Join jaguars.com senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Mike from Irvine, CA:
With the rule changes, is this the start of making the pro game into the college/spread offense game?
Vic: It would not surprise me to see a pro version of the spread offense; call it the "Pro Spread." The quarterback wouldn't be the runner that he is in the college game, for the obvious reason, but the rest of it would be similar in principle to the spread formation being used in college football today. Offensive coordinators are driving the game right now. They are the second-most important coach on every team in the league and they love to create and exploit mismatches. In my opinion, the landscape of the league is such today that it favors these innovative minds and their desire to spread the field and play open-spaces football. For those that love X's and O's, the good news, in my opinion, is that we may be headed into an era of prolific football strategy.
Bill from Panama City, Panama:
It's the fans' fault again? The fans wanted basketball on grass and now that's what we've got. For years I have respected your writings and opinions but now, again, it's the fans' fault.
Vic: I think you need to calm down a little and allow me to give you a little history lesson. In the mid-1970's, pro football had become extremely low-scoring and ultra physical, to the point that it bordered on being savage. At the same time, the league saw that TV ratings were dropping, which meant the fans were losing interest. As a result, the league adopted the game-changing rules changes of 1978 which, by the way, were accompanied by an increase from 14 to 16 regular-season games. Hey, doesn't that sound familiar? Beginning in the '78 season, offensive linemen could use their hands to block and holding was reduced from a 15-yard penalty to a 10-yard penalty. At the same time, defensive linemen were forbidden to use the "head slap" and defensive backs were forbidden to bump receivers beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage, effectively ending the "Bump and Run" defense that Lem Barney and Mel Blount made famous. The result was that the NFL instantly began a golden age of offense, with Terry Bradshaw winning the next two Super Bowl MVP trophies, followed immediately by the emergence of Joe Montana, John Elway and Dan Marino. It's important to note that in the years prior to the '78 rules changes, the Super Bowl MVP had been won by a linebacker, a safety, a defensive tackle, a defensive end and two running backs. Eventually defense caught up to offense – Lawrence Taylor pioneered this new era of defense – and points and yardage totals began another decline. The league uses a scoring average of 40 total points per game as a benchmark. When scoring drops below 40 points per game, the league gets nervous. In 2004, a major point of emphasis on enforcement of the five-yard chuck rule resulted in the all-time single-season touchdown passes record being broken twice in a four-year period, and the league loves it because the fans love it. Hey, Bill, facts are facts. Every time the NFL has wanted to prop up fan interest, it's done so by propping up offense. Baseball did the same thing with two live-ball eras, one of which was intended to overcome the stigma of the "Black Sox" scandal. Football popularity has always been driven by offense, not defense, and that's why the Hall of Fame is loaded with offensive players. The fans want offense. The fans want scoring. They love the wide-open game, which has long been referred to as "basketball on grass." I didn't invent it, Bill.
Joe from Jacksonville:
I know you did not want to address all the problems with commissioner Luigi's plan, but can you at least let him know that if 32 teams play one additional game, two teams would have to play each other in a game resulting in 16 games. This would not be enough games for each city to host a game. Now, if Luigi pushes for an 18-game schedule, now we're talkin'.
Vic: I'm gonna put you in the Hall of Fame, too, for not understanding why I put Luigi in the Hall of Fame. Forget about all that mathematical mumbo jumbo. The bottom line is the NFL isn't gonna play a game between Arizona and San Francisco in San Diego. It makes no sense. You don't make two teams incur travel costs to play in front of empty seats. It's professional football. It's about the money.
Jake from Jacksonville:
The 5-11 Jaguars almost beat the Super Bowl-champion Steelers last year. What does that tell us?
Vic: I think you can start with the obvious, that the difference between teams at the top of the standings and the teams at the bottom can be bridged by making a play here or there, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger's drive-sustaining completion to Hines Ward. That play was the difference. I think there's also one other thing to be learned from that game: One dominant player, as Roethlisberger was that night, usually is the difference, especially if he's a quarterback. Make no mistake, more than ever before this is a quarterback-driven league. He's the man.
Howard from Homestead, FL:
As for the rules changes, if you run the ball, you're still keeping the ball out of Manning's or Brady's hands. Running the ball might become more important.
Vic: That's always been the formula for defeating great quarterbacks; keep them on the bench. Maybe you're right. You never know what can happen. Back in 1972, they moved the hash marks toward the center of the field to help open the field for the passing game. So what happened? The change caused an explosion of thousand-yard rushers. Maybe running the ball will become more important, but I don't see it happening. I see the passing game becoming more prolific than ever before, and if you don't have one, you are very unlikely to win. That's just my opinion.
Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I got rid of Madden, thanks to you. I was beating the Patriots with Gray as a quarterback, which proves your point. To replenish my football entertainment, in your opinion, what are the best three football movies you would recommend?
Vic: Movies? Read "The League," by David Harris. If you wanna know about pro football, you read that.
Jeff from Nashville, TN:
I enjoyed your response to Franchot concerning Madden. I can't speak for pro football but as a youth league football coach it made me think of the kids I see in the early-season practices with their Nike cleats and Under Armour t-shirts who win all the wind sprints but can't seem to put one foot in front of the other when the pads go on and there is someone across the line ready to make the hit.
Vic: It all changes then, doesn't it? I can remember rehearsing specific plays for certain players in summer underwear practices, because a kid had the speed to turn the corner or the size to move the pile. Then the pads went on and the kid with the speed seemed to get slower and the kid with the size seemed to get smaller. I can see it like it was yesterday, and I can also see the kids who came out of nowhere to become stars when the pads went on. No guts, no glory.
Jeremy from Jerseyville, IL:
How many undrafted free agents do you think the Jaguars will sign?
Vic: Last year, the Jaguars signed 13 immediately following the draft. I would expect a similar amount.