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Reduce and simplify

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

Ryan from Toronto, Ontario:
If the Colts go 14-0 and have clinched homefield throughout the playoffs, do you think Dungy should play his starters in the last two games in order to go 16-0, or rest his starters so they don't get injured for the playoffs?

Vic: What a difficult decision that would be. How could a guy win? If he goes for the 16-0 and loses his quarterback, he becomes infamous. If he passes up 16-0 and goes for the Super Bowl win and doesn't get that, either, the fans will call for his head. I can't imagine a more difficult decision for any coach to face. What would I do? I would rest my starters so they're at peak condition for the playoffs. I think the Super Bowl has to be the goal and everything should be tailored to achieve that goal. Coaches have to be strong enough to endure criticism for the sake of doing what's best for the team. Any coach who could make that kind of decision would never have his integrity or focus challenged. Chuck Noll used to call it "singleness of purpose." The purpose is to win the Super Bowl.

Chris from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
In 2006, Philadelphia will be the last city we haven't played in. Is that correct? Arizona, this year, is the other.

Vic: That's correct.

Gil from Atlantic Beach, FL:
What changes do you believe need to be made to improve the officiating in the NFL? It seems that blatant penalties seem to be missed (or ignored) while minor penalties away from the football constantly affect the game.

Vic: Here are my two buzz words: reduce and simplify. In my opinion, the game is way over-officiated; too many eyes, too many rules, too many flags. The first thing that needs to be reviewed is the rulebook. I would condense it. Then go to the men who apply the rules, the officials. I would reduce their number. Those two measures alone should result in fewer penalties, explanations and unnatural stoppages of play. We're at a point at which flags are coming at an annoying rate. We're losing the flow of the game. There's a mania to call everything, but that's impossible. Look at the facemasking against Hines Ward that was missed. In Nathan Vasher's record-setting, 108-yard return of a field goal attempt, there was an obvious block in the back the officials missed. Thank God they missed it. Interpretation has become too complicated; it needs to be simplified and applied more obviously. Those are the first steps I would take. Then would come the big one: replay review. My advice there is blow it up. The whole system of replay review has become maddening. The coach's challenge system is ridiculous. Coaches shouldn't have to bear the burden of officiating the game, too. Coaches coach, officials officiate. The "down by contact" insanity also has to stop. If it can't be fixed, then replay review shouldn't be used to correct any fumble plays. In the case of restructuring the way NFL games are officiated, less should be considered to be more.

Brian from Durham, NC:
Be careful with your vow to "applaud any player who has the courage to stand up and speak his mind." You are dangerously close to supporting Terrell Owens, and I know you don't want to do that.

Vic: You're right, I got careless with my choice of words. Applaud isn't the word; support is. I support any person's right to express his opinion, and that includes Terrell Owens. That doesn't mean I'm going to agree with what has been said, but it is through the exchange of ideas and opinions that we form better ideas and opinions. I can tell you that because of what Owens has said recently and the effect it has had on his career and the fate of the Eagles, I have an even greater appreciation for team values.

Amanda from Hollywood, CA:
Root for Cincinnati against the Colts? The last time you media pukes started predicting wins on the easy schedule, cakewalk path to the Super Bowl, the Jaguars lost to St. Louis. Whatever it is you're smoking, have lots more. I'm enjoying Vic the fiction writer. Come to LA with your football team, you sexy old man.

Vic: Do you think my khaki pants and plaid shirts would look OK in LA?

Jacob from Villanova, PA:
What happened to Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala?

Vic: Vowel rationing.

Bob from Jacksonville:
Wouldn't the bonehead play of the Eagles on Monday night highlight your point of protecting the lead? That one bad pass by McNabb when the Eagles were in control of the game ruined it for them.

Vic: You got it. Protecting a lead is as much a skill as getting a lead is. Good teams have the ability to shift gears; to change from an attack mode to a protect mode. When the game is in hand, the objective changes to expire the clock. At that point, it's time to finish.

Jeremy from Hoover, AL:
Do you think the Jaguars are better off trying to get Fred Taylor back quickly to face an admittedly weak schedule, or giving him ample time to heal to be ready for a possible playoff run?

Vic: I think it's important that Fred Taylor be given time to heal. It's not about personal statistics for Taylor; it's about what he can do for this team at crunch time, and he'll have to be at his best to provide the pop the Jaguars will need from him. What purpose would it serve to subject him to re-injury?

Chris from St Augustine, FL:
Stick to writing. Your TV appearances need more flare but are great for napping.

Vic: Thanks for sharing that with me.

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