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Know when to stand, sit

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

Jeremy from Navarre, FL:
I was shocked at an ESPN poll that shows America divided down the middle on whether or not the NFL should go to an 18-game season. What do you make of that?

Vic: It's more important to give the fans what they need, instead of what they want, and they really do need two fewer preseason games.

Chris from St. Augustine, FL:
Why is the sweep no longer prominent, or even effective in the NFL?

Vic: If you're referring to the power sweep, in which the guards pull out in front of the running back and lead him around the corner, the answer is that offensive linemen have gotten too big to be quick enough to get out in front of running backs, as Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston did. The game has changed. It's a pass-blocking game now. The days of intricately-designed run-blocking schemes are over. The linemen engage, push and shove each other and the back runs to daylight. A couple of months ago I was asked a question about a famous snow game. One of the column's readers went into "SI Vault" and found the issue from 1976 that covered that game. On the cover of that issue is a picture of guard Sam Davis leading Rocky Bleier downfield. Davis, who's from Jacksonville, played at 6-1, 255. Vince Manuwai is 6-2, 333.

Matt from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Do you think postseason records and stats will become even more valuable if and when the league switches to 18 games?

Vic: I think they'll be as meaningless in comparing the eras as it was when the league went from 12 to 14 games and from 14 to 16 games. Stats are only meaningful when you're using them in the present. It's the only time they're relative. Stats should never be used to compare the players of one era to the players of another era. When judging a player for Hall of Fame selection, in my opinion, the most important question that must be answered is this: Was he one of the very best players of his era?

Stephen from Jacksonville:
Would you rather have the best offensive line or defensive line in the NFL?

Vic: I'd rather have the best defensive line because finding great defensive linemen is more difficult than finding great offensive linemen. A look at past drafts bears that out. The hit percentage at the premier offensive line position, left tackle, is high. The miss percentage on pass-rushing defensive ends is staggering.

Paul from Gainesville, FL:
Since it's a certainty the NFL will become even more offense-friendly very soon, what would GM Vic look for in defensive backs? Do they even exist?

Vic: Ideally, you're looking for a guy who can mirror in man-to-man coverage and also has the anticipation and play-the-ball-in-the-air qualities you seek for zone coverage. Defensive backs that offer that combination are rare, so you're probably going to have to mix and match your backs. The first thing you have to do, in my opinion, is to decide on a scheme. I prefer playing zone coverage behind a fierce pass-rush because I believe zone coverage lures quarterbacks into throwing for receivers they believe are open when, in fact, the quarterback is being baited by the defensive backs covering that area. I believe zone coverage produces more interceptions than man coverage. It also allows more passing yardage for the obvious reason that it's softer, but yards aren't points. In a perfect world, you could find one Darrelle Revis-type mirror-technique cornerback that could cut the field in half and allow you to flood the rest of the passing lanes with defensive backs playing the quarterback's eyes. If you get the fierce pass-rushers, however, you can play anything you want behind it.

Pat from Palm Coast, FL:
When will the Jaguars institute a policy of no standing throughout the game?

Vic: You can't establish that kind of a policy because you'd have to hire an army of ushers to enforce it and, of course, it would only lead to confrontations. This one is up to the fans, not the team. What we need is courtesy and common sense. I'm with you on this. It would anger me, too, if I bought a ticket for a seat and couldn't use the seat. There are times in a game when the action brings you to your feet. Let it happen, people. What's with the stand-the-whole-game college crap? That's for student sections with young legs. That's for kids trying to impress each other. This is pro football. There's no beer blast back at the dorm after the game and a student ID won't get you into the game. The people who've purchased tickets for these games have spent a significant portion of their hard-earned money. They are connoisseurs of the game of professional football and they know when to sit and they know when to stand. Just do what they do and everything will be fine.

Nick from St. Augustine, FL:
I was watching the Colts-Packers game. The new rule regarding the positioning of the referee really seemed to slow down the tempo of their offense. Peyton was rattled a bit and I am sure Bill Polian will be on the phone with the league. Do you see this as taking away some of their offense's potency by slowing them down? I would love your insight on this.

Vic: I didn't see the game but my guess is you're suggesting the new positioning of the umpire, not the referee, is causing the ball to be put into play more slowly, because the umpire is no longer in the middle of the field behind the spot of the ball. He now has to move to a position behind the offensive backfield after putting the ball in play. That's progress. The game evolves. The umpire is still going to be deployed in the middle of the field for the final two minutes of each half, for the purpose of being able to spot the ball more quickly at the hurry-up times of the game. I think that's a fair compromise. Moving the umpire out of the middle of the field is something that had to be done. Teams were intentionally rubbing receivers off the poor guy. He was being used as a blocker and he was in peril. Hey, let's line up and play like men. How's that? Let's stop with the tricks and just line up and play like men.

Dane from Gainesville, FL:
I'm like you in that I love the game of football because of the element of human confrontation that it involves. Having said that, I think the preseason gets a bad rap. Personally, I enjoy the preseason, and the story about Jacob Cutrera underscores my feelings. You get to see human confrontation at its finest: men who have little to no chance at success desperately giving all they have in hopes they might overcome impossible odds. I love the preseason.

Vic: Congratulations! You get it. I have a favorite story that goes with what you're saying. It's from a long time ago. I was walking back from the cafeteria with a couple of coaches at Steelers training camp. One of the coaches noticed a player walking up ahead and asked the other coach if the player was someone who had been cut a week earlier. The answer came back yes. Then they called out to the young player to stop. They approached him and asked him why he was still there. The young player said, "Because I have nowhere to go." I watched the whole drama play out and it's stuck with me for 30-some years. You know what? A lot of these kids still don't have anywhere to go. Football has been their life for a long time. It has fed them, clothed them, housed them and given them purpose. All of a sudden, football is gone and they have to find another purpose. That's the human drama that's unfolding this week. I do a Jacob Cutrera story at this time of the preseason every year, and it's one of the reasons I don't complain too much about the preseason. It has allowed me to witness a lot of human drama over the years.

Pete from Jacksonville:
Wow! Did you see the Pirates have a run differential of minus 246? That's 54 runs worse than the Orioles, who are pretty miserable as well. When is this gonna end for the Pirates?

Vic: Why should it end? The "Post-Gazette" ran a story last weekend on the team's profitability. "The Pirates made $5.4 million in profit in 2009," the "Post-Gazette" reported, "after two years of much greater profits and a complex distribution of $20,443,000 to the team's ownership group two years ago. The profit for 2007 was $15,008,032, and the profit for 2008 was $14,408,249. No ownership dividends were paid in that time, but the 2008 books include the $20.4 million distribution made to general ownership." The Pirates literally called a press conference, for all intents and purposes, to apologize for making money. They've already clinched their 18th consecutive losing season, which is setting records for all professional sports, but why win when you can make money losing?

Andrew from Green Bay, WI:
Quarterbacks and middle linebackers wear helmets with a receiver-only communicator. When does the feed go dead and is that regulated by the league?

Vic: The coach-to-player communicators are turned off with 15 seconds left on the play clock; it's regulated by a league technician.

Ben from Orlando, FL:
Double negative; very clever, Vic. Seriously though, when do the single-game tickets for the game against the Broncos go on sale?

Vic: You can't get no single-game tickets for the Broncos game, unless you wanna drop some coin on some club seats.

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