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Can't compare to past

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

Seth from Jacksonville:
What do you know of Carl Smith?

Vic: I know that Carl Smith is a veteran coach for whom Jack Del Rio has a lot of respect. When Del Rio began his search for offensive coordinator candidates he sought Smith's advice. At some point Del Rio popped the question, "Would you be interested in the job?" Smith is a coach with whom Del Rio is familiar and comfortable. He's a run the ball, throw it down the field kind of guy. He's not a dink and dunk, throw it sideways guy. In other words, Smith is a coach who fits Del Rio's definition of what he wants in an offensive scheme and he's a coach Del Rio trusts.

Alon from Peru, NY:
Why not put the "transition" tag on Darius rather than the "franchise" tag. It won't cost us as much salary cap room and we still get a first-rounder if someone signs him.

Vic: Whoa! Let's back up a little bit because you've got a lot of bad information going. The Jaguars would receive no compensation for having lost a "transition" player. All the "transition" tag does is give a team right of first refusal. In other words, if you put the "transition" tag on a player, he doesn't sign the tender and he signs with another team, you may retain that player by matching the other team's offer. The problem I have with that is you're allowing another team to negotiate a contract with which you must live. When a "transition" player signs the tender he becomes your exclusive property and may not negotiate with another team. You may not trade a player on whom you've put the "transition" tag until he's signed the tender. In the case of Donovin Darius, the "franchise" tag wouldn't be much different from the "transition" tag, which would require the Jaguars to tender Darius at 120 percent of his previous season's salary. That would result in about a $4.9 million salary, which is about what it would cost to pay him at the "franchise" level. The big advantage the "transition" tag would offer over the "franchise" tag is the money wouldn't be guaranteed. You can cut a "transition" player who signs the tender without having to pay his salary; a "franchise" player is guaranteed his salary. If the Jaguars want to maintain flexibility in their decision-making with Darius, the "transition" tag would make sense, but it wouldn't save you cap room. Either way, he's going to be an expensive player. It's almost always better to negotiate a new deal than it is to use the tags. They can become very bulky.

John from Brooklyn, NY:
In your opinion, who had the better team, the Cowboys of the 1990s or the Patriots in this decade, and why?

Vic: The Cowboys clearly had the better team and for an obvious reason: It was built and began winning Super Bowl titles before the salary cap was instituted. All you have to do is take the Cowboys' starting lineup from, say, 1992, and assign a value to each player according to what he would earn in today's market. We're talking about Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper, Eric Williams, Mark Stepnoski, Leon Lett, Charles Haley, etc. Could you fit them all under today's salary cap? No way. That's why the kind of question you're asking is no longer applicable. That's the negative to the salary cap. It puts a limit on how many good players you can have. No great team in the salary cap era can ever be judged to be as good as the great teams from the pre-cap era. It's just common sense.

Nathan from Richmond, VA:
Regarding a team's identity, is a cast-in-stone image really necessary? What I am referring to is that during this past season the comment was constantly made that Jacksonville needed to find its identity on offense. Are they a team that runs then passes, or a team that passes then runs? But what about the defending champions, New England? They don't seem to be too well-defined. It seems they are more than willing to adjust their play to the style of the team they are playing. Against Indianapolis in the playoffs this year, New England featured the running game and laid back in a zone defense to defend against the pass. Then against Pittsburgh this past weekend, Tom Brady threw deep early and the defense stacked about 27 players around the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Obviously, every team in the league adjusts its play to the team they are playing, but New England seems to do this on a wholesale level.

Vic: You're making too much out of adjustments. Every team makes adjustments, but the good ones have a base personality and the Patriots have a very well-defined identity. It is absolutely written in stone. Their offensive identity is Tom Brady making clutch throws at critical times in the game. Yes, the Patriots used Corey Dillon to dominate time of possession against the Colts, and that was a major part of the Patriots' strategy, but it was Brady's clutch passes that were the difference. Over and over he converted on third down, and then came the big third-down touchdown throw that put the game away. He did the same thing against the Steelers. His big throws early gave the Patriots a big lead, then, when the Steelers rallied in the second half, Brady made the big throws again that put the game out of reach. The Patriots don't have an identity? Then why is Brady's picture on just about every piece of Patriots literature known to man? He's their identity. He's the guy who makes it happen. He's "The Man."

Kevin from Orange Park, FL:
I was wondering how the Super Bowl rings are given out. Do they give one to every player on the roster or only to active players? And do all coaches get one also?

Vic: The league will provide up to 150 rings. Above that, the team foots the bill. Obviously, all players and coaches get rings.

Jonathan from King George, VA:
Bill Belichick currently has a 9-1 playoff record. What is the team he lost to in the playoffs?

Vic: He lost to the Steelers, 29-9, in a 1994 divisional round playoff game.

Ron from Jacksonville:
When will it be practical to trade David Garrard if the Jags, in fact, want to go through with a trade?

Vic: Well, first of all, they'll have to wait until trading is allowed to begin. We are currently in a "no-fly" zone. The spotlight is on the Super Bowl for the next two weeks. Nobody is allowed to begin making preparations for next season until this season ends. Two days after the Super Bowl is over, teams may designate "franchise" and "transition" tags. Then it all begins. The first day of the new league calendar year is March 2. That's the start date for free agency and it's also the first day teams may trade.

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