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Doughnuts won't get it done

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

J.R. from Orange Park, FL:
Is Del Rio losing control of this team? The joking by several players in the locker room after the Bengals game reported by several media outlets may be indicative of the overall attitude of the team. That story makes me wonder if Jack really has his hand on the pulse of this team. What gives?

Vic: Jack Del Rio has not and is not losing his team and he absolutely has his finger on the pulse of his team. No player in his right mind would challenge a coach who just got a contract that goes through 2012, unless he wants to be suspended or cut. Your question is a knee-jerk reaction to losing. There is absolutely no evidence of Del Rio losing his team and the moment he senses something he doesn't like, he'll make sure he delivers a very strong message. That's what any strong-willed coach would to a player who would challenge his coach.

Jeff from Jacksonville:
Believe in now. That was the slogan. What is it now?

Vic: I don't know. I don't live according to slogans. They're just cutesy things business uses to help market itself. I don't believe in now, I don't believe in then and I don't believe in tomorrow. I just do my job and wait for the results.

William from Orange Park, FL:
Well, I'm not giving up on this team, but I will wear a grocery bag to the next home game to show my embarrassment of the team.

Vic: That's a very intelligent thing to do. I'm sure your children or parents, whichever it is, will be very proud of you.

John from Ofallon, MO:
In 1996 it was said Tom Coughlin sat down with players and shared a box of doughnuts. The team was 3-7 and no one gave them a shot to make the playoffs. After that the team won seven games in a row. Do you see a similar moment happening this year?

Vic: Pete Prisco's been telling that doughnut story for 12 years. It's the most overrated fairy tale in the history of professional football. First of all, the Jags were 4-7, not 3-7, and the reason they won out the rest of the regular season was because their remaining schedule was a bunch of stiffs that had already packed it in for the year. The toughest game they played was in Baltimore, and the only reasons they won that game were because the Ravens got such a big lead that they shut it down, Vinny Testaverde laid the ball on the ground, an official inadvertently blew a punt-return dead and nullified a Chris Hudson fumble near the Jaguars goal line, and Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda inexplicably went for two when he had a big lead. Players don't wanna eat doughnuts with their coach.

Michael from Jacksonville:
Looking at this season, what would you have done different in the draft? What should we do in the upcoming offseason?

Vic: Everybody knows what my draft philosophy is. They know I believe in draft the best available player and they know I believe in trading old players away for draft picks. I'm obsessed with draft picks. I am obsessed with keeping a team young. In fact, I would probably be guilty of getting rid of older players a year or two too early, just to avoid being too late. That doesn't mean that what the Jaguars did can't and won't work. I just have my beliefs and last year I softened a bit on my stance because everybody wanted that one or two players that would put this team over the top, so I decided that I needed to be less overbearing and not rain on everyone's parade. That won't happen in this coming offseason. I am going to be my usual overbearing, stubborn self when it comes to BAP and draft picks.

Russ from Jacksonville:
Why can't we successfully execute linebacker blitzes with what was called the best linebacking corps in franchise history? What do our linebackers lack that a successful blitzing defense like the Steelers have? Even with defensive line injuries, it seems Pittsburgh can always get a good blitz.

Vic: First of all, the Steelers run a 3-4, which means they have one more linebacker than a 4-3 team, which the Jaguars are. In a 3-4, the linebackers are the featured players. In a 4-3, it's the defensive linemen. The Steelers' success at getting pressure on the quarterback isn't the result of plans and schemes. It's the result of dedicating themselves totally to finding the players to execute those schemes. The Steelers draft linebackers in bunches. They take more linebackers to training camp every summer than I have underwear in my drawer. They've drafted four linebackers in the last two drafts and two of them were in the first and second rounds. Don't think that every guy they draft is a home-run pick. They've had their share of busts. Alonzo Jackson was a second-round bust. Their third-round pick this year, Bruce Davis, has been inactive for most of the season. But the Steelers keep drafting linebackers because that is the heart and soul of their defense. Look at their offensive line. It has to be rebuilt and they knew that going into this year's draft but that didn't stop them from drafting another linebacker before they drafted an offensive lineman. The Steelers are vigilant about the linebacker position. That's why they always seem to have good ones who can run and hit and sack the quarterback.

Jeremy from Jacksonville:
I sure hope Jack Del Rio holds his coaches and players accountable in the locker room because he does nothing but take up for them in public. Don't you think it's past time to light a fire under some rear ends?

Vic: Who says he hasn't? You want a public proclamation so he can light a fire under your rear end. It doesn't work that way.

James from Jacksonville:
I assume you fly to away games with the team? What is the flight like flying back after a loss like this past Sunday?

Vic: The players weep the whole way home. They slump in their seats and cry and the stewardesses can't even get them to eat their dinner, which is a shame because they served a delicious chicken/pasta dish on the way back from Cincinnati. It came with a lovely Caesar salad – the little tomatoes were very tart – and a surprisingly flavorful apple cobbler for dessert.

Trevor from Washington, DC:
Let's focus on something positive. What are some of the bright spots you've seen this year?

Vic: David Garrard is giving us every reason to believe he is what his new contract proclaims him to be, which is to say the long-term future at the position. That's the best thing about this season, because of the importance of the position. If you have a quarterback around whom you can build your team, you have a chance to rebound quickly. Without that guy, you're dead. Matt Jones' revival has been encouraging. The play of Tony Pashos has been consistent. The need to replace Vince Manuwai and Mo Williams has allowed the Jaguars to build some depth in the interior of their offensive line; I'm speaking specifically of guard Uche Nwaneri. Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves are getting significant playing time and are learning their craft. Montell Owens may be the best special teams player in the league. There's more.

Derek from Chestertown, MD:
The season has ended and you are in Jaguars management. What are your top priority positions to look at in the offseason?

Vic: I'm not gonna soften on these questions this year. I'm gonna go back to the old Vic. BAP, that's all. We all know where the needs are, but you can't manufacture players. Just take the best ones available in the draft, and no more big spending in free agency. That's a trap.

Scott from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Do we have time to rebuild the lines through the draft, assuming Garrard is our QB of the future?

Vic: Sure they have the time. Garrard is in his prime. He didn't play a lot of football during the first five years of his career, so he's younger than his years. Rebuilding the lines won't be a matter of wholesale replacements. It'll be a player here or there. That's all. We're not talking about a three-year project. We're talking about a player here or there and the patience that will be required to develop those few players.

Sonny from Jacksonville:
Did you see all of those Steelers fans at the Redskins game on Monday night? You said you were disappointed to see so many in Jacksonville, somehow suggesting that we are bad fans. Do the Redskins have bad fan support, too?

Vic: No, the Redskins have great fan support. They are one of the league's waiting-list teams. From what I've been told, nearly half the crowd on Monday night was Steelers fans. It was stunning. Tony Kornheiser couldn't stop talking about it and it was easy to tell that Kornheiser was embarrassed. It's a phenomenon without explanation. Steelers fans will pay any amount of money to see their team play, which is the only way they could've gotten tickets to that game, by buying them for inflated prices from Redskins fans. Washington and Pittsburgh are only a few hours apart by car. I was told that where the road splits for Baltimore and Washington, near Frederick, Md., there was a traffic jam of Steelers fans driving to the game. Why do they do it? I don't know. It's just an unexplained phenomenon. There's no fan base like them.

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