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Combine is competition

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

Dale from Hampton, VA:
This is probably a good time to have these "Pride of the Jaguars" discussions. What are your thoughts on Mark Brunell's chances of getting in there? He was a great QB for us here, but there were no championships and he's not a guy that you have to wait decades to get again. As much as I liked him as a player and person, I'm not sure if he belongs there.

Vic: Statistically, Mark would be right on the cut line, but I don't think you judge Mark on statistics alone, you also judge him on his importance to the franchise. As I said of Mark on my "All-Vic" team, he was the face of the franchise in its best years. He was the team's first true star. He was the guy who made it all happen. In my opinion, that probably gets him up on the wall, but that's gotta keep other people off because you can't fill up your stadium with the names of players from a team that never won a championship. That's the big problem. Fans want Mark in and Tony Brackens in and Jimmy and Fred in and Keenan, too. Whoa! So how many Super Bowl titles did those guys win?

Lane from Longwood, FL:
Do you think there's a big misconception out there among fans and even the media about what an uncapped season will mean to teams? I hear a lot of people talk about how their team will be able to go out and spend in free agency when, in actuality, the opposite is true.

Vic: They can spend, but on what will they be spending? I don't think the free-agent crop is going to be worthy of a lot of spending.

Andrew from Toledo, OH:
Rank your top five premium positions on the football field?

Vic: Quarterback, left tackle, right defensive end and both corners.

Damien from Jacksonville:
Am I the only one who notices the Colts got into the Super Bowl after playing a Baltimore team that almost missed the playoffs and a Jets team that should have? If I remember correctly, when the Colts won the Super Bowl they beat a Chicago team that might be the worst Super Bowl team of the decade and played Kansas City and Baltimore to get there. In other words, besides his victory over Brady in the 2006 playoffs, is there a big playoff win over a dominant team in Manning's portfolio?

Vic: Worst Super Bowl team of the decade? How about worst of all-time?

Jim from Jacksonville:
From, "Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio believes that running the football and stopping the run is a key to success." Vic, I'm a loyal fan and season ticket holder but what is Del Rio's thought process with this strategy? Even a casual fan can spot the transition in the game as evidenced by this year's playoffs and Super Bowl. This seems like a repeated, self-defeating behavior pattern that I can't understand, especially with our ticket issues. Help me make sense of this, Vic.

Vic: You're trying too hard to be confrontational. Coach Del Rio has long said he wants an explosive offense, too. You're talking about a team that drafted a quarterback and three receivers in the first round of four consecutive drafts, and then paid a veteran wide receiver $13 million in free agency in 2008. Whatever failures you perceive in the Jaguars' passing game, it's not due to a lack of effort or emphasis; it's a result of bad drafting. Run the ball, stop the run is a philosophy a lot of great coaches have espoused because it goes to the core of what makes a football team successful, blocking and tackling. That doesn't mean you're going to ignore the passing game. Chuck Noll believed in run the ball, stop the run, but Terry Bradshaw enjoyed a lot of success throwing to Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

Fred from Naples, FL:
Your response to Howard from Homestead has left me confused. I thought you had said you believed in freedom of speech. Now you are saying you don't like tattoos that send messages?

Vic: I absolutely believe in freedom of speech and I support everyone's right to express it, including the right of the schools and teams to exercise their freedom of speech by expressing the message they wish to send. When you agree to play for a university or an NFL team, you agree to conform to its dress code, which it enforces so the university or NFL team may send the message it wishes to send. I watch football games to see talented men in athletic competition. I don't seek information on Michael Vick or guidance in how to conduct my spiritual life. You wanna wear patches with messages on them under your eyes? Then wear them to class or when you're out on a date. When you put on the uniform of a university or an NFL team, you agree to send its message. I was sorry to see that Joe Paterno softened his stance on bowl-patch advertising on his team's uniform. For a long time, Paterno didn't allow that stuff on the Penn State uniform because that's not what Penn State wanted to say. That's what I mean by a team's right to exercise its freedom of speech.

Damian from Appleton, WI:
I am sure you have answered this question before, but do you prefer to start rookie QBs right out of the draft or groom them on the bench for a couple of seasons?

Vic: It depends where they were drafted. A first-round pick has clearly been selected to be the quarterback of the future. He's being paid that way and there's no denying the job will soon be his, even if Drew Brees is the incumbent. In that case, time's a wastin'. A quarterback drafted in a lower round, however, isn't necessarily a lock for the job. He's got to prove himself. He's got to win the job.

Jeremy from Deltona, FL:
Could Kyle Vanden Bosch be a good patch for this year?

Vic: Patch? He ain't gonna be paid like a patch. If you're gonna sign Vanden Bosch, you better make sure he can be your premier pass-rusher for the next several years, because that's how you're gonna pay him.

Dereck from Jacksonville:
My question is how far out does a team start targeting a quarterback? I really like Ponder and I believe he should be an excellent candidate.

Vic: You don't target players much before the week of the draft. If you do, you become vulnerable to all the teams that would love to pick your pocket. One of my favorite Nollisms is: "Never fall in love with a guy."

Tony from Jacksonville:
Wayne Weaver said in his press conference that he wanted Del Rio and Gene Smith to define what this team is. If you were those two guys, how would you define this team (what would be our offensive and defensive mindset)?

Vic: I believe in a physical, attacking defense. I've always believed in the value of a strong running game, but the move toward the passing game has changed my philosophy a little. I now believe that it's important to run the ball when you need to run the ball, which is to say when you have to convert short-yardage and goal-line situations. Otherwise, the emphasis has shifted to the passing game. In terms of personnel, my philosophy remains one of patience, even in a town that is having difficulty selling tickets: Build through the draft and patch in free agency. In my opinion, nothing else works long term.

William from Jacksonville:
Hope this gets through the scanner. If you were advising a certain QB from UF, would you suggest that he throw at the combine or wait for his individual workout?

Vic: The scanner is broke, so don't worry about it. I would advise him to throw, but only if he's confident he can compete because that's what the combine is, a competition. If he doesn't think he can hold his own against the other quarterbacks, then he should wait until his pro day and personal workouts because there won't be any competition at those events.

Kelly from Windsor, CA:
I know you're not a fan of high-profile free agents, but is Julius Peppers an option that would tempt Gene Smith?

Vic: I'm just guessing, but I would say no.

Tyler from Citrus Springs, FL:
Did you get any chances to watch Joe Montana and Dan Marino play in person? If so, what are your favorite recollections? Was there a Montana vs. Marino debate raging like the current Manning vs. Brady?

Vic: I saw them play as far back as their high school days. My recollections simply are of two guys who tilted the field. That's how good they were. I don't remember a Montana vs. Marino thing, and I think that's because there were so many great quarterbacks in the era in which they played. I think there was more of a Marino vs. Elway thing, the result of those two quarterbacks being drafted in the same year and playing in the same conference. Montana stood alone. Back then, we knew that four Super Bowl titles put a man on a higher plateau than everybody else.

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