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Brunell, Taylor, Coughlin and more

Join *Jaguars Inside Report *Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

John Formella from Hanover, NH:
Is it just me or does anyone else think Brunell needs to start earning the salary we give him? There is one word for Brunell over the past few years: frail. You look at a guy like Brett Favre, who plays when he's half dead, and then look at Brunell who sits out with a sore right quadriceps. Brunell let the Jags down in a game they had to have. I'm still a fan of him, but I think he needs to start earning his money. What do you think?
Vic: The game in Pittsburgh is one of only two games Mark Brunell has missed in the last three seasons. The other was in the 1999 regular-season finale against Cincinnati, when Brunell was nursing a knee injury so he would be ready for the playoffs. Frail is not a word I would use to describe Brunell. One of the problems Jaguars fans are having in understanding players' injuries is that coach Tom Coughlin's policy is to not reveal the extent of a player's injury. In many cases, the media and fans don't know to what degree the player is injured. Given Brunell's history for playing hurt, his current injury would seem to be significant.

Jason Wulfekuhle from Olympia, WA:
I hate to ask this, but isn't it about time we got rid of Fred Taylor? He has been with us for four seasons and hasn't been able to play a full season, yet. He is outstanding when he is healthy, there is no doubt about that, but how long can this team afford to wait around for him to eventually be healthy for an entire season?
Vic: What if the Jaguars trade Fred Taylor and he becomes the durable star player you want him to be? You probably didn't get much in return, since teams are reluctant to trade top draft picks. Talk about regret. You can't predict injuries. Is Curtis Martin injury-prone? He's missed four games in seven seasons. Martin is one of the most productive and durable running backs in the league since 1995, yet, at Pitt, he was constantly injured and wasn't drafted until the third round because he only played in two games his senior season.

Paul Dillard from Jacksonville:
I've e-mailed you before about Coughlin's poor performance as a GM, but all this talk about Jonathan Quinn reaffirms that we need a new GM. Why didn't Coughlin draft either Brian Griese or Matt Hasselbeck? Both were on the board when he selected Quinn and now both are starters in the NFL?
Vic: The answer is obvious: The Jaguars thought Quinn was better than Griese and Hasselbeck and, to this point, that evaluation is wrong.

Don Pinaud from Jacksonville:
I hear all the subtle warnings about major changes next year and I want to know what exactly the likely scenario is, particularly as it pertains to the biggest names on the team: Brunell, Smith, Taylor, McCardell, Boselli, Brady, Hollis and Brackens. Which of these are most likely not to return?
Vic: I can't tell you exactly what will happen; not even the Jaguars can know that at this point. I can tell you that any player whose remaining amortization is greater than his hit on next year's salary cap is probably not going to be traded or released. Jimmy Smith, Tony Boselli and Tony Brackens are such players. The only players whose trade or release would help the Jaguars' salary cap situation are those players whose remaining amortizations will be less than their 2002 salary cap hit. Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor and Keenan McCardell fall into that category. As I've said before, Brunell has a club-friendly contract that may, in fact, be the Jaguars' best deal. I think he stays, but that's just my opinion. Let's finish this season before we begin what is certain to be another painful winter of salary cap suffering.

Nick Joshi from Tampa:
You're honest and frank so I'm going to ask you a question that a lot of us Jags fans are asking: Will Coughlin be back? Personally, I think Coughlin is a great coach, but his personality issues require a change. I think the players and the organization as a whole need a new, more enthusiastic public face. I think the fans do, too. A good coach with a winning personality can own the city and can spark the team. What do you think?
Vic: As I've said several times in the last month, the only way Tom Coughlin is not the Jaguars' coach next season is if Coughlin doesn't want to be the coach. In my opinion, Wayne Weaver is firmly in Coughlin's corner. Beyond that, I can't read Coughlin's mind. This has been a painful year for him. In my opinion, when this season is over he should ask himself, for his and his family's sake, do I want to continue doing this, knowing the Jaguars' future will be committed to rebuilding. In all of the years I've covered this league, I have never seen a coach criticized more harshly than Coughlin. If he hasn't tired of it, I certainly have.

Ernest Lee from Cerritos, CA:
I don't know how knowledgeable you are in this area, but given your years in covering the NFL, you've probably seen, read and heard it all, and I'd like your opinion on this issue. I have read comments on the internet about the reason Fred Taylor is often injured is partly due to his style of running, given his size. What is your opinion on this issue? If the problem is Fred's running style, is it possible to coach him to run differently to avoid being so injury-prone?
Vic: A runner's style is his signature. It's his one-of-a-kind finger print and there's no changing it. In my opinion, at this point in Fred Taylor's career we have to accept his track record and work around it. When he's healthy, he's an explosive, big-play running back who can change a game, and you don't want to alter that style. Taylor has also proven to not be durable. In my opinion, the Jaguars have to accept the bad with the good and find a way to work around Taylor's injuries. They were able to do that in 1999 because they had James Stewart. I'm sure you understand where I'm going.

Lou Nussbaum from Jacksonville:
I've heard several local sports talk people say the Jags should draft a running back in the first two rounds next year as security for when Taylor gets injured. I disagree with this because the Jags will have critical needs at defensive end, linebacker, offensive line and backup quarterback. In other words, they need to take the best player available and this may even include cornerback. If the Jags had this philosophy the last two years, they wouldn't be in nearly the terrible position they are in. What is your opinion on this?
I have always been a "best available athlete" guy. I believe the draft should stand as a separate entity from your football team. The intent should be to produce the best draft class possible. If you allow your roster's needs to make your draft picks, then you're selecting from a limited pool of players. I've always said that if Sammy Baugh is available, take him. Who doesn't need Sammy Baugh? The problem is fans have become impatient and critical of coaches who don't win right away, and that doesn't mesh with the "best available player" draft philosophy, because it may require more than a couple of years of drafting that way to fill all of your needs. Fortunately or unfortunately for the Jaguars next spring, "need" and "best available" are likely to meet. If that player is a running back, take him; the Jaguars do have need at that position.

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