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Player without a team

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

John from Jacksonville:
All this talk about who and how one gets into the "Pride." Who decides? Is there a panel or does Wayne have the entire say?

Vic: There's an in-house committee, I think. I'm on it, too, I think.

Ryan from Syracuse, NY:
If a team tries a two-point conversion and turns the ball over, does the defense have a chance to score on that play or is the ball dead?

Vic: The ball is dead.

Janarus from Jacksonville:
Do you believe a player needs to play the majority of his career with one team in order to be inducted into that team's Hall of Fame? If so, what will happen to special talents, such as Deion Sanders?

Vic: Of course, a player has to have spent significant time with one team and have had a profound impact on that team's success for the team to consider him worthy of an all-time honor. Deion Sanders is a player without a team, sort of. Is he a Falcon, a 49er, a Cowboy, a Redskin or a Raven? That's the downside of free agency. I didn't hear Deion crying about it when he was cashing all those checks. Players want two things from their careers: financial security and a warm spot in the hearts of fans. There's a balance between the two. If you go too hard toward one, you may have to sacrifice some of the other.

Howard from Buford, GA:
I was reading an article about Jim Lee Howell, the former coach of the New York Giants. He had Tom Landry as defensive coordinator and Vince Lombardi as offensive coordinator on his staff from 1954-58. That got me thinking, who are some of the top coaches at putting together staffs the past several years? Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren and Bill Belichick are some obvious choices, due to the number of assistants who worked under them that went on to become head coaches elsewhere. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Vic: This has always been a chicken or the egg debate. Are the assistants the product of the head coach or is the head coach the product of his assistants? First of all, if you wanna talk about the Bill Walsh "tree," you have to acknowledge that he was off the Paul Brown "tree." The same thing with Belichick, who is off the Bill Parcells "tree." Brown produced, as former assistants or players, Blanton Collier, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Sid Gillman and Walsh. Those off the Vince Lombardi tree, however, weren't all that successful. Phil Bengston failed, Bill Austin failed, Bart Starr failed and Forrest Gregg succeeded briefly. My thoughts on coaching "trees" is that you have to examine each situation individually. Is it the chicken or the egg, or a combination of both? In Howell's case, I think it's clearly the egg(s). Landry and Lombardi made Howell; Howell didn't make Landry and Lombardi. We know that because Howell was rather aloof in coaching his team. Maybe his genius was knowing that he had assistants who knew more than he did, and that to be successful he had to let them run the show. There's something to be said for people who are able to think that clearly and selflessly. In Lombardi's case, it was clearly the chicken because the eggs weren't successful when they were removed from the nest. In Brown's case, it was a combination of the chicken and the eggs. Brown was a great coach who surrounded himself with great coaches and players. They were successful when they were together and they graduated to even greater personal success when they separated. Among today's coaches, I am impressed by Belichick's ability to replace Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel. Bill Cowher has replaced a lot of top coaches – Dom Capers, Dick LeBeau, Jim Haslett, Tim Lewis, Chan Gailey, Mike Mularkey, Marvin Lewis – without a drop-off. He's got two more top guys – Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt – on his staff right now. Belichick and Cowher are probably the coaches with the best track record for developing staffs. Jack Del Rio has done a lot of arranging with his staff and he's got a very impressive group of coaches. Mike Smith is someone I really like and who has a bright future. Andy Heck is another guy on the rise.

Craig from Brisbane, Australia:
I am now a crazy Jacksonville fan, but I was not a Jag supporter during the Tom Coughlin era. Could you please share some top highlights of his career in Jacksonville, which swept Wayne off his feet?

Vic: Tom Coughlin swept Wayne Weaver off his feet in the interview process. Weaver and his franchise were new to the game and he wanted a head coach who had CEO qualities. He wanted a guy who had the personality and energy to run the show. Coughlin is a great coach. He is one of the finest offensive minds in the game and Jaguars fans never fully appreciated that. Everybody wanted trick plays and wide-open offense, and it was that early-years ignorance of the NFL game that was the biggest obstacle Coughlin faced. Satisfying Jaguars fans in the early years was very difficult because a lot of them thought pro football should be played the Steve Spurrier way. We know now how ridiculous that opinion was. Coughlin ran the most sophisticated passing offense I have ever covered. Hook Mark Brunell up to a lie detector and ask him which pass-offense he prefers, Coughlin's or Joe Gibbs'? The success the Jaguars enjoyed at passing the football in the early years is clearly the highlight of Coughlin's time as the team's head coach. They made throwing the ball look easy.

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