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Playoff thoughts

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

Caleb from Melbourne, FL:
Can you please give us a list of important offseason dates for both the Jaguars and the NFL leading up to the draft?

Vic: Feb. 7 is the first day teams may waive players. The dates haven't been set, yet, but sometime in Feb. teams will be permitted to tag players. The scouting combine is set for Feb. 23-March 1. March 3 is the last day for offering tenders and the last day of the league year. The draft is set for April 28-30. We don't know when free agency begins because the current CBA is due to expire on March 3.

Nick from New York, NY:
The news that Dirk Koetter is being interviewed for Denver's head coaching job shows the respect for Koetter's abilities throughout the league. I guess the play-calling wasn't the problem after all. Any chance the fans will accept that fact as a result of this news?

Vic: Koetter had a good year. He had a top 15 offense with a top three running game, two Pro-Bowl selections and a quarterback with a 90.8 passer rating who set a franchise record for touchdown passes. He also uncovered a rising, young pass receiver and developed depth at running back. Despite having accomplished all of that and having raised awareness of his ability to the point that he is being asked to interview for a head coach's job, there were a lot of Mondays when the word "idiot" filled my inbox, and they weren't all meant for me. That's life in the coordinator's headset. When your plays work, you're a genius. When they don't, you're an idiot.

Henry from Jacksonville:
I just like to watch, too, Vic. I never played football so I want to know what to look for when I watch.

Vic: Here's what I do: As the offense comes to the line of scrimmage, I look at the defensive backfield. What coverage is it in? Are there two safeties in the middle of the field or one? Are the corners up or back? The answers to those questions should immediately tell me where the quarterback might attack. Next I look for the tight end; he defines the strong side of the formation. How many wide receivers and backs are in the game? As the ball is snapped, I focus my attention completely on the defensive line. How many players are crowding the line? I count them. When the ball is snapped, I count how many defenders are rushing. If it's a running play, I'll know by the actions of the offensive line and now I'll watch for the surge. Does the line of scrimmage move forward or backward? After all of that, I then find the ball, which usually appears where my eyes have already been trained. Follow the linemen; they'll take you to the ball.

Mike from Jacksonville:
I saw the Packers using a three-back formation quite a bit during their win against the Eagles. Do you think a formation like this would work well for the Jags with Jones-Drew, Jennings and Jones? Why or why not?

Vic: It would probably work better with Maurice Jones-Drew, Greg Jones and Brock Bolen because the two up backs are primarily blockers but who also have some pass-catching ability. It's a nice formation but it's not difficult to defend. You use it because it's one more thing for which the defense must prepare and package personnel. If somebody falls asleep at the switch, you might catch your opponent with a bad personnel grouping on the field, and you don't wanna get caught in "nickel" against that full-house backfield or you might be looking at no-huddle and getting your teeth kicked in.

Bruce from St. Simons Island, GA:
I've heard a lot about the importance of a positive turnover ratio. I know the Jaguars had a poor ratio. Could you please list the turnover ratio of the playoff teams and did all of the top turnover ratio teams make the playoffs?

Vic: In the AFC, five of the top six turnover teams (Patriots 28, Steelers 17, Chiefs 9, Jets 9 and Ravens 7) made it into the playoffs. The Colts were -9. In the NFC, four of the top six (Falcons 14, Packers 10, Eagles 9 and Bears 4) made it into the playoffs. The Saints were -6 and the Seahawks were -9. The Bucs 9, Rams 5 and Lions 4 are the only non-playoff teams on the plus side in turnover differential.

Jack from Jacksonville:
Are the Jaguars going to make a splash in free agency this year?

Vic: First of all, we don't even know when free agency will begin because it depends on a new CBA. If it happens, however, it's likely to be a very active market because it'll be loaded with players who were restricted free agents last year and received one-year tenders. The potential free-agent crop looks strong.

Lou from Verona, PA:
Thoughts on the weekend, Vic?

Vic: A really good kicker cost his team a loss. The Saints didn't have the same focus they had last season; they may have been suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. Darrelle Revis is too good to be true. Not only is he a sensational player, but he also plays with great poise, calm and distinction; no head shots, no post-play displays and after the game he looked Peyton Manning in the eye and respectfully shook his hand. Mike McCarthy is a special coach with a special quarterback and a young team around him. The Ravens are going to be very difficult to beat, even in New England.

K.B. from Jacksonville:
You, sir, are delusional, calling the Jaguars most recent draft a "B." I guess you missed the last quarter of the season when the Jaguars run-defense was shredded by prolific rushers like Donald Brown. Alualu is an average player at best who doesn't make plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. For the record, you provide your commentary for the draft picks during the Shack Harris era.

Vic: As soon as I saw the "sir," I knew it was coming.

Bill from Jacksonville:
With the newly-modified rules for overtime in the postseason, what happens if a team scores a safety?

Vic: The other team has to score a safety, too, or they lose? No, they have to kick a field goal, right?

Greg from Jacksonville:
Vic, you're absolutely right about Peyton Manning. You can't win with him in the playoffs. Did you see the way, after the defense and special teams put the Colts up by one with under 50 seconds left, that Manning gave up a 50-yard kickoff return? Did you see the way Manning wasn't able to stop the run or the pass in the second half? I can't believe Manning continues to only have two to three possessions per second half a game. That's so selfish of him. You commentate on football as if you were the one that plays video games.

Vic: I think a lot of people share my views on his postseason failures. TV thought it credible enough to have mentioned it early in its telecast. I can't help but wonder where he ranks in one-and-dones. I'd like to see a stat on that.

Don from Macclenny, FL:
Manning has no problem leading his receivers into crushing hits but when the pressure is near him he takes a dive. Why would any receiver stick his neck out for a guy like that?

Vic: Oh, Greg, that's a shot.

Coy from Roanoke, VA:
Are you the coach of Nevada football or is that your twin brother?

Vic: It's neither, but I did watch the game Sunday night so I could get a look at Colin Kaepernick. I saw him a year or two ago – I think it was against Notre Dame – and I was only mildly impressed. Sunday night, I liked what I saw. He's a big guy with a good arm. There's a concern for his long throwing motion but I don't buy into that concern because he keeps his arm high above his head. He reminds me of Ben Roethlisberger in that he has what I refer to as a one-piece delivery, which I believe promotes accuracy. Kaepernick has upside. It's time to stop playing baseball and focus fully on football.

Tariq from Jacksonville:
What would my resume look like if I were a scout for Gene Smith?

Vic: You would have likely played college or professional football. You might have started your career as a Blesto scout or as a coach or as a recruiting coordinator for a college. Smith was recruiting coordinator at Edinboro, which is where Blesto found him, and he came to the Jaguars from Blesto. You would likely have an extensive football background. There are exceptions, of course, but I think you would find that, in most personnel departments, extensive football experience is common.

Cole from Jacksonville:
I've got bad news for you, Vic. My wife says khakis are out of style. I told her that was crazy talk; khakis never go out of style. She just laughed at me and said I need a new role model/fashion expert.

Vic: Cole, remember, they're not out of style if you don't think they're out of style.

Rob from Orange Park, FL:
Please fill us in on Cookie Gilchrist. I know you've got some stories.

Vic: He was my first memory; he was my high school's star player on a legendary championship team. I told the story in this column last spring, I believe, of how Cookie would drive down Brackenridge Ave. in his Cadillac when I was a kid, and the kids would see him coming and call out, "Lookie, lookie, lookie, here comes Cookie," and he'd wave. Somehow he saw what I wrote and he sent me an e-mail. I'll treasure the memory of it. I knew he had cancer and I had read the touching story of how a high school teammate had come to his aid. Cookie was one of those larger-than-life characters. I remember having seen an NFL Films piece years ago on curfew checks and the strange things the guys who do the checks have found when they've gone to the players' hotel rooms at curfew time. One of the guys they interviewed did curfew checks for the Bills when Cookie played for them. That was a team with some flavorful personalities, including Paul Maguire (I love that guy), and the curfew guy said he was always afraid of what he'd find when he knocked on the door, but he always knew what he'd find when he knocked on Cookie's door because Cookie would be standing in front of the mirror putting on his tie, getting ready to go out on the town. Men of such legend never die.

Micah from Chicago, FL:
All four remaining AFC playoff teams are champions of the 3-4. Is it harder to defend the pass with a 4-3 defense?

Vic: It's difficult finding every-downs pass-rushers for the 4-3.

Tom from Staten Island, NY:
I never knew that if there are multiple fouls on a play that the referee, after throwing the flag, will then toss his hat and then his shoe. Has that always been the rule?

Vic: I knew about the hat but, in 39 years of covering football, I can honestly say I've never seen an official throw a shoe.

Carl from Jacksonville:
What a game. Looks like the BCS got it right. I'd love to have a guy like Nick Fairley. Do you think he's worth a top-three pick, especially now that the top prospect has decided to stay in school? Oh, I'm your number one reader under 20.

Vic: That's not my kind of football. I have never seen so many unblocked defensive linemen. Everything looked hurried and forced. There were so many people running around that I struggled to follow the action. I forced myself to watch the fourth quarter; I wanted to go to bed but I knew I needed to see what happened. I did get an appreciation, however, for why so many young fans think Madden is the same as real football, because that game last night put a major emphasis on plays. Fairley, however, was so dominant that plays didn't work against him. He brought it all back to players. He is well on his way to being a top-five pick in the draft.

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