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Big plays difference

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Peanut from Jacksonville:
This co-worker of mine is telling me that once a player gets in the Hall of Fame, they get a retirement check of $250,000 for life. Is there any truth to this?

Vic: The Hall of Fame pays in immortality, not dollars.

Charlie from Jacksonville:
When did "Ask Vic" become "Ask Vic presented by Wachovia?" Maybe it has been there the whole time and I never noticed. If it's new, then, well done. I never thought your column would warrant corporate sponsorship. The NFL is all about the money, huh?

Vic: It's new and we're delighted to bear the stamp of approval of such a high-end corporation as Wachovia. Imagine that; little, old "Ask Vic" pallin' up with a world banking power. I think I'm turning into a Republican. Yeah, it's professional football; it's about the money. What this does, of course, is raise the bar for "Ask Vic" and its readers. Expectations have increased. We need to be better than ever or Mr. Drysdale might pull his money.

Gary from Palm Coast, FL:
Thanks for your support of the Super Bowl officials. We see so much in the media about which calls were blown but seldom do we see credit for accurate close plays. Thanks again, from a dedicated ref.

Vic: I get as frustrated as anybody when I see a blatant officiating mistake impact a game negatively; especially if that mistake directly determines the outcome. The Troy Polamalu call in the Steelers-Colts game would've been the perfect example. Fortunately for the Steelers, as the call was being reviewed their coach cautioned them against a letdown. When the call was ridiculously reversed, the Steelers didn't complain, they just went back out and played. If the point of all of those who are complaining about the officiating in Sunday's Super Bowl is that the Steelers were lucky to win that game, then I agree. I have no problem with that statement. If there had been no holding call on Seattle, the Seahawks may have taken the lead and the Steelers might've had to rally for the win. The Steelers absolutely did get lucky. What bothers me is the attack on the officials by people who don't know the rules or the facts. This outcry for full-time officials is ridiculous. The first thing that would happen if the NFL went to full-time officials is that they would lose all of their top officials who, in many cases, have high-paying full-time jobs they wouldn't leave. Immediately, the quality of officiating would decline. The second impact of full-time officials would, in my opinion, have an even more devastating effect on the game. A move to full-time officials would seriously increase the potential for labor problems and work stoppages. The NFL's got enough trouble right now achieving labor peace with its players. Then there's a third consideration: The current bunch of NFL officials are as close as you can get to full-time without calling them that, and they're as good as you're going to get, period. We, the media, meet with the officials every summer in Jacksonville in training camp. By the way, the attendance of Jacksonville media at those meetings has been pathetic. I think we had five guys there last summer. Where were all of the critics who are now complaining the loudest? I've never come away from one of those meetings unimpressed by the officials. The officials in that meeting dazzle you with their expertise. They overwhelm you with their control of the rule book and its thousands of ever-changing interpretations. Most importantly, they convince you of their passion and dedication. Two bad calls were made in Sunday's game. That's the final and honest evaluation. Let's talk about Seattle's mistakes. They missed two field goal attempts. They armed themselves with a game plan that was mush. Their tight end allowed himself to be verbally intimidated and then dropped everything but his pants. Here's the big one: The Seahawks made almost no big plays. That was the difference in the game. The Steelers played poorly but they made big plays. Ben Roethlisberger converted a third-and-28 to the three-yard line, whereas Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception on third-and-18 from the same place on the field. Willie Parker went 75 yards for a touchdown on a dive play, the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. Antwaan Randle El threw a breathtakingly-beautiful long touchdown pass to Hines Ward. Big plays win games. Super Bowls are remembered for big plays. Championship teams make big plays.

Chase from Casa Grande, AZ:
I just thought I'd let you know your articles and "Ask Vic" column is appreciated by more than Jaguars fans. I'm a Broncos fan and love to read your articles, even if the Jaguars are the center of the information.

Vic: Thanks for the props. Mr. Drysdale will love this e-mail. Your e-mail also gives me a chance to do something I wanted to do a couple of weeks ago but forgot, which is to praise Mike Shanahan for his handsome and gracious behavior following his team's loss in the AFC title game. Losing at home in the conference title game is a killer. It's really hard to take and we know that in Jacksonville from the 1999 AFC title game. Shanahan did it with style. He stood tall and, in the process, distinguished the franchise he represents. That's what I expect of a coach. I expect him to stand above the madding crowd.

Drew from Jacksonville:
You said on Wednesday that the Jaguars don't have any players who are "franchise" tag candidates. What qualifies someone as a "franchise" tag candidate?

Vic: You would use the "franchise" tag on a player who is unsigned and who you would judge to be worthy of paying at the average of the top five salaries in the league at his position.

James from Sierra Vista, AZ:
What are your thoughts on the Patriots for next season? Could they once again be the powerhouse that they were for those three years?

Vic: After last year's Super Bowl, I predicted the Patriots would take a step back in 2005. They were in the process of doing that when, all of a sudden, they got hot at the end of the season. They got hot for two reasons: They have the best quarterback and the best coach in the game. The Dolphins are an up-and-coming team and they will press the Patriots in the AFC East in 2006, but the Dolphins don't have a Tom Brady.

Brandon from Charlotte, NC:
Is not having any "franchise" candidates a good thing?

Vic: Absolutely it's a good thing. It means you don't have any star players who are about to become free agents.

Gavin from Halifax, Canada:
With Deshea Townsend on the market, do you think the Jags would be interested?

Vic: I would think Townsend would be worthy of interest. The Jaguars need a right corner and he fits the bill perfectly for that role. The right corner position is referred to as the "squat corner" because the right corner plays so much zone. Townsend is a masterful zone pass-defender. He lacks speed but he's got great instincts and ball skills. At the right price, and this is a year when the prices could be very right, Townsend might be a great acquisition.

John from Jacksonville:
Pretend you are against extending the CBA. Who are you and what is your argument against it?

Vic: In my opinion, not extending the CBA favors no one. It doesn't matter if you're a small-market team or a large-market team, you need the CBA to be extended because all teams need labor peace. Without a CBA, the NFL could lose the draft in the courts and the draft is at the heart of everything that makes the NFL successful.

Chris from Ormond Beach, FL:
What did you think about this comment from Mike Holmgren. "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

Vic: It's regrettable, not only because of how it will paint Holmgren, but mostly because he has provided his team with an excuse. You never want to do that. Always, players must be made accountable for their performances. Coaches must be accountable, too.

Fred from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Your "dirty little secret" editorial was a great piece and right on the money. Give me the playoffs every year any time.

Vic: Not everybody feels that way. Some people favor loading up. In my opinion, logic dictates that you increase your chances of winning a Super Bowl as you increase your participation in the playoffs. Never discount the importance of getting hot at the right time and never discount the importance of getting lucky. The combination of those two ingredients almost put the Jaguars in the Super Bowl in the 1996 season.

Jimmy from Cocoa, FL:
What teams fit the consistently good mold? Giants, Steelers, Patriots, Broncos have all been decent since the current salary cap, right?

Vic: In the AFC, the perennial playoff teams have been the Steelers, Patriots, Broncos and Colts. The Steelers and Patriots are similar in their management of the salary cap in that they've each been willing to let players leave in free agency. The Steelers and Patriots are steadfast salary cap managers who aren't afraid to challenge themselves to replace valued players for the sake of maintaining cap health. The Broncos have had a unique style of cap management. The Broncos have spent big in alternating years. The Broncos are cutting-edge managers of the cap; in fact, a little too cutting edge on one occasion. The Colts are the "load up" example. They are on a great run but the cap is starting to catch up to them.

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