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Fans are forever

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

Steak from Port Charlotte, FL:
Looks like there might be another good MAC quarterback in Tampa Bay. What do you think of Gradkowski?

Vic: He was my sleeper of the draft. Do you remember that? Bruce Gradkowski is the perfect backup quarterback. He's smart, tough, dedicated and knows his limitations. He's not big and he doesn't have an NFL-caliber arm, but he's mobile, can throw on the run, understands the scheme and is a leader. He'll never open his mouth; just do what he's told and do it well. He was a guy I liked so much that if I was a personnel guy I would've targeted him going into the draft. I look forward to seeing what Gradkowski will do this Saturday against a top defense.

Jason from Jacksonville:
The problem I have with the Patriots signing Seau is even if he does have anything left in the tank he still isn't a long-term fixture at the position. The Pats will just have to replace him next year and it becomes a revolving door position. I believe in developing young players.

Vic: Nobody believes in developing young players more than I do, but you can't magically pull them out of the air. Stop-gap players are necessary from time to time and I have no problem with plugging a stop-gap guy in for a year, as long as you're not "married" to him on your salary cap. Clearly, the Patriots are not married to Junior Seau. Kenny Wright was a stop-gap player for the Jaguars last season. I would've preferred that the Jaguars have solved right cornerback long-term last year, but they weren't able to do that so they turned to Wright as a one-year option.

Dennis from Jacksonville:
So while we're having patience and faith in our offense, we're going to keep struggling to put teams away. How long should we wait for things to get better before they take our team to L.A.?

Vic: One of the greatest obstacles to franchise security in Jacksonville is that, even after 11 years, a lot of fans still don't get it. You don't put teams away in this league. You're going to struggle to win every week. How long should you wait? Forever. That's the kind of patience and commitment it's going to take to make this work in Jacksonville. If that bothers you, I'm sorry, but I believe I am giving you an honest answer to your question. Being a fan doesn't include a time limit. Fans are forever or they are not fans.

Gamble from Jacksonville:
What did you think of Nick Greisen's performance Saturday? Did he take a step toward solidifying himself as a starting linebacker?

Vic: He definitely took a step in that direction. He's the first player competing for that open spot to take a "step."

Jesse from Tallahassee, FL:
If the gas was mind-numbing, you must have breathed it in, too, if you believe the quarterback controversy is going to be over. Logic and what happens on the field has nothing to do with it. Do you really truly believe that what happened last game is going to put these things to rest?

Vic: No, I don't believe what happened is going to silence Leftwich's critics. What I believe is that Leftwich will be the Jaguars' starting quarterback this season, regardless of his critics' complaints. That's what was solved last Saturday.

Kgoodly from Lake Charles, LA:
You said Byron would respond positively to Garrard's challenge. He looked pretty good in the brief time against Carolina. What traits do you see in Byron that made you so confident?

Vic: Byron Leftwich has great intangibles. He's someone with whom you can spar. I'll say something to him for effect and I'll see a little charge in his eyes and he won't just turn and walk away. He'll spar with you. That's when you know a guy's competitive; when he likes to spar. Leftwich has the guts of a burglar. He has an edge but he shows it in innocent ways. Sometimes I'll say something to him and he'll come back at me a day later. This is important to him. He cares. I like that a lot.

Evan from Hull, Quebec:
You might want to upgrade the air-conditioning system in the press box. That stuffiness must have been unbearable. In all honesty, though, I've read your article for a long time and whenever someone complains about the weather conditions, or food, you always seem to gloat about the position of comfort you're in while in the press box. When and why did you start doing that?

Vic: As I said, I like to spar.

Joe from Roseville, CA:
Is it possible the Jaguars would keep both Pearman and Toefield?

Vic: It's possible. Coaches don't like to cut good players, no matter how many good players they have at a position. The problem is Alvin Pearman, LaBrandon Toefield and Derrick Wimbush are not eligible for the practice squad. That means that if they're all healthy, the Jaguars will probably have to cut one of them. Circumstances might be working hardest against Toefield. He doesn't have a specific role. He's not a return man and doesn't figure to be the team's third-down back or short-yardage runner. Pearman is a reliable punt-returner and Wimbush returns kicks and is learning to play the fullback position. Toefield will also be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, which means the Jaguars are likely to lose him in free agency. I'm not cutting him. He's a good back and there's always the chance Jack Del Rio will keep six backs, which would be one more than he kept last year. I'm just stating the facts. Maybe a team will be interested in trading for one of them.

Kirk from New Smyrna Beach, FL:
Am I the only Jags fan who still roots for Brunell? What goes through your head watching him?

Vic: Lots of Jags fans root for Mark Brunell, as they should. He was the heart and soul of this franchise's early years and he's an outstanding person. What goes through my head when I see him play? Oh, I guess I could say that scramble in Denver or that great Monday night game he had against Pittsburgh coming off that knee injury in 1997, but I wanna remember him for things other than football. I wanna remember him for the interviews I did with him and for the postgame laughs and for taking the time to visit a little girl in the hospital when I requested it. And I wanna remember him for coming to visit me when I was the one in the hospital bed. Being a reporter is tough because you gotta tell it like it is and sometimes that means having to be critical of someone you don't want to offend, and there were times I had to write things I hoped Mark would never read, yet, I knew he would and did. What I'm going to say now I sincerely hope Mark reads: He's in my Hall of Fame. I loved covering the guy. I loved watching him play, talking to him and writing about him. I have a fondness for him that goes beyond football. His father's a cool guy, too.

Ben from Jacksonville:
What is with all the negativity from Jaguar fans in Monday's questions?

Vic: I think the negativity is the result of an expectation that didn't materialize. I think a lot of fans were looking forward to a quarterback drama on Saturday night and they didn't get the result they wanted, and I believe that caused Monday morning anger. That's why I say Byron Leftwich is going to have to be stronger than should be expected of a player. Leftwich is facing a major obstacle in what appears to be a significant faction of fans who want him to fail. He's playing in a very difficult environment. It is what it is and he's just going to have to overcome it because I don't see it changing.

Steve from Jacksonville:
Seth Marler has had two nice preseason weeks in a row and his kickoffs are going deeper than I remember him for in 2003. Are we looking at real competition at that position the rest of the preseason?

Vic: No; the job belongs to Josh Scobee. Marler is putting himself on tape, with the hope that another team will become interested in him. He has a nice field goal leg. I was very impressed by his 50-yarder last Saturday. His kickoffs, however, continue to hurt his chances with another team. His best hope is to find a team that is willing to carry two kickers.

David from Jacksonville:
Sitting in Alltel for the Panthers game, I was struck by the impression that Carolina plays a finesse offensive style. Their successful running plays seemed to rely on misdirection and speed, while they looked positively anemic in short yardage.

Vic: That's what happens when you don't have a pounder. John Fox doesn't want to play that way, but he may not have a choice. DeAngelo Williams is not a pounder. DeShaun Foster is more of a between-the-tackles guy, but I wouldn't put him in the same class with Stephen Davis. That's the kind of running back Fox wants. Every coach wants a pounder, but they're tough to find. That's why Jack Del Rio "loves" Greg Jones. If you wanna play power football, you gotta have a pounder. When you have that guy, he introduces a whole different set of expectations and circumstances. When you have a pounder, it's not about yards, it's about carries.

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