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Patience being rewarded

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

Sam from Jacksonville:
How did the undefeated 1972 Dolphins win their last few regular season games? Did they play their starters, win despite starting backups, or were they fighting to clinch the number one overall seed?

Vic: They put everything into achieving the undefeated record. A couple of things are important to note: 1.) the Dolphins played a very soft schedule in 1972 and winning out as the playoffs neared was little more than a formality; 2.) Bob Griese was injured and Earl Morrall was the starting quarterback, so the Dolphins could play Morrall with the idea Griese was soon to return to the lineup.

Joel from Jacksonville:
Didn't you say we should evaluate a player when he is in the second half of his third season. So how do you think Leftwich has come along so far?

Vic: I said a player's prime is generally considered to begin with his fourth season, and late in his third season you should begin to get glimpses of what that player is going to be in his prime. In the case of Byron Leftwich, I think we're getting those glimpses right now. The real issue, as far as I'm concerned, is whether or not Leftwich has another level left in him this season. I have no doubt he'll continue his ascent in year four, but how high will he reach this season? The answer to that question will probably determine how far the Jaguars go this year.

Jeff from Jacksonville:
If McNair is not going to be playing next year for the Titans and since their season is in the toilet now, why not put Billy Volek in and start prepping him for next year?

Vic: I was surprised the Titans didn't go in that direction this year. I didn't understand why they didn't move on at quarterback, too. Once they decided to stick with Steve McNair, however, they pretty much had to commit to him. If you put him on the bench, the owner's probably gonna wanna know why he's paying a $7.5 million salary to a guy to sit the bench. The kind of decisions you're talking about have to be made in the offseason.

Andy from Jacksonville:
In response to Carl's comment on how the Titans fans didn't boo, yeah, they did. I heard booing from the fans, loud booing. I don't think it was anything else.

Vic: I'm sitting behind glass and that may have muffled the sound. I've also been told Titans fans make a "Druuuu" sound when Drew Bennett catches a pass, but I'll take your word for it that Titans fans booed. What we need to do now is put this booing issue behind us because it's become a little too weenie for my tastes and it's resulting in too many e-mails every day. Yes, they boo everywhere. Jacksonville is no different than every other place where they play football. If you wanna boo, go ahead, boo. Certainly I've made myself clear on that point. Everybody has a right to express themselves. So go ahead, do it; you don't need permission. The point to my comment to Titans fans in Monday's "Ask Vic" is that I wanted them to know what a pleasure it is to cover a football game at The Coliseum. It's a very pleasant environment and I appreciate the rivalry that exists between the two teams and I'm glad they were kept in the same division when the NFL realigned.

Corey from Melbourne, FL:
Have you ever thought of putting your picks for all the upcoming weekend games in something like your Friday editorials (the one where you list what the Jags have to do to win)? I just thought it would be fun to see what someone who obviously has a great passion for the game thinks will happen.

Vic: The reason I don't do it is because it would result in a flood of e-mails condemning my every pick. Every time I picked the Jaguars to win, I'd get a "million" e-mails accusing me of being a homer. Every time I picked the Jaguars to lose, I'd get two "million" e-mails accusing me of being a Steelers fan. I already have enough e-mails to read.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
You mentioned that the only road places in the league the Jaguars have never played in were Arizona and Philadelphia. The Jags have never played a regular season game at Miami and San Francisco either. I assume that regular season games were what you were referring to. Just wanted to point that out.

Vic: Actually, I was including all games, preseason and postseason. You're right, the Jaguars have not played regular season games in Arizona, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Nick from Clearfield, PA:
I'm loving the way Byron has been playing lately, however, I came across some pretty interesting statistics. Byron's passer rating in the first quarter is a lowly 65.6, second quarter is 93.8, third quarter is an amazing 137.5 and the fourth quarter is a low 60.5. There has got to be some sort of analysis to this, as I can't believe these stats are just coincidence.

Vic: Brian Sexton first brought the fourth-quarter stat to my attention in last week's "Jaguars This Week" radio show and I was stunned. Usually, a poor fourth-quarter passer rating is the result of a quarterback being behind by a lot of points and taking risks that result in interceptions, but that's certainly not the case with the Jaguars, who've only played one game (Denver) in which they've faced a major deficit in the fourth quarter. I don't know what kind of analysis to put on Leftwich's fourth-quarter passer rating but I think it's significant. You don't want your quarterback playing his worst in the fourth quarter. That rating needs to improve if the Jaguars are going to achieve a higher level of performance late in the season. It did improve in Sunday's win in Tennessee.

Aaron from Gainesville, FL:
I think we need Brunell to win this week against the Chargers. What do you make of Mark's year? I thought he was over the hill.

Vic: The Redskins host the Chargers and even though the Jaguars hold a one-game wild-card lead over the Chargers, it wouldn't hurt if the Redskins beat the Chargers. I have great respect for the Chargers. They are a team that can get on a roll. Don't count them out. Mark Brunell had a bad day on Sunday in the loss to Oakland, otherwise, he has played at a high level this year. Brunell's passer rating is at 86.0, in 10th place one notch beneath Byron Leftwich in the NFL passer rankings. After what was a horrible season in 2004, Brunell has revived his career this season and appears to still have some gas in the tank.

Ed from Jacksonville:
I could not understand why the Jaguars called timeout with 2:01 left in the game. Tennessee had no time outs left. The clock would have automatically stopped at two minutes. What am I missing?

Vic: You're missing the play clock, which was one second ahead of the game clock. Had the Jaguars not called time out or have run a play, they would've incurred a delay-of-game penalty. They did it just right. They got the maximum ticks for their time out. They could've run a play and achieved the same outcome, but why are you saving the times out? You might as well use them. In this case, using the time out gave them an opportunity to discuss strategy for the third-down play.

Henry from Jacksonville:
All right, I'm from Jacksonville, but I go to Vanderbilt and I'm tired of you bashing it. So what if we never beat Tennessee? We won last weekend. We were also robbed by a celebration penalty against Florida. If you're angry at us for being the only school in the SEC with academic standards, just say so. Or maybe it's the fact that we had the guts to dismantle our athletics department in the name of eliminating athletic preferential treatment and unfair money distribution, yet, continue to remain competitive against major state schools that bothers you. What's your beef?

Vic: I apologize to you most sincerely for having used your esteemed institution of higher learning as a prop for an unnecessary joke. I can't tell you how much I respect Vanderbilt for the manner in which it has married academics and athletics. What they've done this season should serve as an inspiration to all college athletic programs and, yes, they were robbed in the Florida game. Fly your flag high this week, my man. This Vic's for you.

Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Like the Lions, the Cardinals are an old NFL franchise that has rarely tasted success. Could you give us your general impressions of this franchise?

Vic: Few people realize that the Cardinals are the oldest continuously run professional football franchise in America. The problem that has plagued the Cardinals throughout their history has been the lack of a true home. They were chased out of Chicago by the Bears, were second-class citizens to the baseball Cardinals in St. Louis, and have been secondary tenants to Arizona State in Sun Devils Stadium. All of that should change next season when the Cardinals move into their new stadium. For the first time, they'll have their own place to call home and their future will be secure. At that point, I would expect the fortunes of the Cardinals franchise to change dramatically.

William from Jacksonville:
If what we saw on Sunday was "cover zero" and "cover one," by comparison the old Buddy Ryan defenses at their peaks must have seemed like "cover negative three." I was looking for more spread formations by the Jaguars after the third series. Did you think the coaches took too long to adjust or was the Titans scoring the primary factor in deciding when to open up?

Vic: I don't think you can blame the Jaguars coaches for taking too long to adjust. If they abandon their game plan on the second series, they would've, in effect, have flushed a week of preparation down the toilet. You have to practice a degree of patience in that kind of situation. How committed were the Titans to their attack strategy? You need to examine it and be absolutely sure of what adjustments need to be made to be successful against it. I thought Carl Smith and his offensive staff did a great job of diagnosing the problem and providing a cure. What shocked me is that the Titans didn't shift gears at halftime. I would've thought Jeff Fisher might have decided he had gotten all of the mileage he could out of the attack strategy, and then changed to a bend-but-don't-break strategy in the second half that would've cost the Jaguars another adjustment period.

Brandon from Morehead, KY:
Byron is in his third season and he seems to be peaking. I believe you have been saying to expect this all along. Good call.

Vic: Patience is a great virtue. We need it in sports now more than ever because we have started to behave as spoiled brats. We want it and we want it now. That is not attractive. Those who have been patient with Leftwich, and his career really hasn't required a lot of patience, are now getting their reward.

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