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Parity offers all teams hope

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

Tim from Hagerstown, MD:
Greetings from a Jags fan in Ravens country. During the Bucs game, Paul McGuire (who talks too much and listens too little) mentioned that when Fred Taylor hits the line, he hops like Barry Sanders used to do. Barry left the NFL at the top of his game. What is he doing these days?

Vic: He's working at an Ihop.

Mike from Jacksonville:
How old average-wise are the players on our team compared to other teams' players?

Vic: The Jaguars' average age per player is 26.2; the average years of experience is 3.95. I can't tell you where that ranks the Jaguars with the other teams in the league because that statistical comparison is not offered during the season when rosters constantly change. But even if I knew what it was at this minute, it wouldn't offer much in the way of information. Basically, there's not a lot of difference in those two figures from one team to the next. The best way to judge a team's true "age" is by counting the number of starters who are in the first three years of their careers. Remember, a player's prime is judged to be between years four and seven of his career. Applying the first three years theory, the Jaguars have nine such players in their starting lineup. That makes this a young team.

Amin from New Haven, CT:
I remember you saying the Broncos had an 11-5 record but didn't make the playoffs. How was that possible?

Vic: The 1985 Denver Broncos were 11-5 and finished second in the AFC West to the Los Angeles Raiders. The Broncos did not qualify for the playoffs as a wild card because the Patriots and the Jets also finished 11-5 and won the tiebreakers. In 1985, there were only five playoff teams in each conference. The Patriots beat the Jets in the wild-card game, then beat the Raiders and the Dolphins to earn the right to go to the Super Bowl and have their brains bashed in by the Bears. The sad fact of the Broncos not making the playoffs that year with an 11-5 record is that Cleveland made it at 8-8. The Browns qualified by winning the AFC Central.

Jim from Newcastle, Australia:
In light of a league-wide series of upsets over the last few weeks – even the last couple of years – is it fair to say the NFL has achieved a true level of parity between teams?

Vic: Parity is nothing new to the NFL. The real question is: Why won't fans accept it? Parity is a fact of life in this league. It's that way because the league has taken every step to promote it. In the 1970s, a few teams dominated the league. Consider this: During the Steelers' reign at the top in the '70s, they were 50-1-1 against teams under .500. Upsets? Where? The game had evolved into a low-scoring, brutally physical and even violent, and predictable exercise. That's not to say there weren't great games. There were great games – classic games in the playoffs when the dominant teams faced each other – just not enough of them. So the league adopted rules changes to soften the game, and that took the physical edge away from the dominant teams. Three decades later, everything that has occurred in this league has been to promote parity. What it means is we've reached the point that 50-1-1 is absolutely not possible. No matter how high you reach or how low you fall, your fortunes can be reversed very quickly because the difference in talent levels from team to team is not that distinct. Make smart personnel decisions, don't screw up your salary cap, get the most out of your players' talent and dedication and you'll never stray too far from playoffs contention. Don't screw up the cap; that's the really big one.

Jared from Gainesville, FL:
After the Jags' impressive win on Sunday, what is their record in the black uniforms?

Vic: The Jaguars are 1-1 in all-black. They lost to the Steelers last year.

Kelly from Santa Rosa, CA:
Since David Carr is still nursing a sore shoulder and Tony Banks is now out for the season, who would be next in line at QB for Houston this week? It seems like the situation is tilted in our favor.

Vic: Rookie Dave Ragone is next on the depth chart.

Matt from Gainesville, FL:
I'm convinced, in retrospect, Sunday night's victory against the Bucs was one of our best games ever. The time, place, opponent and conditions were truly perfect for a new era to appear. Do you agree we are now officially on the rise?

Vic: The Jaguars became a team in ascent when they made Byron Leftwich their starting quarterback. That had to happen for this team to claim its arrow was pointing up. Why? Because we knew Mark Brunell wouldn't be here next year, so how could you say a team was in ascent if it was going to lose its quarterback at the end of the year? That's not the case now. The Jaguars know who their offensive leader is and he's making strides toward the day when he can lead this team into the playoff race. That's the main reason we can say this team is in ascent. Along the way, the Jaguars have also identified other young players whose performances will only improve with time. It's really very easy to understand. It only becomes difficult when you look at the record.

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