Run it, don't turn it over

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

Tom from St Augustine, FL:
I thought the key to winning in the playoffs was establishing the run?

Vic: It is. Is there any doubt about that after Saturday's game? You win in the Northeast in January by running the ball. Nobody knows that better than Jack Del Rio. He has as healthy a respect for the running game as any young coach in the game. So why did the Jaguars go into Saturday's game with a throw-the-ball game plan? One of the reasons was obviously the Patriots' 31st pass-defense ranking vs. their number eight run-defense ranking. Statistically, it made sense to throw more than run, but I don't think that was the only factor in the Jaguars' reluctance to run the ball. In my opinion, and I could be wrong, I think there was a lack of confidence in their running game. Somewhere along the line they stopped being stubborn about running the ball and that can't be allowed to happen. All good running teams are stubborn about running the ball. They refuse to be schemed out of running it. Del Rio is a coach who wants a dependable power running attack. That's the long-term impact I think the loss in New England is going to have. It's going to make the Jaguars commit to and be stubborn about running the ball. The next level for the Jaguars is to win a playoff game and, in the playoffs, usually the team that runs the ball best wins.

Tim from Cape Coral, FL:
What a great season it has been for Jacksonville fans. Now that our season is in the books, do you see any glaring needs Del Rio and Shack should address in the offseason?

Vic: In my opinion, they need to answer questions at running back. What is Fred Taylor's future? Should Greg Jones' role as a runner be expanded or should he continue to split time between fullback and running back? Should the Jaguars go for a feature back in the draft if one is available? Those are major questions that have to be answered. If possible, I think the Jaguars should address cornerback and linebacker in the draft; that's what's needed to put this defense over the top. The most glaring need on offense is for a play-making receiver. In a game in which three running backs carried a total of 12 times, the Jaguars put their fate in the hands of their passing game and the result was three points. The Jaguars must either develop one of their young receivers into the star they need at that position, or go for somebody in free agency who can give it to them instantly. A lot of fans would say the blame should fall on the quarterback. I want more from the receivers.

John from Orlando, FL:
Great blog. Why did you abandon us at the end? Were you suffering from shock and disgust?

Vic: All of a sudden, late in the third quarter, my laptop in the press box at Gillette Stadium dropped off-line. I didn't know if it was a wireless problem in the press box or if the problem was at jaguars.com's end at Alltel Stadium. When Asante Samuel returned the interception for a touchdown, I had already been off-line for awhile and had sent several entries since the last one appeared on my screen. I decided Samuel's return was a good point in the game to stop blogging until the problem was fixed. From where I sat, the problem persisted through the end of the game.

Matt from Munster, IN:
What exactly happened with the headset communications between the quarterback and coaches? Did it affect any of the play calls?

Vic: The Jaguars' coach-to-quarterback communications device and Jack Del Rio's headset went on the fritz in the first half. They kept cutting out. Del Rio advised the referee of the problem and requested the Patriots be required to take their headsets off, which is how I remember the situation having always been handled in the past. The referee, however, told Del Rio there was no NFL mandate for that to occur. In other words, you're screwed, coach. Del Rio said the problem resulted in false starts. It was fixed during halftime and did not re-surface in the second half. Del Rio brought a laugh when he told reporters that his team played its worst football in the second half, so maybe it was a good thing the headsets didn't work in the first half. He also said he will stimulate discussion on the matter during the winter meetings in an attempt to create a fairness rule.

Frank from Oviedo, FL:
I admit that I agreed with the we-don't-get-no-respect crowd, until this. There's a reason we weren't respected by many in the media. Yes, we are a team on the rise, but this loss will bring doubts that we even belonged in the playoffs. Your thoughts?

Vic: Why does the opinion of the media continue to matter? Let it go. For your own sake, let it go.

Craig from Brisbane, Australia:
I watched the game here on ESPN and after the game I felt as if it was the NFL against us Jacksonville fans. Did you feel the same way?

Vic: Football is not one of my sources of paranoia.

Peanut from Jacksonville:
What changes do we need to make to our offense for next season?

Vic: Find a touchdown-maker. This team needs a star on offense, beyond the quarterback. The quarterback is the guy who distributes the ball. The Jaguars need someone to score with it. Do you remember Fred Taylor's rookie season and the impact he immediately had on the Jaguars offense? That's what every offense needs. San Diego has Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson. Kansas City has Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson. Indianapolis has Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James. It's not just about the quarterback. You have to have touchdown-makers. The Jaguars either need to develop or find that guy or guys.

Cory from Jacksonville:
Leftwich, the most immobile quarterback ever, with a broken ankle, led the team in rushing.

Vic: That's the kind of statistic that is going to stick with the Jaguars through the offseason. It's the kind of statistic that can make you resolute about running the ball.

Will from Jacksonville:
Let's see if I can sum up all the questions you will be receiving in one. We had a poor game plan, forgot to run the ball, dropped passes, couldn't tackle a lick, didn't pass-protect and lost the turnover battle.

Vic: You're missing the one big one: Why did Del Rio start Leftwich?

Tom from Jacksonville:
Coughlin built the team to compete with the Steelers. Now we face several more years of Manning and, potentially, Brady in the playoffs. What do we need to do to compete for the future?

Vic: I never bought into that stuff about Tom Coughlin building the Jaguars to compete against the Steelers. If he had done that he surely would've assembled a better run-defense. What Coughlin did was use the Steelers as the target because they were the AFC Central standard when the Jaguars began playing. I don't believe in building a team to beat one or two teams. Ultimately, you have to beat them all.

Matt from Orlando, FL:
Are you going to continue to do "Ask Vic" on a daily basis? Also, what is the most exciting thing we have to look forward to going into this offseason?

Vic: "Ask Vic" will continue on a daily basis. I remind you that, on occasion, I will use my vacation days. As far as an exciting thing, the most exciting offseason thing about this team is that it has positioned itself to be able to spend in free agency, even if there's not a CBA extension by March 2. Most of the rest of the league would be forced into austerity, but the Jaguars' cap is so healthy that the team would be able to take advantage of what could turn out to be a great free-agent market at bargain prices.

David from Jacksonville:
I just listened to coach Del Rio's (review) and he said Khalif Barnes played with a broken leg. Can you shed some more light on that?

Vic: The injury occurred early in Saturday night's game. It was not x-rayed until after the game because Barnes didn't complain about it and was able to play on it. Del Rio said on Sunday the break involved a non-weight-bearing bone in Barnes' lower leg. Here's a little aside you might like. Sunday, after Del Rio's press conference and after all of the players had left the stadium, Barnes came limping down the hallway with a cast on his leg. He saw my open door, stopped and asked me if I had seen coach Del Rio. Before I could answer, Barnes said he had slept in and I could tell he was very nervous about having not been present for the exit ceremony. I told him he shouldn't worry about having slept in; the coach would understand. After all, the Jaguars' plane didn't land until four a.m. on Sunday and the kid was on a broken leg and he was probably given something to help him sleep through the pain. What a great kid; maybe the plum pick of the draft.

Sean from Jacksonville:
Del Rio said of Byron Leftwich: "I want him to get rid of the ball sooner. He'll sit in there and take shots. He's not afraid at all. That's something we have to help him improve because if you continue to take shots you're going to spend time on the sideline. He's taking too many shots." I think it's a bit far along in this quarterback experiment to be concerned about this. You can't teach instinct.

Vic: No, it's not too far along to teach Byron Leftwich to get rid of the ball more quickly. Nobody in the history of the game held the ball longer than Mark Brunell, but when he lost his mobility following his knee injury in the 1997 preseason, he learned very quickly about getting rid of the ball on time. Quarterbacks don't have to be mobile, as long as they get rid of the ball quickly. I'm not talking about a quick release. I'm talking about throwing it on rhythm. Nobody is less mobile than Peyton Manning, but nobody gets rid of the ball more quickly and is more difficult to sack. That's what Del Rio is talking about. Get it out on time.

Ryan from Ajax, Ontario:
What does this team need to do to get to the next level?

Vic: As I said above, it needs to develop or acquire a star touchdown-maker. Period!

Thad from Duluth, GA:
All road teams won except Jacksonville and all quarterbacks with playoff experience won as well. I guess having been in the tournament makes a difference?

Vic: I'm sure there are a lot of parallels you could find in this weekend's winners. Here are two I like: Each of the four teams that won this past weekend out-rushed their opponent and had fewer turnovers.

Ryan from Woodbridge, VA:
Why is Del Rio already proclaiming Leftwich the starter for next year? I am not saying bench him but please just open the spot up for some healthy competition. I think Garrard can give him a run for his money.

Vic: I was opposed to benching Garrard and starting Leftwich. Why? Because the only purpose I thought it would serve was to make Leftwich the scapegoat and further alienate him among fans. Let's get real, folks. That was the Patriots. That was Tom Brady. The Jaguars were a solid underdog on the road against a team that was 9-0 in the postseason. Do you really think it was all about who played quarterback for the Jaguars?

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