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Beware of the Lions

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Brian from Jacksonville:
If you had access to a time machine for only one trip through time, would you go back in time to observe a game from the past, or would you travel to the future to see what becomes of the NFL? If you went back in time, what game would you go to?

Vic: I'd be afraid to go into the future. They might be playing flag football. If I could get into a time machine, I'd want to be in the press box for the 1958 NFL title game, or the "Ice Bowl" game. I was in the press box for the "Immaculate Reception" and my memory of that experience is vivid. I remember watching the '58 title game with my father, grandfather and uncle. My only vivid memory of that game is the final play. The "Ice Bowl" is much fresher in my mind. I remember where I was and what I was feeling as I watched it. I think I'd like to be in the press box for those two games, wearing one of the hats of the day and puffing on a cigar. Thanks for the question. I enjoyed answering it.

Alex from Syracuse, NY:
You speak of this Chuck Noll guy so often and so passionately. Unfortunately, I wasn't alive when he was coaching. Would you compare any coach in today's game to Noll?

Vic: Chuck liked to take little veiled shots, much as Jeff Fisher does. In most other ways, they are very different, but Fisher has a kind of Noll-like glibness. I like that in Fisher.

Derek from Griffith, IN:
The league starts fining for hard hits and then we see the second-highest scoring weekend in 20 years. Coincidence, or are the defenders playing scared?

Vic: I think they got backed off the plate, so to speak, if that's what you mean. The NFL threw one up and in, especially to James Harrison, and neither he nor any other defensive player in the league dived in on the next pitch. You know, I don't remember seeing any big hits from this past weekend. I'm not sure I like that.

Dan from Jacksonville:
Through seven weeks, who are the early favorites to be the MVP this year?

Vic: Andre Johnson, James Harrison, Derrick Johnson and, of course, the top quarterbacks immediately come to mind. In my opinion, Adrian Peterson is the best player in the game, but either the Vikings don't understand that or don't have a quarterback who gets it and that's why the Vikings are 2-4 and Peterson won't win the MVP award.

Paul from Arlington, VA:
I think you're right, Vic. I think we all underestimated how long it would take to rebuild this team. Let's have a look at the last time the Jaguars had to rebuild, after the go-for-broke, salary-cap-mess days. In 1999, the Jaguars went 14-2 and were a win away from the Super Bowl. The Jags went 7-9 and 6-10 in the next two seasons, obviously signaling that 1999 was a peak and that the team had entered rebuilding mode. The team was not ready to compete for playoff contention again until 2004, when it went 9-7 and fizzled at the end of the year. So, by my count, the Jaguars had four full seasons of rebuilding before they could be considered playoff contenders. I'd say the Jaguars most recent peak was 2007, so if the same rebuilding schedule is followed, 2008-2011 would be rebuilding years and the team would not be a viable playoff contender until 2012. Like you've been preaching, these things take time and we have to be patient.

Vic: My hope is that Gene Smith can shorten the timeline.

Sharon from Jacksonville:
How do you respond to fans that feel it's in the team's best interest to throw the towel in at this point and look toward getting a high draft pick?

Vic: Are those the same fans that thought it was in the team's best interest to go for the draft pick when the Jaguars were 4-7 in 1996? That's not how you play this game. You never quit. We're not even at the halfway point. The idea of playing for the draft pick is not only ridiculous, it violates every principle of competitive athletics.

Steve from Jacksonville:
Playing Dallas reminds me of this quote from Tom Landry: "When you want to win a game, you have to teach. When you lose a game, you have to learn." Can you share a Tom Landry story?

Vic: Landry was the Giants' defensive coordinator in the first pro football game I ever attended. I didn't know that, nor did I know that Vince Lombardi was the Giants' offensive coordinator that day, but it means something to me today. It makes me laugh to think the same kid who sat in the stands that day watching Landry's defense would one day interview Landry when he was the coach of the Cowboys. What I remember most from interviewing Landry, especially during the week-of-the-game conference calls, was the poise and presence Landry commanded during those interviews. You could almost envision him wearing a coat and tie and his trademark fedora. He answered every question, no matter how probing, with poise and courteousness. He was energetic and interested. He was good for the game and the league. Coaches were very concerned about selling the game in those days. They grew up in the game when baseball was the national pastime and they made sure they always put their best foot forward when dealing with the media.

Ken Anderson from Hilton Head, SC:
In answer to Chris' question about down by contact, I believe any offensive player can declare himself down without contact. For example, in a two-minute drill, needing a field goal to win, if a receiver makes a catch and realizes he can't score, he can declare himself down to call a final time out or run the field goal team onto the field. I'm out of football but still reading. Sorry, I missed you when I was at the Jags-Colts game. Golf game is OK but I'm playing a lot. Good luck.

Vic: That's mean. You just wanted me to see Hilton Head next to your name because you knew that would make me jealous. You know, I'm not above accepting an invitation to play free golf. Anyhow, thanks for the information; that's good stuff. The idea of a player surrendering was never a consideration when you played, was it? You were the victim of two of the most vicious sacks I've ever seen. On one, Dwight White speared you as you were on the ground, and I don't remember a penalty flag or a fine. I don't remember anyone even thinking it was wrong to do that. The other one is the infamous facemask sack by Keith Gary on Monday Night Football. It truly was frightening. Your picture appeared on the front page of every sports section in America the next day, your neck wrung out like a washcloth and your eyes looking down on your name on the back of your jersey. I know Gary was penalized, but I don't remember him being fined, either. Hit 'em straight, Kenny.

Erica from Jacksonville:
How do you see the Jaguars' rebuilding being delayed by not having selected a quarterback during the beginning of the rebuilding phase?

Vic: That's a good question. Yeah, I think it might delay the results, but of all the quarterback prospects available to the Jaguars in the last two drafts, Josh Freeman is the only one who is having any success today. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. They'll get their man next spring.

Chris from Jacksonville:
Have you read "Good to Great" by Jim Collins? It has a chapter that discusses exactly what you've been preaching to Jaguars fans (the flywheel and the doom loop). Regarding successful companies and organizations: "Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough. Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough." According to Collins' research, the opposite is true of unsuccessful companies: "Rather than accumulating momentum, they tried to skip buildup and jump immediately to breakthrough. Then with disappointing results, they'd lurch back and forth, failing to maintain consistent direction." One example the book uses is John Wooden, who coached the Bruins 15 years before winning 10 NCAA championships. Do you ever see Jacksonville (or modern sports fans in general) having the kind of patience needed to build a dynasty?

Vic: It's ridiculous that it took Wooden that long. He should've been fired. In all seriousness, there are enough intelligent, savvy football fans, such as yourself, to fill this column and make football fun. The kind of contribution you've just made to this column makes me proud that it bears my name.

Adrian from Reading, UK:
I've just noticed that your power rankings are no longer described as "all-important." Is there anything you can do about that?

Vic: That is a horrible oversight and an outrage. I'll make sure that gets fixed next week, and we need an asterisk, too. We need to get the idiots stirred up so we can have some fun laughing at them for trying to protect their house.

John from Jacksonville:
I am expecting a typical blow-you-off answer to this but, since most of the fans (not me) really need to have a winning season next year in order to keep buying season tickets, do you think it would be a wise move to go out and pick up a known, top-tier free agent next year, even if he costs a good amount?

Vic: If he can play like Aaron Kampman, that would be fine with me. By the way, you're much too cynical.

Clif from Bethesda, MD:
You hate replay? You hate when the right call is being made? Replay is a great way to make sure the correct call is made. Old fans are stuck in their 1950's style of football. It's 2010. Things are different. Deal with it.

Vic: That makes me sad. You know what else makes me sad. You do, you jack wagon! Tissue? You cry baby!

John from Houston, TX:
Did you see the Navy-Notre Dame game? What did you think? I loved it. Navy simply ran right at them and they couldn't stop it.

Vic: The triple option is tough to stop if you're not accustomed to the cut-blocking that goes with it. Defensive linemen can spend a whole game protecting their knees instead of running to the football. It didn't surprise me that Navy moved the ball on Notre Dame. What surprised me was that Notre Dame didn't move it much on Navy. I expected Brian Kelly to have a more immediate impact on Notre Dame offensively.

Dexter from Jacksonville:
Is it safe to say the Cowboys are the best 1-5 team in the league?

Vic: I don't know. The Lions haven't played all that poorly. In the NFC North, where the Vikings are down and the Packers have been decimated by injuries, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that the Lions could make a run at the division title in what's left of the season.

Bo from Dresden, NC:
After watching the way college defenses play these days, do you think we can draft any secondary help that can and will know how to tackle?

Vic: Everybody is in the same boat. That's why a guy like Derrick Johnson doesn't become a big-time player until he's five, six years into his career. He looked like he was a bust. What a mistake it would've been to have cut him or traded him. Coaches and personnel guys know they have to be patient with young players today because, frankly, the college game isn't preparing these players as it once did. The 20-hour rule and the track-meet style of play are leaving NFL teams to reshape their draft picks' skills and technique.

Bobby from Jacksonville:
You never really answered Joseph from Sacramento's question, which I think is a legitimate one. With another draft and year of free agency, why isn't the team any better than last season? Or is it years of good drafts coupled with lousy play until the one fateful season where it all comes together?

Vic: Try not to be so rigid in your thinking. It's not 7-9 to 8-8 to 9-7 to 10-6, etc. Progress isn't always incremental and it doesn't always show on the scoreboard. You have to look at other scoreboards to know what the real score is. I think I've made that clear. I think the Kansas City analogy I used should've gotten that point across.

Taylor from Germantown, MD:
In 1989, the Cowboys finished 1-15. Three years later, they won the Super Bowl. The fans need to be patient and let Gene do his job.

Vic: If I wrote that, my inbox would be flooded with e-mail from people irate that I was comparing the Jaguars to the Cowboys. I'm glad you did it. By the way, the team of the '80's was 2-14 in 1979 and the team of the '70's was 1-13 in 1969. That means the teams of those three decades, arguably the three greatest teams of all-time, were a combined 4-42 in their head coach's rookie season as coach. I'm not suggesting anything. I just thought you might enjoy that bit of trivia.

James from Jacksonville:
I think before we look at the Jaguars' inconsistency, we need to look at the fans' inconsistency. I can't help but wonder how many ticket-holders I won't get to see at the next game, because of the record. My consistency remains the same, as does my wife's. We'll be there, we'll be wearing teal for the home game, and we'll stay until the end.

Vic: I don't thank nearly often enough the loyal ticket-holders, such as yourself, that pick up the tab for the future of this team. Every fan that turns on his or her TV and watches the Jaguars play at EverBank Field is indebted to you.

Jack from Jacksonville:
Instead of expanding to an 18-game regular season, why not play 16 games over an 18-week span, as opposed to the current 16 games over a 17-week span.

Vic: One year the NFL did that; they had two bye weeks. What that did, of course, was add a week to the TV schedule, which added value to the TV contract. It doesn't, however, add value to season tickets. That's the intent of going to an 18-game schedule. The NFL wants to add value to season tickets by cutting in half the number of preseason games in the season-ticket package.

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