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Replay threw the punch

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

David from Maplewood, NJ:
In the spirit of cap health, it's a young man's game and all of the mantras that you have provided that I do agree with, is it time to bid a fond farewell to Fred Taylor? I'm not about to run a guy down that has done so much for the team that I follow, but I have to say I would not be disappointed if the Jags were to now cut ties with him in an effort to get younger and more athletic.

Vic: I think Jack Del Rio and Wayne Weaver have already answered your question. They have each said that Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith will be back for the 2006 season. If the Jaguars were in cap trouble, Fred might be in a tough spot because he would represent a cap savings cut, about $1.6 million. The Jaguars do not have a cap problem, however, which buys them time. They can spend all spring and all summer checkin' Fred out. Do I think the Jaguars should continue to bring in young players for the purpose of competing with and pushing older players? Absolutely. Is it time to quit on Fred? No.

Ansar from Jacksonville:
I understand Matt Jones isn't Antwaan Randle El but do you see Jacksonville utilizing Jones the same way Pittsburgh utilized Randle El?

Vic: I think it's obvious that's what they're trying to do.

Henry from Jacksonville:
Jack Del Rio claims we're not an elite team, so what labels us as an elite team?

Vic: We spent a lot of time in "Ask Vic" this past season deciding what constitutes an elite team. A recent question gave us the answer; I wish I had thought of it earlier. The NFL has determined that the eight teams in the divisional round of the playoffs are the league's elite. I say that because those eight teams would not be allowed to spend unbridled in free agency in 2007, should it be an uncapped year. All of the 24 other teams would be able to spend as much as they like, but the top eight will be restricted. They are the "elite eight." So, if you wanna be elite, get to the second round of the playoffs. It's that simple.

Chris from Jacksonville:
What does the Colts schedule look like next year and what are the Jags' chances of winning the division?

Vic: The Colts and Jaguars will play largely the same schedule and all indications are those schedules will be rugged. My expectation for the Jaguars next season is to win the division.

Chris from Wichita, KS:
I noticed two things that Seattle did wrong in the Super Bowl that they did right every other game this season: They didn't run the ball and they didn't execute on third down. I'll admit I'm a video player, but even I can understand the power of the conversions. What are your thoughts on that?

Vic: I picked Seattle to win the game because I believed the team that rushed for the most yards would win and I couldn't imagine the Seahawks with Shaun Alexander not out-rushing the Steelers. Then Seattle ran the ball 25 times and threw it 49 times. That's a gross imbalance for a team with an MVP running back. It is one of the great coaching blunders in Super Bowl history. The Seahawks converted five of 17 third-down attempts, 29 percent. That's not good enough, either. In contrast, the Steelers had 33 runs and 22 passes and converted eight of 15 third-down attempts, 53 percent. The big third-down conversions for the Steelers came in their kill-the-clock drive. The Seahawks' failure to get the ball back has drawn little attention. I don't understand that because the Seahawks had the Steelers in several third-down situations where all Seattle needed was a stop and they were still in the game. Why has that been ignored?

James from New York, NY:
I think this isn't the year to pursue a receiver in free agency. Jimmy is still productive. Ernest could be a very explosive player this season. I haven't given up on Reggie Williams, yet. I think Matt Jones is going to be a great receiver.

Vic: After all the pursuing the Jaguars have done at that position, I would say this is a year for proving.

Nick from Middleburg, FL:
Is Byron Leftwich going to be the starter next year or is he gonna have to be worried about David Garrard taking his job?

Vic: Byron will go to training camp as this team's starting quarterback but, in my opinion, David's performance late last season has probably caused a greater appreciation for what he can do. Byron is the man but don't ever think any player is without competition. David has earned the right to compete. He'll be allowed to do it.

Robert from Valencia, CA:
Do you like the Jaguars draft position this year? Are they situated in a good place to draft effectively and get a player they truly need?

Vic: The 28th pick isn't what you want. To get a difference-maker down there you have to get lucky. I wouldn't expect the Jaguars to find a home run guy at number 28. My expectation is that they'll find a solid guy. The Patriots drafted guard Logan Mankins with the 32nd pick of last year's draft, and that's about as low-profile a first-round draft choice as you'll ever see, but Mankins was a starter for them all year and he'll probably be one of the anchors of their offensive line for the next 10 years. That's what I call smart drafting, especially with the last pick of the first round.

Richard from Ormond Beach, FL:
Since Jack Del Rio now makes less money than some of the Washington Redskins assistant coaches, is Wayne Weaver going to give him a raise?

Vic: I expect a contract extension to be announced soon.

Jonas from Jacksonville:
A long season is over after this Sunday's Pro Bowl so, Vic, what do you think was the best moment of the year for the Jags and for the league?

Vic: In my opinion, the high point of the season for the Jags was Rashean Mathis' interception return for a touchdown in overtime against the Steelers. As for the league, the best moment of the year may have been the final few moments of the Steelers-Colts playoff game. They were the only truly dramatic moments of the postseason.

Ronnie from Pleasant Plains, AR:
Once again you hit the nail on the head: Big plays win Super Bowls. My question is what are your thoughts on the QB out of Alabama, Brodie Croyle?

Vic: He's an interesting guy because he has a knack and a true feel for the position. He doesn't appear to have big-time skills, there are injury concerns and he's not an especially big or burly guy, but he'd interest me at a certain point in the draft as a developmental guy who might later surprise me. What he does in the upcoming workouts will determine his draft position.

Mike from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I couldn't think of anyone better to ask this question than you. The Jets are reported to be $30 million over the cap, yet, they plan on putting the "franchise" tag on John Abraham, which would count another $8.3 million against their cap, for the purpose of trading him. How in the world can the Jets do this if you're supposed to be under the cap by March 3?

Vic: They obviously plan to get under the cap with John Abraham on their roster. They'll have to do some maneuvering to do that but I'm sure they have a strategy for doing it. Cutting Ty Law will save them $7.6 million. Jay Fiedler would save another $6.1 million. Curtis Martin could save them $2.4 million but I don't think the Jets will cut the best player in their history for that small of a savings; they'll probably re-structure him. The Jets will get $4 million in cap credit in "likely to be earned" incentives for Laveranues Coles that are now "unlikely to be earned" because of his performance last season. The Jets are $28.9 million over, as of today, but, as I've said in the past, don't put too much stock in these over and under figures right now. They change day to day and will change a lot when tenders are made. Where are the Jets going to get the rest of the savings they'll need? Probably from a re-structuring plan. Maybe they're counting on a CBA extension. There are only three weeks remaining until the March 3 deadline. You'll begin to see that the teams in cap trouble will graduate from denial to admission. Trust me on that. I told you a few weeks ago the Jets had a problem. The numbers don't lie.

Chris from Albuquerque, NM:
I was wondering what it would take to become an NFL official?

Vic: The answer is years and years of dedication to athletics. One of my high school football and baseball coaches is an NFL official; his name is Tom Stabile and he worked this season's NFC title game. Tom got to where he is, which is to say one of the top officials in the game, as a result of a complete dedication to athletics from childhood. Tom was an outstanding amateur athlete and I even had the privilege to play with Tom on an all-ages summer sandlot team a long time ago. Tom has spent his adult life as an educator, high school sports coach and administrator, and several years as a top high school football official. You don't just call the NFL and say I wanna be an official.

Jim from Jacksonville:
I grew up in the '50's and '60's and I don't ever remember there being such a fuss over officiating as in the last couple of years. It seems to me big money and instant replay have a lot to do with it. Will we ever get back to the days when officiating wasn't much of an issue?

Vic: No, those days are gone forever and replay review is the reason. When you were growing up, it was understood that the officials had the final word. When a call was made, that was that. Today, replay review has the final word and the folks at home can follow right along. The official's position and place has been lowered. He has lost the respect of the sporting public. He has been knocked to the canvas and replay review threw the punch.

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