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League facing major issue

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

Matt from Oxnard, CA:
According to Paul Kuharsky, Garrard has the highest fourth-quarter passer rating (112.1) in the NFL. Would you consider this crunch time?

Vic: This is another example of knowing when to use and when not to use statistics. In this case, it shouldn't be used in four games – San Diego, Philadelphia, Tennessee and Dallas – because the scores of those games were lopsided. Whatever was achieved in the fourth quarter of those games was after the fact; it certainly wasn't crunch time. The truest way to evaluate Garrard's fourth-quarter performance would be to throw out the blowouts and calculate his passer rating in the fourth quarters of games in which the outcome was in doubt: Denver, Indianapolis and, to a degree, Buffalo. I'm not saying fourth-quarter passing isn't an important stat. It may be the most important of all stats for a quarterback, but only when it pertains to crunch time. I think it can accurately be applied to yesterday's Colts-Eagles game. Peyton Manning was razor sharp until the fourth quarter. My guess is that his fourth-quarter passer rating would be indicative of why the Colts lost that game.

Matt from Jacksonville:
Remember when Belichick released Bernie Kosar? I think he makes questionable decisions sometimes. After Kosar's release, he contributed to the Cowboys' 1993 Super Bowl team. I think Randy has more left in the tank than Kosar did, so maybe Moss will do the same thing this year and help the Titans.

Vic: Huh? I think you better check your NFL history. Yes, I remember when Bill Belichick cut Kosar for "eroding skills," because he did it the day after a game I covered in Cleveland in which Kosar was the starter. He didn't play very well that day but nobody suspected that he would be cut. Belichick had the guts to do what his eyes told him should be done. He cut Kosar, an icon in Cleveland, and installed Vinny Testaverde as the Browns' starter. There was outrage. Very quickly, however, Browns fans found out Belichick knew what he was doing. Kosar played for two other teams, Dallas and Miami, and for only three more years. He started just three more games and lost them all. His record as a starter in his last seven seasons was 17-35. His effectiveness was limited to the first five years of his career. Belichick had it right and he was the only one who had the guts to do the right thing.

Lance from Jacksonville:
What have your impressions of Larry Hart been so far this year?

Vic: He's a young player with a high ceiling. I really think the Jaguars have something for the future in Hart. He's a great kid, too. He never walks by without saying hello and I'll long remember an interview he did with the media during training camp, when he gave us an entertaining glimpse into the life of a rookie who was hearing in his sleep the voice of his position coach, Joe Cullen. Hart is making a move. He might become a factor down the stretch.

Anthony from Jacksonville:
As I was reviewing Saturday's college scores, for a second I thought I had clicked on the basketball link. Sheesh.

Vic: That's where the game is right now. I watched a game on Friday night that horrified me. I literally saw defensive players standing in the hole and watching the back run by. I turned it off when, on one play, the guard pulled out and whiffed the block, but the back ran for a big gain because the defender who was responsible for the gap just stood there and did nothing. The two teams played paddy-cake with each other; nobody dropped their pads. I can't watch that kind of football. I'd rather read a book.

Max from Lubbock, TX:
You're GM of the Cowboys. What would you do to right the ship?

Vic: The first thing I'd do is patiently let this season pass. As it passes, I would carefully observe and evaluate the individual performances. Football is a game for self-starters. Players that have to be motivated every week aren't guys I want. I want the guys who don't have to be motivated; they play hard because it's their nature to play hard. I'd use the rest of the season to separate those players from the dead wood, then I'd gut the roster by trading every player I didn't want for whatever I could get in the way of draft picks. Next year would be start-over time. There'd be no quick fix. The owner would have to understand that and accept it or I wouldn't want the job. This time, the Cowboys would be built on linemen, not wide receivers, and the days of trading picks for players would be over.

Casey from Boston, MA:
How many men are offenses allowed/required to have on the line of scrimmage?

Vic: Seven.

Jón from Reykjavik, Iceland:
I'm watching the Colts-Eagles game and I was wandering if the Eagles could have challenged the ruling of an incomplete pass when the Eagles were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for the hit on Austin Collie? It sure looked like it could have been ruled a fumble and, if I'm not mistaken, the call is reviewable.

Vic: It would have made no sense to challenge the call because the penalty was during the play, therefore, it would've nullified a review ruling. That's my take on it. I didn't check with the league on this; I'm just assuming this is the correct answer.

Pete from Gainesville, VA:
What is the point of football being a contact sport if you get flags every time there is hard contact? The NFL might as well go to two-hand touch. I am with you; remove the facemask. The movement starts now.

Vic: I'll compromise. Just reduce the size of the helmets and limit the facemask to a single bar. No, I'll even allow for the old-fashioned double-bar facemask that was fashionable when I was in high school. Please, get rid of that massive cage and the visors, too. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is the helmet itself. The over-sizing of the helmet in recent years has exacerbated the problem of players leading with their heads. It's mind-boggling to me that knowledgeable people allowed this to happen. Anybody in boxing could've told them about the negative effects of increasing the size of the boxing glove. The more you pad the hand, the harder the blows are to the head.

Dale from Hampton, VA:
I'm watching the Colts-Eagles game and Austin Collie just got injured. If that was a penalty in the league's eyes, then the NFL is going to lose fans. I don't want to watch the NFL if that's going to be a penalty. Collie was a runner, he lowered his head and aside from running away, the defenders couldn't have done anything different. I am in shock that was called a penalty.

Vic: My inbox was loaded this morning with e-mails similar to yours. The average fan is trying to send a message to the league. The message is that the popularity of the league is at risk if the league doesn't find a way to protect the integrity of the game as well as the safety of its players. This is the number one issue Roger Goodell has faced in his time as commissioner. He's got to get this right.

Rob from Brighton, UK:
My thoughts go out to Collie and his family, but that was a bad call. Collie was knocked into the defensive back and was by definition a runner, and it was a fumble. Is it the "basketball on grass" that is causing these major injuries?

Vic: Yes, in my opinion, it is. The game is being played too much in open spaces. That's what's causing these high-speed collisions. Players are converging at the ball. It doesn't take genius to figure out what's going to happen. Maybe it's time to change the game to favor fewer points and fewer yards. Let's go back to something Vince Lombardi said: Football is first and foremost a running game. We've lost that mentality. That, in my opinion, is the problem.

Kevin from Bel Air, MD:
Unnecessary roughness was called against the Eagles when a player touched the back of Manning's head, negating a fumble that should have ended the game right there. I know on paper that was the right call, but I think some rules should be looked at. What's your opinion on that penalty?

Vic: It was the right call but I agree that we need to re-visit the rule book. There's hitting the head and then there's touching the head; they're not the same. Here's a question I have: Remember when early in the game Michael Vick was run out of bounds and pushed over the first-down markers and no penalty was called on the Colts for unnecessary roughness? What if the Eagles had done that to Peyton Manning? Do you think no penalty would've been called? I think the league needs to think about that.

Todd from Beaufort, SC:
I'd like to congratulate you on picking both the Texans and Colts to lose. That was a great call. I hope this serves to sell out the stadium this week because we are still very much in this division race.

Vic: There's no question. The Jags are in it, but it's win time now. The time for watching the leaders fall to you is over. It's time to beat the competition head up and it begins this Sunday against Houston.

Gary from Orange Park, FL:
The Colts' next play after Collie was injured was one of the most callous, cold-blooded things I have ever seen. The Colts' next play was the same play that Collie was injured on, or something close. It was like a game of chicken, daring the defensive backs to hit the next receiver. They took advantage of Collie being carted off on a stretcher, with what looked to be a very serious injury, to get another first down. That's despicable.

Vic: Sometimes I absolutely love "Ask Vic."

Daniel from Jacksonville:
The rest of the AFC South looks to have problems, too. Looking at the upcoming schedule, do you think this team has what it takes to make a run at the division?

Vic: That'll depend on the Jaguars' pass-defense. You don't beat Houston by playing bad pass-defense and the Jaguars must beat Houston.

Mark from Jacksonville:
What is your take on the Raiders and Browns?

Vic: They're playing physical football. They're proof that you can still win the old-fashioned way.

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