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It's just the way it's done in the NFL

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

Darnell from Harrisburg, PA:
Why do we not beat the teams we are supposed to beat and why do we always play down to their ability?

Vic: Let's examine this question logically. If the Jaguars often lose to the teams they should beat, then it would stand to reason that they often beat teams to which they should lose. If that's the case, then a lot of other teams are losing to a team they should beat. Maybe that's life in the NFL. The combined record of the teams the Jaguars have beaten is 9-10. The combined record of teams that have beaten the Jaguars is 10-9. What's the difference? It's an 8-8 league. A win here and a win there makes all the difference.

Tim from Jacksonville:
You talk about teams having patience and ultimately being rewarded. I read the "Times-Union" on Monday morning and saw comments from fans saying they're done with the team after this loss. Obviously, patience is something they canceled. Having witnessed how the fans turned their backs on the team when the chips were down in the past, if the team slips this year, do you see the fragile balance between the city and the team falling off to the point where Mr. Weaver might consider his options elsewhere? It almost seems as if there's a segment of this fan base that is looking for any excuse to not support the Jags.

Vic: Fan support is not determined by opinion letters to the local newspaper. Fan support is determined by fans in the seats on Sunday. That support has been pretty good the last couple of years. As long as it stays that way, everything will be fine.

Alan from Buford, GA:
What is it about playing in October that seems to stifle this franchise? We have an 19-29 franchise mark in the month of October, whereas we have winning records in August, September, November, December and January (counting playoff games).

Vic: Here's the breakdown: September 24-19, November 26-17, December 25-20, January 3-1. The Jaguars are also 1-1 in December playoff games and 3-4 in January playoff games. So why has October been the worst month of the season for the Jaguars? The answer is easy: The Jaguars have played more games on the road in October than they have had games at home; 24 on the road to 19 at home. That's a direct result, of course, of the Florida-Georgia game.

Jasen from Jacksonville:
I keep hearing people say you can't make excuses about injuries being the reason for the recent decline in the team's play, but why not? I won't claim the injuries are the sole reason for the 3-3 record but it by no means helps.

Vic: I'm not sure I understand what the difference is between a reason and an excuse. A fan asks me why I think the Jaguars lost to the Texans. I give him the reasons I think the Jaguars lost and then someone sends me an e-mail telling me I'm making excuses. I don't get it. What do they want me to say? No excuse, the Jaguars should've won? Well, if they should've won, then there must be a reason they lost, right? I give you my honest opinion, always. If I had said to you before the season that Reggie Hayward and Mike Peterson would be lost for the year and Marcus Stroud would be hobbled by a foot injury at least through the first six games of the year, would you have picked the Jaguars to win the division title? To make the playoffs? To be much better than 3-3 at this point? I wouldn't have. Therefore, I have to believe it's valid to cite injuries as a reason the Jaguars are struggling right now.

James from Jacksonville:
I'm starting to feel it, the fair-weather fans of Jacksonville. Even if we are 3-4, everyone better be in their seats when we host the Titans, to prove we deserve this team.

Vic: You're a good thinker. I like fans who think, not just rant.

Tim from Jacksonville:
Coaches will tell you, you often play hurt. Leftwich was not asked to run, jump, roll out. A sore ankle should not have resulted in those inaccurate passes.

Vic: You're wrong. In my opinion, he couldn't put all of his weight onto his front foot. I made that observation in my blog one hour before kickoff, as I watched Leftwich throw in pregame warm-ups. He was trying to gut it out. He was giving everything he had to the team he loves. I think it was a mistake. He says he was fine but I don't believe him. I'm not going to speak for anyone but myself, but I don't think he was fine. That's why baseball managers, after they ask the pitcher how his arm feels and the pitcher says he's fine, turn to the catcher and ask: "What he's got?" The catcher better give the manager the truth or he's going to be catching somewhere else. "He's got nothing, Skip," the catcher might say. At that point, the manager reaches out his hand for the ball and tells the pitcher to hit the shower. In football, the head coach doesn't have a catcher. He's got to make the call on his own.

Dino from Jacksonville:
Last season we got the wild card spot with a 12-4 record. Do you think we can get in this year with 10-6 or maybe even 9-7?

Vic: Ten and six usually does it; 9-7 usually doesn't.

Barry from Richmond, VA:
I remember we signed Ahmad Carroll to the team to help out, but I noticed he was inactive. Is he still getting into the playbook or what?

Vic: Barry, you need to read the rest of the website during the week. Del Rio gave a long and detailed response last week as to what Carroll's role would be. You missed it. If you had read it, you wouldn't have been waiting to know if Carroll would be active for Sunday's game.

Brian from Boston, MA:
Do you think it's safe to say, based on the landscape of the AFC this year, that the Jaguars have to go 8-2 to have a shot at the playoffs?

Vic: Seven and three the rest of the way would probably do it.

Joshua from Orange Park, FL:
You said Byron's contract with the Jags runs out in 2007, as well as Fred's. Why wouldn't they be negotiating with Leftwich? Isn't he the future of this team?

Vic: That's what they're going to determine based on this season. I said that before the season began. We keep covering the same ground with the same questions over and over. This is Leftwich's prove-it year. Everybody knows it.

Eric from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Your comments regarding Leftwich and his Sunday performance suggest that if you play injured there is no accountability. Is this true?

Vic: You're being antagonistic. My point is that I'm not going to judge Leftwich's ability to play the position on a game in which he was at less than full capability, no more than I would judge Ben Roethlisberger on how he played against the Jaguars in week two. You don't have to accept my opinion, but you're not going to change mine just because you choose to be illogical.

Anthony from Yucca Valley, CA:
In your experience, do NFL coaches allow their starter to work through a poor performance because of the message it sends?

Vic: Coaches love it when a player, especially a player of leadership, plays hurt. Look at Mike Peterson on a bad knee against the Cowboys and Steelers. It sets an example of effort and toughness to everyone on the team. That's why coaches will allow a player to tough it out. There's a risk, of course, that the player won't be able to perform satisfactorily. Where do you draw the line? It's a tough decision.

Jose from Kissimmee, FL:
We should have won that game, no buts about it. There are no excuses for losing like that.

Vic: What does "no excuses" mean? Does that mean if I say there's no excuse the team gets the win? Does it mean the team has to apologize? I think it's fanspeak for "I'm really angry." Well, I'm sorry, but I don't get really angry about football games. I try to make sense of what happened and repeating over and over that there's "no excuse" for losing to the Houston Texans makes no sense to me.

Jason from Honolulu, HI:
After the first touchdown, I was expecting the Jags to throw a red flag for Johnson not having both feet in the end zone and it didn't look like he was pushed out because every one was going for the ball, but it didn't happen. Nothing was even said about it. When I watched ESPN that night the commentators were wondering the same thing, which led me to believe maybe I wasn't seeing things. So, do you have an explanation as to why they didn't even attempt to review the play?

Vic: The coaches reviewed the play in the coaches' booth and determined that Johnson had both feet down and was in control of the ball. In my blog, I mentioned that the TVs in the press box lost reception just as Johnson was making the catch, meaning we had no replay of the play. It was a stadium-wide problem and I considered the possibility that the Jaguars coaches lost reception, too, but I was told they did not lose reception. They saw the replay. It was a catch.

Cheyne from Greensboro, NC:
If we beat Philly this week, we'll be at 4-3 just like we were last year. Think we could win eight of our last nine games like last year? Do our expectations need to be significantly lowered because of our injuries?

Vic: Yes, I think expectations should be lowered because of the team's injuries. You don't lose the quality of players the Jaguars have lost and maintain the same expectations. In my opinion, the magic number on which we should all be focused is "seven." That's how many games the Jaguars will have to win in their remaining 10 games to make the playoffs. It's that simple. Win seven.

Jonathan from Maumelle, AR:
What is the status of Matt Jones and Marcus Stroud? Is Lewis ever going to get any touches?

Vic: Please read the other stories I do for the website. Jack Del Rio directly answers both of your questions in the story I did from Monday's press conference. A lot of the questions I receive are answered in the other stuff I write.

Angie from Jacksonville:
I know Byron is our starting QB and Garrard is a great backup, but why do we stick with our starter if he's having a bad game?

Vic: Angie, the answer to your question is: Because that's the way it's done in the NFL. I've covered four head coaches in the 35 years I've done this: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio. Each coach was diligent about sticking with his starting quarterback. Why? Because the title, "starting quarterback," is prestigious and fragile. Every team must have a "starting quarterback" who truly fits the description. "Starting quarterback" is another way of saying, "The Man." You gotta have him. He's your leader and if you have too many of them, your team doesn't know which one to follow. Of the four coaches I've mentioned, Coughlin is the most impatient and most likely to make a change at quarterback, but I can only remember one true example of Coughlin benching Mark Brunell. It happened late in a game against Baltimore and it caused a firestorm of protest and controversy, and believe me when I tell you that Brunell was honked off big time about being benched. It was a decision Coughlin made out of frustration and it was a mistake. Noll stuck with Terry Bradshaw early in his career through performances that were painful to watch. Cowher returned Neil O'Donnell to the starting job late in the 1992 season after he had been out of action due to an injury, much the same as Del Rio returned Leftwich to the lineup for last year's playoff game. The result was the same for both coaches. I'm sure this answer doesn't satisfy you, but you asked me why Del Rio stuck with Leftwich when he was having a bad game and I have given you the honest and true answer: That's the way it's done in the NFL. By the way, Noll is in the Hall of Fame and Cowher is almost certain to join him.

Matt from Jacksonville:
Weak mentally: That is a perfect way to sum up Sunday' performance. Ron Jaworski from ESPN nailed it. It seems with Fred's contract (complaints) and Bobby McCray's driving that the team is more worried about other things. How does Jack and his staff circle the wagons and get everyone on the same page?

Vic: You obviously love clichés. Here's one for you: Just win, baby, win.

Ginny from Gloucester, VA:
Philly has lost two heartbreakers on the road and now comes home very hungry for a win going into their bye week. I think defending Westbrook catching passes out of the backfield will be key. Your feel for this game?

Vic: The Eagles are going to go after the Jaguars' young linebackers with the best pass-catching back in the game today. Mike Smith knows it.

Brett from Indianapolis, IN:
When they let you go from the Jaguars, probably because of cap space or a backup editor, would you consider a free agent contract with the Colts? Keep up the entertaining column.

Vic: That's funny; Bill Polian hiring me. You know, ever since he put that Jets guy up against the wall, I started liking him. I wish he had been in the hotel on Saturday night.

Chris from Jacksonville:
I saw Mike Peterson on the sidelines Sunday. How much can an IR player participate with the team?

Vic: A team can take anybody it wants with them on the road. Players on injured reserve may attend meetings but may not practice. Peterson went with the Jaguars to Houston despite having his arm in a sling and despite having a lot of pain from his injury and surgery. He went with the team because he cares. This matters to him. Mike is not mentally weak, all his wagons are circled and he is definitely on the same page. Unfortunately, he can't play.

Evan from Jacksonville:
I'm happy with what the Jags front office has done for this team the last three years but when is the future coming?

Vic: Come on, Evan. That is so weak. Football is an emotional buy. It's a leap of faith. There's no guarantee.

Max from Jacksonville:
In Fred Taylor's defense, he didn't know he'd be splitting so much time with a rookie before the season began.

Vic: I understand the complaint about losing playing time and how that impacts his ability to earn his incentives, but let's make sure we know all of the facts. Fred receives $40,000 extra every time he puts on the uniform.

John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Would it be that bad if the team decided in a few weeks to start playing for next year? This is the sort of team with the talent to rebound from an off season, as the Eagles have. We'd have the ability to develop young players with less emphasis on winning.

Vic: Five of the Jaguars' six draft picks and four undrafted rookies played in Sunday's game. Two of those undrafted players, Brian Iwuh and Tony McDaniel, saw extensive playing time. Another rookie, Montavious Stanley, who the Jaguars acquired from the Rams' practice squad, also saw extensive playing time. The Jaguars may be playing more rookies than any other team in the league.

Mitch from Jacksonville:
I tried to back Byron but now I am over it. Time for Byron to go. His leading receiver was the turf.

Vic: I don't see a question in there anywhere and, of course, this is "Ask Vic," so I'll be the one who asks the question: What if the Jaguars give up on Leftwich, as you have, and he goes on to be a top quarterback for another team?

Allen from Jacksonville:
I want to apologize for the venting e-mails. It was a dark day for many of us but that is no excuse. "Ask Vic" is a very professional and enlightening source in which we, as fans, are privileged to your deep knowledge and love of the game.

Vic: You're gettin' a little stuffy there, Allen. I'm not into that "no excuses" crap. "Ask Vic" is a think piece. It's where you go for reasons why things happened. The venting gets old because it's so whiny and weak, but theories are always welcome.

Gary from Boise, ID:
I knew the Jags were in trouble when you said there were no hot dogs in the press box, but how can you stand to eat them? Don't you know what hot dogs are made of?

Vic: I love cow lips and pig snouts. They make for a delicious medley.

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