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Must play better at crunch time

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

Chris from Sherman, TX:
Right now, I'm six minutes into the Sugar Bowl. Is the 16th pick too high for Ryan Mallett? Those were some impressive throws.

Vic: He's a top-five pick. His growth since the Liberty Bowl game last season is distinct. Bob Petrino has done a great job with Mallett. Of all the quarterback prospects in this year's draft, I think he has the greatest upside. He was outplayed last night, however, by Terrelle Pryor, who displayed better pocket presence than Mallett. Pryor has Kordell Stewart-like athletic ability. I fear, however, that Pryor will spend his career as Stewart did, which is to say pursuing a position at which some of the demands don't come as naturally for him.

Fred from Jacksonville:
Your article, "Time for review and analysis," is perhaps your best ever at a time when it was desperately needed. Champions rise to the occasion. The team didn't; you did.

Vic: Thank you for your kind words, but my challenge wasn't nearly as daunting as the Jaguars'. There's a reason the fourth quarter of games and the season is called crunch time. It's because everything becomes more difficult. It's because you have to play at a higher level. What we've found out about this team over the past two seasons is that it didn't have that higher level in it.

Dimitri from Jacksonville:
I'm sorry but I've been a fan since I was three and I'm just sick of what I'm seeing with this team, and the fact that you agree with it makes me think that you, sir, are an idiot.

Vic: How old are you now?

Andrew from Savannah, GA:
In response to Bruce from Jacksonville, you said we may be getting away from the meaning of football. What is the meaning of football? For that matter, what is the meaning of any sport we play?

Vic: In my opinion, athletic competition, especially football, is about human confrontation and teamwork. I think our appreciation of each has become dulled.

Paul from Jacksonville:
If football was played on a five-down system instead of a four-down system, what do you think would be the most radical difference?

Vic: Thicker playbooks.

Bill from Jacksonville:
Jeff Lageman did a nice job on his program Monday of showing the issues that created the defensive breakdowns. I came away with the question of how all of those breakdowns could occur in the 16th game of the season. It appeared to be more like OTAs or preseason mistakes.


Ken from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on Roger Goodell's letter to the fans?

Vic: I liked it. It paints an encouraging picture of the prospects of a labor agreement and of the state of the NFL. It's a pleasant read. It also serves as a challenge to the commissioner to get a new labor agreement done because, if he doesn't, the state of professional football will turn decidedly negative. The letter gives me the sense that the commissioner has accepted the challenge. will post the commissioner's letter on Thursday.

Michael from Burbank, CA:
I fear the next problem the Jaguars will face is a painful season or two of breaking in a new, young quarterback. That can't be far away. Can the Jaguars survive that transition in the near future (think ticket sales) and what is the smoothest way of making that change?

Vic: David Garrard is the perfect bridge to that transition. Garrard is a veteran quarterback whose game is still on the rise, which is exactly what you want, instead of an old guy who's just hanging on. The challenge the Jaguars face is identifying the right young quarterback in whom they will invest that development and the team's future.

Nathan from Vancouver, BC:
Yikes! That schedule for next year is downright nasty. The Jaguars will have to do more than take a couple of steps forward to make the playoffs next year.

Vic: It'll be the same for every AFC South team, so the playing field will be level in the pursuit of a division title. The wild-card race, however, won't favor the AFC South. The AFC North took it on the chin this year. Those teams drew the AFC East and NFC South and it says a lot about the AFC North that it got two teams in the playoffs. As I've said, the goal for the Jaguars next season absolutely must be to win the division because that might be the only way to get into the postseason.

Jordan from Kill Buck, NY:
This might be an aspect of the Jaguars scrapping everything two years ago but I have not heard this term in a while: jars on the shelf. Do the Jaguars have any, or is that going to take a few more years?

Vic: The Jaguars are loaded with jars on the shelf. That's been the major concentration of Gene Smith's effort over the past two years, which is to say stocking the shelves with young talent that might be worthy of taking off the shelf some day. That's what all that claim-and-cut stuff is about. Courtney Greene and Don Carey were claimed off waivers. Jason Hill is the latest and greatest example. When I look at the Jaguars roster, I see a lot of young, ascending players. Kevin Haslam, an undrafted rookie, is the perfect example of a player I would describe as a "jar on the shelf." He appears to have legit upside, but he's going to require some time on the shelf before he's ready to play.

John from Gainesville, FL:
I love your in-game blog. It gives another perspective on the game, but the Facebook message board got me thinking: All the negative fans should spend the offseason working on their play-calling skills on Madden and find a new team to watch and complain about. If you don't like what you watch, if it isn't enjoyable anymore, please watch some other team.

Vic: I favor all venues for the written word for a couple of reasons: 1.) The greatest of all American freedoms, in my opinion, is the right to free speech and the expression of that right should be encouraged. 2.) Seeing your words in print can be humbling. It allows you to take a look at yourself and having your name and face attached to the message you write should promote responsible dissertation, and that should be the real goal: using our right of free speech responsibly.

Chris from Jacksonville:
If you are Gene Smith, you're on the clock, the best running back in the draft is available, he's ranked number 10 on your draft board, but the best wide receiver or some other position of need is available and he's ranked number 11 on your draft board. Do you pick the running back because he's the best player available?

Vic: Ah, yes, the offseason has begun; let the BAP vs. need questions begin. You've been waiting a long time for it to start, haven't you? You just couldn't wait to be the first to hit me with the BAP vs. need question, could you? I'd take the running back or trade down to where the player of need I want fits. OK, everybody, I know that's a tough one to understand, so let's get right to it. We only have from now until the end of April to figure it out.

Sol from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Do you believe that retaining Jack Del Rio as the coach will cause an increase, decrease or have no impact on ticket sales for the 2011 season?

Vic: I don't think that's the appropriate question. I think the real question is: What coach could the Jaguars have hired that would've stimulated ticket sales? Bill Cowher? OK, is there any chance the Jaguars would've hired Cowher? No, none. Had Wayne Weaver fired Del Rio for the purpose of hiring a new coach because hiring a new coach would've stimulated ticket sales, he would've been very remiss because I feel very strongly that the type of young, ascending coach GM Gene would've identified for this franchise would not have sold tickets, so to speak. In my opinion, the reaction to the kind of sensible, responsible hire GM Gene would've made would've been met with disappointment that he wasn't the kind of splash hire fans always want. The bottom line is that ticket sales is the absolute wrong reason for hiring or firing a coach, or cutting or drafting a quarterback, etc. Who a team hires or fires, cuts or drafts should be about one thing only: winning. Wayne Weaver believes the team will win with Del Rio. It was Weaver's call and he's accepting responsibility for it.

Brewer from Atlantic Beach, FL:
If there's one positive that can be taken from the defense this year, it's Daryl Smith. Even in the bad games, he still seemed to come play football, and at a high level. He really looks like a man around all those young defenders on the team.

Vic: One of the things I tried to stimulate as editor of Jaguars Inside Report, which was the team newspaper until I ran it into bankruptcy, was a series of postseason awards I hoped would become a tradition. During my years covering the Steelers, the selection of a team MVP at the end of the season was always a big deal and it still is. The idea never really caught on here but if it had, Smith would've been a strong candidate for MVP of the 2010 Jaguars. I think it would've come down to Smith, Marcedes Lewis and Jones-Drew.

Lee from Jacksonville:
I like that Jack took responsibility for selecting some of the players that didn't pan out. I don't believe that everything wrong with this football team should fall on Shack Harris.

Vic: It was very honorable and I respect that, but I don't agree that the coach should bear responsibility for player acquisition in the system that was in place during the Shack and Jack years. Del Rio's responsibility was coaching. Shack's responsibility was personnel. Each man had final say in their disciplines, which means they had full control and that should require full accountability. So, if Del Rio is to be blamed for personnel, at what point was Shack blamed for bad coaching?

John from Houston, TX:
Who do you like for the Super Bowl? I'll go Steelers vs. Falcons.

Vic: My original pick was Ravens vs. Falcons, and I'll stick with it but, frankly, I can't imagine anyone winning at New England. If there's one team that has a chance, it's probably the Ravens, who whipped the Patriots in New England in the postseason last year and outplayed the Patriots in New England earlier this season, though the Patriots rallied for the win. The Steelers can't win in New England. Their offensive line problems are just what Bill Belichick loves. The Ravens have the muscle to win up front. That's the key.

Chad from Vero Beach, FL:
A lot of tackles are not being made because of players trying to strip the ball. Do you think this is becoming a problem that may need to be looked at or approached differently?

Vic: I don't wanna see the ball stripped, I wanna see the ball-carrier rocked, but nothing's going to change because the league wants more stripping and less rocking. They want a game that's played more with the hands and feet and less with the head and shoulders.

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