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Postseason defines QBs

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

Thrill from Jacksonville:
Only two eras in professional football? You forgot the salary cap era. The cap has clearly changed the way the league operates and the decisions that coaches and general managers make.

Vic: You're absolutely correct.

Jonathan from Maumelle, AR:
This is Byron Leftwich's make or break year. I know the unwritten rule for every team is not to overly criticize their quarterback, but you seem to be placing too much emphasis on the young wide receiving group. I think you're setting these guys up to take the blame. The bottom line is that most top-notch teams live and die with quarterback play. If Byron Leftwich plays well, the Jags will do well in the playoffs.

Vic: So, what's your point? The wide receivers don't matter? It sounds to me like you're the one who's preparing to make excuses.

Sam from Sydney, Australia:
I think the Jags-Steelers games are becoming great battles and the NFL has seen the light by putting them on prime-time. Do you think this will be a regular fixture over the next few years and why do you think they have been great games?

Vic: Right from the beginning, they were great games. I have no idea why they've been so good. It's just happened that way. The two games they played in 1997 and the game they played at Alltel two years ago are three of the best games I have ever covered. They've obviously caught the league's attention.

Pulin from Jacksonville:
How would moving the hash marks to the middle of the field change the play of the game? You said it was supposed to increase passing yardage but it actually led to more rushing, but I don't see how either of those would result from moving the hashes.

Vic: Moving the hashes toward the middle of the field created room. The old hashes created a short side that was easy to defend because of the tight quarters, and that caused a lop-sided effect. A down-and-out throw to the wide side was a heckuva heave. Balancing the field had the effect of balancing defenses. They had to honor one side as much as the other. It was expected that this balancing effect would cause coaches to think pass, but there were still too many obstacles to the passing game in place; they thought run and runners found open spaces to both sides of the field. Coaches were still reluctant to pass the ball because the rules were tilted toward defense. The first thing offensive linemen did when the ball was snapped was bring their hands to their chest. At the same time, defensive linemen were hitting offensive linemen in the head with a legal technique known as the "head slap." Defenses were also able to employ a pass-coverage technique known as "bump and run." If offensive linemen got their hands the least little bit away from their body they'd get called for holding and holding back then was a 15-yard penalty. A holding penalty killed a drive and, when you put all of that together, coaches were reluctant to pass the ball. It wasn't until the rules changes of 1978 that the league was able to stimulate the passing game.

Andrew from New York, NY:
How would you describe Keenan McCardell's success in the NFL as he got to Jacksonville? Would you attribute it to the Jaguars providing him with an environment in which he was able to thrive, at that point, like no other? Or did the Jaguars snatch him up as he started to find his niche in the league?

Vic: The Jaguars signed Keenan McCardell in free agency just as he was establishing his presence in the NFL. The reason the Jaguars were able to sign him is because the Browns franchise was in complete upheaval. The Browns were in deep salary cap trouble and were moving from Cleveland to Baltimore. In Baltimore in 1996, as the Ravens, Art Modell's team didn't even have the cap room to field a full roster at one point in the season. If the Browns had been a stable franchise in Cleveland, McCardell would've never been allowed to get away. One of the players who helped push McCardell out the door, by the way, was Andre Rison. Whatever was left of the Browns' salary cap was destroyed when they signed Rison to a huge deal before the 1995 season.

Don from St Louis, MO:
Why do fans have the impression Leftwich isn't making throwing the ball look easy? It's simple: Win, baby, win, especially in the playoffs. Brunell led the Jaguars to the AFC championship game. What has Leftwich done? It is all about winning. People still like Brunell for what he did in the playoffs. For Leftwich to move past him, he will have to do the same.

Vic: I agree. What Mark Brunell did in the Jaguars' Cinderella run in the 1996 playoffs made him a hero. The postseason defines quarterbacks and the '96 playoffs defined Brunell as a magical player. He was sensational; the star of the postseason. That's fine, but let's not lose contact with reality. He was 4-4 in the postseason as the Jaguars quarterback. Leftwich is 0-1.

Ali from Bristol, UK:
What are the most commonly used and effective drills in training camps?

Vic: I like the "Oklahoma," but I don't think it's something you use every day. I think it's a good ice-breaker and mood-setter in the first full-pads practice. The two most effective drills, in my opinion, are "nine on seven" and "pass-rush" drills because they are all about the physical element of line play. They are about blocking and shedding blocks. You can't do a lot of tackling in practice. It's just not reasonable to subject your players to the dangers that go with contacting the ground, but it bothers me when I see a training camp that's light on "nine on seven" and "pass-rush" drills. In Jack Del Rio's rookie camp as head coach, the Jaguars did more of those two drills than I had ever seen covering the Jaguars, and I really believe it set a tone for the Del Rio era. I really believe those drills had a lot to do with the Jaguars finishing second in the league against the run that year and setting a team record for the fewest sacks allowed in team history.

Kenney from Jacksonville:
Even though Tom Coughlin favored the passing game, wouldn't you say the Jaguars still had an effective running game through the years with James Stewart, Natrone Means and Fred Taylor?

Vic: Not until late in the 1996 season, when Natrone Means took over at running back. The Jaguars running game was terrible until then. Means exploded in the playoffs against Buffalo and Denver. The Jaguars running game wasn't anything to be feared until Fred Taylor arrived in 1998.

Charles from Jacksonville:
The answer to Jesse's question left the impression that Byron's rushing numbers per game were equal to Mark's. Is that true?

Vic: Of course not. In 1995 and '96, Mark Brunell was a sensational scrambling quarterback who drove teams crazy with his running ability. Brunell rushed for 480 yards in '95 and for 396 yards in '96. Brunell was the consummate scrambling quarterback. Byron Leftwich is a pocket-passer only. In '97, however, that's what Brunell became for the remainder of his pro career. The knee injury he suffered in the preseason left him unable to scramble as he had previously. He was never the same again. His rushing yardage dropped to 257 in '97 and to 192 in '98. In comparison, Leftwich rushed for 108 yards in 2003, 148 in '04 and only 67 last year when he missed six games.

David from Jacksonville:
You wrote, "If the capacity is adjustable, then the fans know there will always be another seat available, which means supply will always exceed demand. For the covers to tilt the balance of supply and demand toward demand, they have to be permanent. They are." It would be nice if for once Weaver would actually care about his fans at least half as much as his bank account.

Vic: When I read the kind of comment you've made, I realize it's impossible to please everyone. For all the years that Alltel Stadium's seating capacity was nearly 77,000, Wayne Weaver was harshly criticized every time one of the Jaguars' home games was blacked out. So he covered 10,000 seats with the idea that doing that would make it more likely that home games would be televised, which would allow those in Jacksonville who can't afford a ticket to see all Jaguars games in the comfort of their own living rooms. Now you're complaining that you can't get a ticket, even though you have had every opportunity to purchase one. What is it that you want? Do you even know what you want?

Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL:
It's one thing to deliver in the clutch one time, but to be 11 for 11 in majors after holding the 54-hole lead may be the most impressive statistic describing clutch play in professional sports history. Your thoughts on Tiger's performance yesterday and his place in sports history?

Vic: He's the best "money" player in pro sports today and he's on his way to becoming the greatest golfer of all-time. Tiger Woods made the final round of the British Open boring. The only excitement occurred when Chris DiMarco got within a stroke of Woods. What did Woods do? He promptly hit the shot of the day, birdied and ended whatever move DiMarco was making. Had Woods been standing on the 18th tee of the U.S. Open with a one-shot lead, do you honestly think there's any chance he would've bounced his drive off the roof of a tent?

Jason from Hagerstown, MD:
I know you dislike Ty Law because he is too old and had surgery, which you said he would not overcome and then he went out there and made the Pro-Bowl. Can one of the greatest corners prove you wrong once again?

Vic: I was against signing Ty Law because it would've been a stop-gap measure, which it clearly turned out to be for the Jets. He left the Jets with $3 million in "dead money." No way; not for me, but that's what you're going to get when you sign old, stop-gap players. The Chiefs will be the next team with a "dead money" debt, but their cap is already a mess anyhow so it really doesn't matter. The Jaguars didn't achieve the salary cap health they currently enjoy by taking risks.

Jonathon from Wichita, KS:
You named the teams that haven't been to a Super Bowl, but what teams haven't won a Super Bowl?

Vic: The Chargers, Panthers, Falcons, Browns, Cardinals, Bengals, Vikings, Bills, Lions, Saints, Titans, Texans, Seahawks, Eagles and Jaguars.

Chase from Jacksonville:
I just read that Reggie Bush may sit out the whole year and enter the draft next year if he doesn't get his money. I thought you weren't able to do that. Can you explain this?

Vic: Yeah, and I may sit out this season if I don't get my money. He can do it, if he wants to waste one whole year of earnings. You know, these guys only have so many of those years. If he doesn't want to sign, he can sit out the year and re-enter next year's draft, but even if he sat out, it's not likely he'd make it to the next draft. The Saints would probably trade his rights to another team. Don't believe everything you read.

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