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Jags counting on growth

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

Gary from Jacksonville:
Your "That's entertainment" article is the most insightful piece of writing I've seen in a long time. While I, too, am an avid football (college and pro) fan, it never ceases to amaze me the fervor people have for the sport. Your take that it's the slow season, the time between the June camp and the real camp at the end of July, hit the nail on the head. Fans are in a feeding frenzy for the least bit of information; the smallest morsel to fill time. But to what extent? It's time to take a look at doing something with your family, examining career goals or simply getting out and mowing your lawn.

Vic: Yeah, at some point we all need to take a break and introduce some variety into our lives. You have one week to do that. Hurry up.

Ryan from Syracuse, NY:
I love your column and try to read it every day. I play QB in high school and recently broke my throwing wrist. I was wondering if there has ever been any ambidextrous passer in the NFL?

Vic: The guy I remember who could genuinely throw with either arm, and I saw him do it in one game, is George Mira. Mira was a great college quarterback at Miami, but he may have been too small for the pro game because he never really made his mark with the 49ers.

Chris from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I have been really pleased with how we have gradually signed our draft picks. How do we compare to other teams in this department?

Vic: The Jaguars are way out ahead of the rest of the league. There are, as I see it, two reasons for that: 1. Paul Vance is doing a great job. 2. The Jaguars have a very healthy salary cap that allows Vance to use all of the tricks of the trade in structuring contracts. When you have a healthy cap, you are at such an advantage over all of the teams with troubled caps. Everybody wants to sign everybody. It sure makes you feel good in March and April, but now is when you feel good that you didn't sign everybody. These are the guys you have to sign. They are the nucleus of your team's future and you have to be able to structure their contracts with the future in mind.

Bryan from Kernersville, NC:
Can you give a brief summary of the letter that was written by Wayne Weaver to John Peyton?

Vic: The following are excerpts from Wayne Weaver's letter to Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton: "I am grateful for the efforts that you and your staff have made over the past months to address the challenge that the Jaguars face in a small NFL market. … when I step back and look at the current direction of our negotiations in light of the financial challenge that the Jaguars face in the short-term, it is my conclusion that it does not make sense for either of us to pursue an agreement that realistically would require us to be back at the negotiating table in the next few years. Therefore, we will go back to focusing on filling the stadium with enthusiastic fans, giving them the best experience in the NFL. My sincere hope is that these efforts will allow us to survive until the growth of the Jacksonville community provides a climate in which we can compete financially with the other markets in the NFL. … our audited financial statements (show) we have suffered a loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, and that we have been below the median in NFL revenue in the ensuing two years. … we have suffered a pre-tax loss in two of the last three fiscal years. … Our losses in the last two out of three years are the symptoms of Jacksonville being a small market. I want to be clear that it has not been my intention to move the team nor seek financial payments or guarantees like other small market NFL franchises. I am simply looking for an environment in which the team can survive."

Brent from Jacksonville:
It is sad when an NFL owner holds a city hostage to get what he wants. I thought the lease for the Jaguars was past 2010 for them to play here. Is this correct or can they just up and move when they want.

Vic: The Jaguars stadium lease is through 2030, but it provides for an escape, as most leases do.

Lonnie from Jacksonville:
I am very confused by Wayne Weaver's revenue situation. In 2004, he sold more tickets than 18 other owners (averaging 69,443 per game). Given that the most tickets the Jags can sell this year is only 67,000, are the Jaguars again guaranteed to lose money regardless if the stadium is sold out for every game? And if selling out the stadium won't change the revenue situation, what other alternatives are there to make Mr. Weaver profitable?

Vic: What it means is that ticket sales alone won't put the Jaguars into the black. Wayne Weaver is approaching the problem from three different directions: 1. The Jaguars need to sell more tickets. 2. Weaver needs the league to adopt a revenue-sharing plan that is more favorable to the small-market teams. 3. The Jaguars need the city to grant lease concessions, such as a rent deferral over the next 10 years that would allow time for the market to grow. The combination of those three factors will stabilize the Jaguars' financial situation and should provide for the team's future in Jacksonville. Now, consider what something much less than 67,000 tickets sold per game would produce. An even deeper shade of red ink, right? I have no doubt the league will provide for a revenue-sharing plan favorable to its small-market teams. The league's owners have always provided for the greater good and I think they will in this case, too. To what percentage of revenue sharing, I don't know, but I expect a significant step in the right direction. I also expect the Jacksonville city fathers to understand the value of having an NFL team and work toward lease alterations that will ease the Jaguars' burden, because doing so would produce major gain for minor cost. Most importantly, I believe this town will rally behind its team. The Jaguars are Jacksonville's identity. Alltel Stadium is Jacksonville's meeting place. All of this is at the hub of life in Jacksonville and I don't think this town will surrender its soul. We'll see.

Matthew from Neptune Beach, FL:
I compared some cities that you mentioned as candidates for LA. Jacksonville, from 1990-2000, had a 15.8 percent population increase. Tampa had an 8.1 percent increase and Buffalo had a 10.8 percent decrease in population. What's your take on this and, say, 10 years from now do you see us as someday becoming a mid-market football city?

Vic: All of the hope for Jacksonville is pinned to the region's growth. Yeah, this could grow into a mid-market city, but not without the Jaguars. I'll put money on that. If the Jaguars leave, that hammering sound will stop.

Seth from Jacksonville:
What teams are candidates for LA and what are your odds for each actually going there?

Vic: I can't assign odds on cities. Not only would that be unfair and disrespectful, it would be irresponsible information. I can, however, see the candidates, and it would seem the Jaguars have become one of them. The Saints, in my opinion, top the list because they seem to be farther along in the process. The Saints have major ticket-sales and stadium problems. All of the sportswriters with whom I've spoken have the Saints number one for take-off. Right now, there isn't a clear-cut number two. The Jaguars have gained attention for that spot recently. The Chargers still don't have a new stadium in the works. How about the 49ers and Raiders? Both teams have ticket-sales and stadium issues, and does the Bay Area need two teams? The Vikings' new ownership has repeatedly said the team is staying, but I won't believe that until I see plans for a new stadium. I think those are the major candidates. The Bills have been mentioned and it's thought the Bucs could be sold, and a change in ownership often introduces an element of instability. The Cardinals are completing a new stadium and the Colts are about to begin building one. Those two teams appear to be safe.

Cary from Montreal, Quebec:
Adam Schefter of said "the Jaguars have one of the deepest backfields in the league." It's amazing to read that because I just read Scouts Inc. report on them saying there was not much depth. Which is it?

Vic: I was also kind of surprised by Schefter's remarks, but I didn't dismiss them. I looked at the situation through his eyes and this is what I saw: If Fred Taylor makes a full recovery, and if LaBrandon Toefield plays as he did as a rookie in 2003, and if Fu stays healthy, and if Greg Jones is the short-yardage back the Jaguars drafted him to be, and if Alvin Pearman is the third-down back I think he can be, then the Jaguars really do have depth at running back. That is, however, a lot of ifs.

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