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Born for the postseason

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

Howard from Homestead, FL:
How can single-game preseason tickets be available when we're sold out on a season-ticket basis for the year?

Vic: These tickets are what's left from the "group sales" allotment. Remember, the Jaguars have set aside 5,000 tickets per game to be sold on a "group sales" basis.

Matt from Jacksonville:
"Donovin Darius and Paul Spicer have coach-like qualities. So does Mike Peterson. I'd play for Peterson. He talks my language." So you are saying Mike Peterson is a master of sarcasm?

Vic: No, I'm saying Mike Peterson gives it to you straight. He's supportive but honest. He lets you know that he's on your side and that his expectations of you and himself are high. He's a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. That's the kind of person for whom and with whom I would want to play.

John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Does our dearly-departed legend Jimmy Smith strike you as being somewhat coach-like? He seems to me like a person who would make an excellent wide receivers coach in a few years. Same for, say, Tony Boselli and the offensive line.

Vic: There's no doubt in my mind that Jimmy Smith possesses the wisdom of the ages and is capable of communicating that to young wide receivers. My concern is that Jimmy might be too soft of a touch. Coaches must be very demanding. Tony Boselli has all of the skills necessary to be a good coach. He knows the game, he loves the game and he strikes me as someone who loves to teach and communicate. The problem is that Tony is not willing to accept the rigors that go with being a coach. I talked to him about it at a practice this past spring and he told me he's not willing to relocate his family or work the long hours that he would otherwise spend with his children. Forget about it. Being a coach isn't just about having the ability to coach, it's about making the sacrifices necessary to be a coach.

Corry from Wahiawa, HI:
I am so sick of you saying quarterbacks' records in the playoffs. Football is a team sport. If Tom Brady was on the 49ers, would he still be the best quarterback in the league? Not in your eyes because he would have not been to the playoffs.

Vic: The Patriots were 5-13 under Bill Belichick when Tom Brady became their starting quarterback. Since then, the Patriots are 68-21 (including postseason games) with three Super Bowl titles. Gee, do you think Brady might've been the difference?

Kyle from Jacksonville:
Given that the AFC South is the leftovers of the AFC, what would be the leftovers of the NFC? The NFC South or the NFC West?

Vic: The NFC West, in my opinion. The Seahawks are a refugee from the AFC, the Rams are a relocation team and the Cardinals are from St. Louis, the NFC East or Mars, take your pick. The 49ers are the only team with a true and stable NFC West tradition. The NFC South has a nice regional flavor.

Tri from Jacksonville:
Leftwich says he's in the best shape of his life, Taylor says he's in great shape and other players coming off injuries say they're in shape. What about you? What shape are you in for the upcoming season?

Vic: I've been sleeping with a different pillow every night, getting myself ready for misshapen hotel pillows. I have neck and back problems so it's critical that I be able to cope with inconsistent pillow height and texture. Being a sportswriter is more demanding than you think. The ability to discipline your habits on the road requires preparation. You're just not going to walk into your first hotel of the season and stare down the mini-bar.

Patrick from Loves Park, IL:
What year does Peyton Manning's contract get to the point where the Colts will have to make the big decision that he's not worth breaking the franchise?

Vic: It was pointed out to me a couple of years ago by one of the players association's executives that there are no cap casualties. He's right; there aren't. As long as a player is productive, a team will always find a way to fit him under their salary cap. Peyton Manning has a huge cap number, but as long as he continues to throw touchdown passes the Colts will be very happy to take the hit. In other words, it's not about his cap number, it's about his performance. When the performance isn't worthy of the hit, then it'll be decision time.

Emil from Jacksonville:
When the two teams in Los Angeles start out, how would they go about setting a fan base? What causes would they give an NFL fan to root for one over the other? I'm just curious about how this marketing would work.

Vic: If the teams are in the Coliseum and in Anaheim, it would be no different than the Dodgers and Angels. L.A. and Anaheim have distance between them. It's similar to the difference between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, with several million more people in between, of course.

Robert from Lexington, KY:
Are there any players in the NFL right now that you would trade your entire draft for, like the Saints did?

Vic: That's not something I would do. I believe very firmly in the philosophy of draft and develop. I believe that stable franchises have rosters that go back nine or 10 draft classes, and there are no gaps. As you proceed from the oldest draft class to the youngest draft class, the number of players in each draft class increases. When you do it that way, you have provided for your future. You have "jars on the shelf" and you're not likely to get caught with an empty cupboard. It's that kind of stability, those "jars on the shelf," that make you competitive year in and year out. When you trade away a whole draft class for one guy, you're going to run out of "jars" somewhere. Your roster is going to have an unnatural gap. There are teams, however, that would trade their whole draft class for one player. I'd be willing to bet that any team that has struggled at the quarterback position would trade its whole draft for one of the game's premium quarterbacks. That's how important the position is.

Aaron from Jacksonville:
Why are so many people worried about Leftwich's mobility? In Dan Marino's entire career, he only rushed for 87 net yards. He had 301 attempts for 0.3 yards per rush and nine touchdowns. His longest rush his entire career was for 15 yards and that was in his rookie season. I think it's nice to see a rushing quarterback but I think it's really unnecessary. To me, it seems like it's harder to see the field. Your thoughts?

Vic: I like a quarterback who can move, but I want him to stay in the pocket. If he can move within the pocket, that's fine. If he has enough mobility to buy time, that's even better. If he can get out of the pocket and make something happen with his feet, that's one more thing he can do, but I would discourage him from doing it. I would always remind him that he's a passer and that we have blockers who are paid specifically to protect him. If my quarterback can't run at all but he has pocket courage and toughness and he can throw the ball like Dan Marino, I wouldn't care if he couldn't run to the bathroom. Passers pass and blockers block. Whatever the circumstances are, just make them work. Just win. Why does it matter how?

Thomas from Jacksonville:
It remains to be seen whether Leftwich will be that "money player" when it matters the most in the postseason. His personality, demeanor and the last-minute heroics he's already pulled off make me optimistic that he just might have "it." Is being a "money player" something that can be developed in a career, or do you just have "it?"

Vic: Coaches develop a player's skills. The player's parents gave him his personality and it's that personality that defines his performance at crunch time. I understand that a player has to have skill and good players around him to win, but there have been a lot of skilled players with good players around them who just haven't been able to close the deal. They have shown a penchant for playing their worst when their best was required. I think the tendency to choke in the clutch or come up big in the clutch is the result of a player's personality. Is he a tough guy? Does he stay calm? Does he seem to enjoy pressure situations? Do his teammates look to him at crunch time? Does he elevate his game in the postseason? Look at Reggie Jackson. What else is there to conclude? He truly was "Mr. October." It was no fluke. The guy was born for the postseason. You could say that about a lot of players.

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