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More than just football

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

Brandon from Morehead, KY:
How come Tim Couch had a hard time in the NFL? He had a strong arm and he was as athletic as Peyton Manning. Was it the mental aspect or that he was drafted by an expansion team? I have always thought that he may have been an All-Pro if he was able to go elsewhere.

Vic: Tim Couch did not have a strong arm. He had a decent short-stroke arm but he lacked power on his deep ball and couldn't drive the ball on the intermediate routes. I saw him on TV a couple of times when he was playing college football but I couldn't gauge his arm strength because he played in one of those 60-short-passes-a-game offenses. The first time I saw him in person, when he was a rookie with the Browns, I can remember saying to the guy next to me in the press box, "Do you believe they made this guy the first pick of the draft?" He had no arm. A fade was his version of a deep ball. It was almost unbelievable when you saw him in person that the Browns could've made the mistake of drafting him and not Donovan McNabb. There's no comparison. Couch was one of those system quarterbacks who were lights out in college but were out of their league in the NFL. Don't scout stats. Scout talent.

Joe from Mayport, FL:
Do you foresee any more free agency moves on our part?

Vic: I think you'll see the Jaguars sign some more guys. They're not likely to be big-splash guys but someone might come free in June the Jaguars wanna spend their money on. They've got cap room.

Jason from Portland, OR:
With all of the picks the Jaguars have used to surround Leftwich with as much talent as possible, do you think it's realistic to have high expectations for him this year? Challenging Brunell for single-season Jaguars records for touchdowns and passing yards should be reasonable, right?

Vic: I think it's very reasonable to have high expectations for Leftwich this year, but I don't care about the stats; I wanna see him win a playoff game. Ben Roethlisberger didn't set any records last year but in January nobody was talking about regular-season stats. I've used this stat before and I'll use it again because it says everything about what the expectations should be for quarterbacks: Roethlisberger and Tom Brady are a combined 15-2 in the postseason with four Super Bowl rings; Peyton Manning has all the records but he's 3-6 and hasn't made it to a Super Bowl. Which do you prefer?

Mark from Orlando, FL:
I'm starting to realize that teams draft for raw talent more than college stats and accomplishments. If a guy is ungodly fast, tall and athletic, he will get drafted. Is this in part because the NFL teams trust their coaching staffs to be able to develop this talent?

Vic: Jack Del Rio put it best: "These guys are all taken on projections of what we think they can do at the NFL level." Willie Parker is the perfect example. He played very little at North Carolina and wasn't even included in North Carolina's pro day. One of the scouts, however, remembered him from high school and arranged a personal workout, at which Parker ran the fastest 40 the scout had ever timed. He was signed as an undrafted free agent and two years later he recorded the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history. In all fairness to the college coaches, those kinds of mistakes are understandable in a system that only allows 20 hours of practice time a week. College coaches only have players for four years and players can get off track academically or socially very easily. In the NFL, there's only one track, the football track. You don't have to go to English class, but if you cut your football class in the NFL, you'll be fined or cut. It's a different game from college football. The success a player has in college football is only meaningful if it translates to the pro game. To make the translation, you begin by judging a player's raw talent.

Paul from Jacksonville:
I was 10 years old and living in a very small town when the Kent State shootings happened and until you posted the response to Keith I knew nothing about it. I did a search and read many articles and saw the pictures your classmate took. I hope we have all learned from this so nothing like it ever happens again. I am always amazed at the things we learn in your forum and it's all not just about football. Some of us get so engrossed in our favorite sport that we forget, sometimes, there is more than just football. Thanks for being more than just a sportswriter.

Vic: I responded to Keith's question for two reasons: 1.) I wanted to reflect. 2.) It might stimulate someone to learn what happened on that day. Your letter brings great joy to me, and I received a few other similar letters. Maybe the greatest tragedy of all from Kent State is that the parents of the kids who were killed received thousands of hate-mail letters from angry, close-minded people. You are the opposite. You are a compassionate, open-minded person and I am proud to have you as an "Ask Vic" reader.

Beth from New Smyrna, FL:
We have a lot of mediocre or situational running backs on our roster. Can you explain the logic behind this move by the Jags?

Vic: First you pick, then you fit. You don't pick to fit. Decisions on who stays and who goes are made on the field, not in the draft room.

Alex from Los Angeles, CA:
I've heard some rumors about the NFL draft being abolished. What do you think the validity of those rumors are? It seems to me that getting rid of the draft would be a recipe for disaster.

Vic: For as long as I've been covering the NFL, the players union has held the draft over the owners' heads. If the owners don't agree to a CBA, the players will challenge the draft in court and, almost certainly, win. In my opinion, it's time for the owners to ask themselves if the draft is worth sacrificing the future of the game? Is the draft worth a CBA that threatens to plunge the league's small-market teams into red ink and leave them unable to compete? Maybe it's time for the owners to call the players' bluff. Through this whole CBA thing, I have struggled to explain to fans the severity of the circumstances the owners accepted for the sake of labor peace. Well, maybe this example will hit home. "Ask Vic" sponsors an annual golf tournament. It's a non-profit thing. We work out some deals and then pass the minimal cost to the golfers, who I think would tell you that it would cost them a lot more money to do the same thing on their own. It's all been in fun. Well, we have a little problem this year. Here's the problem. Under the current Total Football Revenue model, which provides the players with 65 percent of the gross revenue of all monies earned, the players would leave us with 35 percent of the gross to pay 100 percent of the bill. To make this work so there is no profit or loss, which is what we had been doing, we would have to hit the golfers with a charge 65 percent (thank you for having done absolutely nothing) higher than cost, which we're not going to do. All of a sudden, something very good, something very honest and innocent is being threatened by greed. Is the draft worth that kind of an arrangement? Not in my opinion.

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