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Emergence of new talent

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

Mark from Jacksonville:
Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and New England have been the class of the AFC for the past decade. What do these teams know that the others don't?

Vic: They know themselves. They know exactly what they want to do and what fits their personality and mode of operation. You are talking about three teams that operate in three distinctively different manners. There's almost nothing about them that is similar. New England wheels and deals. They out-smart everybody by preying on the weak and terminally stupid. The Patriots turn their roster around from year to year and remain a Super Bowl contender because they steadfastly dedicate themselves to change. The Steelers, on the other hand, succeed on the merits of stubbornness. They are who they are and they refuse to change, which means they have the patience to draft from the top of their board and dedicate time to the development of the players they draft. Their patience is legendary. They've had a desperate need on their offensive line for four years, yet, they haven't reached to address it because that's something they just won't do. The players they select often spent their entire careers with the Steelers and the Steelers seldom participate in free agency other than to acquire a player who represents a patch at a position. The Steelers are the antithesis of the Patriots and vice versa, yet, they've both made it work. Why? Because they have "The Man" at quarterback, which brings us to the Colts, who have dedicated the last 12 years to building their football team around one man, the quarterback. The Patriots are all over the board, the Steelers focus on defense and the Colts are all about one player. They are three different teams with three different philosophies, but they all make it work because they are true to what they are and they are steadfast in their approaches.

Scott from Jacksonville:
Given Garrard's history of durability, I certainly don't question his heart and, if he's not capable of throwing effectively with this finger injury, then I agree he shouldn't play. However, there seems to be a lack of information concerning when and how it was aggravated, who made the decision that he isn't playing this week, and if there's a risk to further long-term injury if he does play. This week's game is a huge game and this news came out of nowhere. What is the real story here? Is there something we're not being told?

Vic: He said he sustained the injury against the Colts but doesn't remember when or how it occurred, the injury didn't bother him at first but it worsened with time, the decision to not play this week was the result of the injury having worsened to the point that he could no longer play with it, and though there was no risk of sustaining further damage to the finger since torn from the bone is torn from the bone, there was also no chance of recovery from the injury without undergoing surgical repair. Gee, Scott, you make it sound as though this was some kind of CIA cover up. He got hurt, he couldn't play and he needed surgery. That's all.

Skeeter from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I was listening to Jaguars This Week and thought I would share a personal story about June Wilkinson. Back in 1970, my first year in the Navy, I was stationed at VA-174, NAS Cecil Field. I was working in the coffee mess. My job was to make sandwiches for the officers/pilots in the ready room. We had June Wilkinson as a VIP guest one day. She was definitely a looker. She came up to the counter and I asked her what kind of sandwich she would like. She smiled and said ham and cheese on rye with mayonnaise. I was so fixated and distracted by her bodacious bod that I spread mayonnaise all over my hand.

Vic: It must've been love.

Mako from Jacksonville:
Happy New Year's Eve, Vic. The Redskins used a lot of bootlegs last game. Can you give us any insight as to why?

Vic: I really can't. Those weren't just boots, they were naked boots, which is something you might use if you had a mobile quarterback and you were playing against a fierce pass-rush, but I would hardly call Rex Grossman mobile or the Jaguars' pass-rush fierce, yet, the Redskins kept running them over and over and with very little success, if any. It just didn't make any sense. Maybe their offensive coordinator believes in plays, not players.

Josh from Baltimore, MD:
There was a story in the paper that included a tidbit about the 1977 Steelers sending briefcases to the Houston Oilers after their help in getting into the playoffs. Any chance you can expound a bit on that story?

Vic: It was the final week of the season and the Steelers needed the Oilers to beat the Bengals, much as the Jaguars need the Titans to beat the Colts. Well, the Oilers obliged and the Steelers won the AFC Central, and the Steelers thanked the Oilers by sending them expensive leather briefcases. I asked Jack Del Rio on Wednesday if he might similarly reward the Titans, should they beat the Colts, and he said he wanted no part of that question, which would indicate that the league would not approve of such gratuities between teams. Too bad; I like those kinds of stories. I miss the old days and the old ways.

Jeff from Jacksonville:
I heard talk on one of those cable sports shows about the size of a quarterback's hands and how quarterbacks with a large palm have better passing ability. They said that Dan Marino had big hands and was able to grip the ball better. Have you heard anything like this?

Vic: Don't listen to that show anymore. Marino had small hands and it was one of the raps against him in the 1983 draft that caused him to fall.

Adrian from Inglewood, CA:
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for another great year. I'm not sure if anybody has ever mentioned it to you, but you are to us what Chuck Noll was to you.

Vic: I can't tell you how flattering that is to hear. Coach Noll was everything to me. He taught me the meaning of professional football.

John from St. Augustine, FL:
Don't forget, you were incredibly critical of trading up to get Derrick Harvey, too. I thought you were crazy (UF alum) but you were right on the money.

Vic: Yeah, I was against it, until it happened and then I jumped right on the bandwagon and compromised every draft belief I had held sacred for 30-some years. I'm ashamed to say it, but it's the truth. I caved. I sold out. The band was marching down the street and I decided to join the parade. I knew it was wrong. For all of the weeks leading up to the draft, I said the Jaguars shouldn't do it. The questions kept coming and I kept saying the Jags shouldn't do it, but then they did it and there was a euphoria that swept over the fan base that this was the draft that was going to put the Jaguars over the top and I jumped right on the bandwagon with everybody else. Why? Because it felt good to have people like me. I guess I got tired of people not liking me. Do you remember what I vowed the following spring? I vowed I would never do it again. I promised never to abandon my beliefs. I apologized for lying to you. It is what it is. I lied to myself.

Daniel from Urbandale, IA:
What about the Jags defense? Does it seem like it's been improving over the season?

Vic: Yes, it has played better in recent weeks, but the real positive on the defensive side of the ball is that new talent has emerged. Jeremy Mincey, Austen Lane and Courtney Greene came to life in the second half of the season. Larry Hart gave us a flash of his talent in the game against the Redskins. Don Carey has played well enough to offer hope. The emergence of new talent will be married with the acquisition of more talent in the offseason. Gene Smith promised as much on his radio show this past Monday when he said the defense remains a place of need and improvement.

Jasen from Jacksonville:
When does the current CBA officially expire? Does its expiration alter the activities of the combine and the draft?

Vic: It officially expires on March 2, but it will have an impact beyond March 2 because the CBA allows for the league to unilaterally conduct a draft beyond the expiration date of the CBA. It's expected the scouting combine and draft will be conducted as scheduled. Happy New Year's, everyone.

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