completed there’s a great debate about who should be voted the league’s MVP. There are several worthy candidates.

Is it Golden State’s Steph Curry, a deadly shooter who’s developed a superb all-around game?

Is it Houston’s James Harden, who’s become a triple-double machine?

Is it Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, another triple-double machine and the league’s scoring champ?

Is it New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, who making an argument that one day he’ll be the NBA’s best all-around player?

Is it the Clippers’ Chris Paul, who fits the point guard mold of John Stockton and Steve Nash?

They’re all legitimate MVPs.

But everyone knows the best player AND the most valuable player in the NBA is still LeBron James. Teams he plays for contend or win titles. When he leaves them they don’t even make the playoffs.

King James still rules.

Looking Forward to Guns and Hoses

Apr 15, 2015 -- 12:47pm

Talking about the good, the bad and the King . . .

  • If I didn’t take my sister-in-law Dianne to Guns&Hoses every year I’d be in trouble. There certainly wouldn’t be any more invites to Saturday brunch at her house.

But it’s not a problem because Guns&Hoses has become one of my favorite events of the year, too. If you’ve never been I recommend you go to the Arena Saturday night for the 17th annual boxing matches between area cops and area firefighters.

There are lots of reasons it’s a must-go-to event. Let me count the ways . . .

1.       It’s a fun time. There’s great people watching and partying.

2.       There’s plenty of action in the ring. The boxing isn’t championship caliber, but these fighters are dedicated to putting on a good show.

3.       It’s a patriotic function and raises money for First Coast charities. This year, by the way, the families of the two New York police officers killed sitting in their squad car last December will be honored guests.

I hope to see you there.

  • Mediocre is the best way to describe Florida Gator football these days. Ever since Urban Meyer’s first resignation as head coach the Gators have been about as average as a team could be.

But what concerns me more than the coaches and players is what appears to be the shrinking of Gator Nation. Where’s the love? The passion? The bleeding of orange and blue? An estimated 21,000 for the spring game? Are you kidding me?

An outsider would say it’s simply a matter of the team’s lackluster performance over the last several years, but those of us who’ve closely followed the program for decades know better. The size and passion of Gator Nation “in all kinds of weather” was unlike anything I’d ever seen. (I learned quickly after I moved the Jacksonville in 1977. I still can’t get over Florida Field being packed throughout the ’79 season to watch a 0-10-1 team that was worse than its record.)

But now there’s less water cooler talk about the Gators; less Gator talk on the radio; empty seats at Florida Field. Spring practice came and went with little fanfare.

Meyer won big but shut out the fans and media. The disconnect between the football program and the fans continued after his departure.

It becomes more obvious every day.

Spieth a True Master

Apr 13, 2015 -- 10:23am

If Jordan Spieth had never been born this would have been a helluva Masters. Some of the brightest stars in the pro golf galaxy battled one another around the plush Augusta National layout.

I’m talking about Rory and Lefty and Dustin and Justin. Even Tiger provided a roar or two for awhile. They traded monster drives, laser iron shots, dead-on bunker shots and long, slick, curving putts.

But they were fighting for second place because Spieth was born, less than 22 years ago. And he owned this Masters almost from his first shot on Thursday, leading after every round and finishing a record-tying 18 under par. His opening 64 was one off the record. His 36- and 54-hole totals were new lows. He won by 4 but it felt like more because he never seemed to be wavering even with those big guns playing well.

Now the question is will Spieth eventual own a few more Masters?

It’s tempting to say no because unlike most of the other the modern-era golfers who won two of more Masters – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson – Spieth doesn’t blast jaw-dropping tee shots.

But Ben Crenshaw, a fellow Texan, wasn’t a bomber and he won twice with a brilliant short game. Spieth’s game, in fact, reminds me of Crenshaw’s.

An even bigger question is will he eventually “own” pro golf as Arnold Palmer once did and Tiger once did?

I realize we live in an era when we tend to crown kings quickly and overuse the word great so I want to tread lightly here.

Spieth already has proved he has the game. He won twice on the PGA Tour before the Masters. He has won around the globe. He made enough money to last a lifetime before he was legally old enough to drink alcohol.

But while winning often and winning majors is a must to “own” the sport, it’s not enough. Does he have charisma? I’m talking about that “it” factor that draws people, not just golf fans, to him.

He might. Women seem to love him. Men want to be him. He has personality on the course, often talking to his ball. He’s over-the-top polite and he’s respectful.

And he’s smart. I loved his answer when asked about being humble. He said he wasn’t sure how to answer that question because to do so would show a lack of humility.

Finally, of course, he has time on his side. Lots and lots of time.

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