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Jaguars need a leaper

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

Jim from Warrenton, GA:
On a punt return on Sunday, a returner called for a fair catch then muffed the ball as it went over his head. He recovered the ball at the two-yard line and (because he had called for a fair catch) the ball was dead there. What would have happened if the ball had bounced a little further and the returner recovered the ball in the end zone? Would it have been a safety or a touchback?

Vic: If the returner first gained possession of the ball in the end zone, it would've been ruled a touchback because the impetus of the kick carried the ball into the end zone.

Nate from Tampa, FL:
Is our defense 18th because of lack of execution or a product of the great offenses (Indy, KC, Denver, San Diego) we've played?

Vic: Obviously, the Jaguars' fall in the defensive rankings has something to do with the quality of the offenses they've played. Kansas City is number one in rushing, Denver is number two, Tennessee is eight and San Diego is nine. Indianapolis is number four in passing. I won't tell you that I don't have concerns for the Jaguars defense, and I voiced those concerns early in the season when they lost Paul Spicer, but the team is 5-2 and the defense is still in the top half of the league's points-per-game rankings.

Phil from Winter Garden, FL:
I will be the first one to say I was wrong about Leftwich. He has come through on five occasions to help win ballgames. I wrote you two times before complaining about his ineffectiveness and now I humbly apologize. Given the recent events with us at 5-2 and on top of the AFC South, how do you project the rest of the division schedule playing out?

Vic: I think it's going to become a three-team race that's going to go down to the last week of the season.

Jonathan from King George, VA:
I know we should take one game at a time, but I am already looking forward to the Jags' only prime-time game, against the Steelers. I just think it could be the most exciting game of the year with both teams fighting for divisional titles and both being old rivals with two of the top young QBs in the league. Have you allowed yourself to prematurely get excited about the potential of this game?

Vic: Yes.

Chris from St Augustine, FL:
Vic, you knew this was coming. In yesterday's column you provided Leftwich's and Carr's stats year to date. Leftwich has completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 1,664 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. David Carr has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,641 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. So how on earth can Carr have a better passer rating (97.8) than Leftwich (90.1)? All of Leftwich's stats are better than Carr's. Is this passer rating thing a hoax?

Vic: I get questions all the time from people asking me to explain how passer ratings are figured. It would take the whole web site to do that. It's a very complicated system. What I can tell you is the four categories used for compiling a quarterback's passer rating are: percentage of completions per attempt; average yards gained per attempt; percentage of touchdown passes per attempt; percentage of interceptions per attempt. All of the stats you mentioned are incorporated in those four categories to provide four individual rating standards. Now, to answer your question directly, David Carr's passer rating is higher than Byron Leftwich's because Carr scores higher in average yards gained per pass attempt, 9.38 to 7.14, and in percentage of touchdown passes per attempt, 4.6 to 3.9. I'm going to warn everyone not to go any farther with questions about how passer ratings are figured. As I said above, it's a very complicated system for which I don't have room to explain completely in this forum.

Pete from South Riding, VA:
What do we have to take away from the Texans to beat them this weekend?

Vic: The deep ball.

Charlie from New Smyrna Beach, FL:
I believe this can be a week where we can really make a move, being that Indy has a tough game against K.C., Pittsburgh and Baltimore have tough games against New England and Philly, and if we can knock off Houston I believe that will put us in the driver seat for a playoff position. Or do you think it's too early to be looking at that?

Vic: It's not too early and I agree.

Derrick from Jacksonville:
At this rate do you see us getting into a Manning-like situation with Byron? Could he possibly command that type of money? And if he does, then I guess we'd be in trouble, huh?

Vic: You bring up a very good point. Last spring I offered the opinion that the Jaguars should do a new deal with Byron Leftwich as soon as he shows them he's the real thing. That's what the Patriots did with Tom Brady and it's allowed the Patriots to keep his number in the respectable range. If I'm not mistaken, he was only a $3.3 million salary cap hit last season when he won his second Super Bowl. The Jaguars' policy on these matters is that they usually don't consider re-doing a guy who has more than two years remaining on his contract, and Leftwich has three years remaining after this season. It's likely, however, that the longer they wait to do a new deal the more expensive he'll become and, yes, every team in the league with a hot quarterback has to face the possibility of a Manning-like circumstance. What we're talking about is at the heart of pro sports management risk/reward. Do you re-do him now because you believe he's only going to get better, or do you wait to see if he's going to cool off?

Kyle from Jacksonville:
The defense appears to have become kind of a problem lately. Why do you think the Jaguars did not try to trade for a defensive end, say Jason Taylor, before the trade deadline? The Dolphins are so bad they would probably trade him for a draft pick or something.

Vic: You have to take "Salary Cap 101." What you'll find is that in most cases teams can't trade star players because their remaining amortization accelerates. Football players are no longer bubble-gum cards. They're high-priced securities that have maturity dates.

Ron from Jacksonville:
With the difficulties in short-yardage, do we have a James Stewart leap-over-the-top kind of guy on the roster?

Vic: That's a great question. All of a sudden, the goal-line leap Sam Cunningham made famous is a lost art. That's especially perplexing in this age of specialization. Watch for that guy to return.

Joel from Orange Park, FL:
Good job on your analysis. Someday you have to elaborate on your "Curse of the Marino."

Vic: Here's what happened: In the pregame radio show on Sunday in Indianapolis, Cole Pepper hits me with the question, What is the football equivalent of the "Curse of the Bambino?" Hey, that's deep-thought stuff and I was lost for an answer. All of a sudden, Dan Marino pops into my head because his name rhymes with Bambino. So I tell Cole that all of the teams that passed on Marino in the 1983 draft are suffering from the "Curse of the Marino." For example, Buffalo drafted Jim Kelly and the Bills lost four Super Bowls, the Jets drafted Ken O'Brien and they haven't been to a Super Bowl since, and the Chiefs drafted Todd Blackledge and they've lost their last three playoff games at home. The Patriots drafted Tony Eason, but Boston already has one curse and a town can't have two curses at one time. Of course, when the Red Sox win tonight the "Curse of the Bambino" will be extinguished and that means the "Curse of the Marino" could be its replacement. We'll have to keep a watch on the Patriots' game at Pittsburgh this Sunday. If the Patriots lose and their streak ends, then we'll have to assume the "Curse of the Marino" has spread to Boston, too. The kicker to all of this is that Miami, which didn't pass on Marino, hasn't won a Super Bowl since then, either.

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