Join jaguars.com Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Jason from Mims, FL:
Damon from Torrance obviously wasn't watching the same games I was last year, or the last half of 2007, which seemed like a great year for most because we were winning, we made the playoffs and we beat the Steelers twice, however, those of us who have grown accustomed to watching our defense could see it. We weren't stopping anyone anymore; we were outscoring them. It really hit home in 2008 when the offensive line took its lumps and the offense could no longer outscore the other teams. The defense was exposed. They got old, or whatever the problem.
Vic: I think your analysis is right on the mark. We all saw the defensive decline, yet, we chose to ignore it when we announced our expectations for 2008, and I'm pointing the finger right at myself. I jumped right on the bandwagon last year and I knew better than to do that because the warning signs on defense were distinct. That burst of energy at the end of the 2007 season was a mirage, last year wasn't, and that's why Gene Smith has made sweeping roster changes. In my opinion, this season isn't about getting back to where the Jaguars were in '07, it's about going forward and seeking new heights. That playoff win in Pittsburgh is gone. It belongs to another team and this team needs to find its own level and identity. I'll be interested to see the starting lineup comparisons between that game and the final game of this season. I think that by the end of this season, and maybe even much earlier than that, we're going to clearly see that the Jaguars are moving forward.
Jackson from Jacksonville:
I blame Bobby Bowden for the lack of sellouts, not because it's his fault but because I would like to hear what you think of Bobby Bowden or if you have any stories about him.
Vic: He's a cool guy. I was really impressed by his clarity and grace in the postgame interview he did with Joe Paterno following the Orange Bowl game a few years ago. My favorite story about Bowden is from something he said that I read in a book some years ago. He said the most important game of his career was the 1975 Pitt-West Virginia game. Instantly, I knew why. I covered the game. It was a great game, an upset victory that West Virginia claimed on a longish field goal on the final play of the game. Bowden, of course, was the West Virginia head coach and the significance of the game is that it probably was the difference in him getting the Florida State job. West Virginia had a losing record the previous season and would have four consecutive losing seasons following 1975. Bowden knew his cupboard was going bare at WVU and it was time to move on. The last-second win over Pitt put WVU in the Peach Bowl, where it beat N.C. State. Bowden believes that had West Virginia not beaten Pitt, he likely would not have been attractive enough for Florida State to hire, which it did following the '75 season, and imagine what a loss to college football it would've been had Bowden stayed at West Virginia and faded away. Success can be a very fragile thing.
Andrew from Ft. Lauderdale, FL:
As a journalist, you have to report what you see. You see a team that's rebuilding for the long haul. I see a team whose roster is better than it was two years ago. At the beginning of last season, did you think the Steelers would go all the way with their shaky offensive line? They were successful because players stepped up. What do the Jags need to make the playoffs? We've got talent. We just need players to step up.
Vic: I'm glad you see all of that. That's great, but I don't understand this obsession with expectations and predictions. I feel as though I'm going to be badgered until I agree with everyone that the expectation for this season should be for the Jaguars to make the playoffs. I looked at the Steelers heading into last season and I saw a terrible offensive line that was clearly in reconstruction and I saw one of the most difficult schedules I can ever remember, and I saw no way the Steelers could contend for the Super Bowl. As it turned out, I was right about their offensive line and their schedule, but I failed to see their quarterback throwing touchdown passes with defensive linemen hanging off him. If that means I'm terrible at forecasting a team's future, then so be it. I don't care if I'm right or I'm wrong because it doesn't change anything. It's my expectation because it's based on what I see right now and, should that change, I'll adjust my expectation. What upsets me about my expectation for last season is that I chose to ignore the danger signs. I didn't want to rain on everybody's parade and I didn't want to be the poop-negative reporter who was casting darkness when everybody else was spreading sunshine, so I took the easy way out. I've apologized for that cowardice and I've also said I won't let it happen again.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Three division opponents and last year's NFC champions in the first four games is at first glance a very difficult start. Is a fast start even possible? Is it a must?
Vic: It's possible, but it's not my expectation. I don't think a fast start is a must, either. I think a strong finish is a must for any team, whether it's headed for the playoffs or not. A strong finish indicates the team is in ascent. A strong finish indicates the players have bought into the program, are dedicated to their craft and have staying power. A strong finish can overcome a slow start and sometimes even steal a playoff berth. I can tell you this for sure: By the time we reach the end of this season, our thoughts on this team will have changed dramatically because, in my opinion, the face of this team is going to undergo a dramatic makeover. We're going to look back on our expectations and laugh. This is not the kind of team you can pigeon hole. This is a team in the midst of change. This is a team in a youth movement and it's become easy to see even in OTAs. Don't worry yourself with expectations. Just let the season unfold and enjoy it.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
That's the way you do it. Stick up for your coach. He has treated all his players like men. It's time for the players to start acting like men. John Henderson like the old John Henderson would be nice. Classy thing he did and that's a good start. Good stuff.
Vic: I agree. That's the longest and best press conference Henderson has ever conducted. He was fabulous. He spoke as a coach would want one of the leaders of his team to speak. He addressed the questions calmly and in a forthright manner. I was especially impressed when he was asked a rather probing question about why he hasn't played very well the last two years. He didn't dodge the question and he didn't get testy, nor did he deny that he hasn't played up to his 2006 standards the past two years. He offered an introspective answer and it distinguished him as a player who needs to spend more time with the media. I want to hear more of what John has to say. Maybe that'll be the positive to have come out of all of this. Maybe this will have been the day that John becomes a leader and spokesman for this team.
John from Jacksonville:
A few years ago, there was a lot of media coverage about a pregame routine that Henderson did that involved getting slapped in the face hard several times to get motivated. Do you know if he still does this?
Vic: I don't think it was several times, I think it was one time and the guy who did it has taken a job somewhere else and nobody else will do it. Maybe that's the problem, he needs slapped and I'm just the guy not to do it.