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Seen and not heard

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

Broc from Annamoriah, WV:
My question is about June cuts. There used to be a lot of good players cut this time of year. Teams could get quality backups and even Pro-Bowlers. This year it looks like all over-the-hill players or high draft picks that never panned out. What is happening? Are teams getting smarter with players? Better salary cap managers? Or has the overall talent declined in the NFL?

Vic: Look at this way: This year, June came in late February. That's when a lot of players who would've been June cuts were cut; players such as Derrick Mason, Samari Rolle, Ty Law, etc. The reasons they were cut prior to the first day of the league calendar year instead of in June falls mainly into two categories: The player was either owed a roster bonus on the first day of the league calendar year, or the team had managed its cap well enough to provide for enough room to take a full proration hit on the player in 2005. The purpose of cutting a player in June, of course, is that in cases in which the player has multiple years remaining on his contract his remaining bonus proration can be spread out over two years. Generally speaking, teams are doing a much better job managing their caps now than in years past. They have better long-term strategies and, in many cases, the release of a player was part of a strategy that was consummated on the day they signed him.

Mario from Oviedo, FL:
In terms of age, when do most running backs usually hit their prime years and when do they start going downhill? I wonder if we should have faith in Fred Taylor coming back 100 percent, or flirt with the idea that he will be let go soon.

Vic: Generally speaking, a professional football player's prime years are considered to be years 4-7. It varies, of course, according to position. Quarterbacks and offensive linemen last longer. Running backs, on the other hand, tend to burn out faster. That's what makes the careers of running backs such as Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Marcus Allen so amazing. Fred Taylor is entering his eighth season, which was the last thousand-yard year of Eddie George's career, though George was clearly past his prime at that point. Taylor's situation is a little different. He hasn't seen as much use as George did. If Taylor can make it all the way back from his knee surgery, I see no reason his prime can't be extended. Workhorse running backs such as George and Earl Campbell tend to get used up quickly. Taylor doesn't fit into that category.

Mike from Albany, NY:
I am a huge fan of your column. I was wondering, what's your take on Rich Gannon? I love Rich Gannon! I am a hardcore Jags fan but always had a soft spot for the league's journeymen quarterbacks. How about Brunell, Bledsoe and Testaverde? Do you think these guys have anything more than a backup role left in them? Is this the end of the road for this generation's crop of warriors?

Vic: Rich Gannon's career is a great story. We're talking about a Delaware Blue Hen who was selected in the fourth round of the 1987 draft more as an athlete than as a quarterback. The Patriots traded his rights to Minnesota, where Gannon threw 21 passes in three years. He was, effectively, being groomed to be a career backup and it wasn't until 1999, 13 seasons and four teams since he was drafted, that Gannon became a full-time starting quarterback in Oakland. Three years later, he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl. Why did it take Gannon so long to reach his peak? Because he wasn't given an opportunity to be "The Man" until late in his career. Why did he finally get a chance 13 years after he was drafted? Because the position had dried up league-wide. The quarterback position in the NFL has never been weaker than it was in 1999. In three of the next four years, the winning quarterback in the Super Bowl would be a journeyman: Kurt Warner in the '99 season, Trent Dilfer in 2000 and Brad Johnson in '02. It's difficult to say who the next generation of backups will be, but I tend to believe they are going to be guys such as David Garrard, which is to say quarterbacks who are groomed for that specific role. That's the trend I'm seeing.

James from Hernando, MS:
In every draft there's a steal who has a break-out year in his rookie season or they surprise everybody later on in their career, like Tom Brady, for example. Who do you see being the steal for this year's draft?

Vic: I think Adrian McPherson, who was drafted in the fifth round by New Orleans, has a chance to be the steal of the 2005 draft. One of the guys in this year's draft I really wanted to see the Jaguars take a shot at is Rasheed Marshall, who was a great run-around quarterback at West Virginia. San Francisco picked Marshall as a wide receiver with the last pick of the fifth round and I think he has kind of athletic ability the Jaguars see in Matt Jones. Here's one more: Chris Kemoeatu of Utah, a guard who was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round. Kemoeatu is a real tough guy who had a kicking problem in college. If he's able to manage his anger issues, Kemoeatu could become a big-time player.

Tommy from Defiance, OH:
How many questions have you gotten about Bobby Taylor or Johnnie Morton?

Vic: I've had a lot of Bobby Taylors; not many Johnnie Mortons. Koren Robinsons are going strong right now, but the Ty Laws and Andre Dysons are too far ahead to be caught from behind. Put 'em all together and they still don't come close to the J.J. Stokes questions of 2003. Stokes set a record for "why don't we sign him?" questions that will never be broken.

Nate from Jacksonville, FL:
Out of the three backs taken in the first round, which one do you think will have the biggest season this year and impact on his team?

Vic: It could be a dead heat between Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson. They're both studs who figure to get a lot of carries with teams that are deficient at quarterback and have defensive-minded coaches who will probably play the field-position game by leaning on the running game. I tend to favor Brown, but this is a pick-'em. I see Carnell Williams as more of a specialty back, but Jon Gruden knows how to use guys and Williams could end up making a big splash in the passing game.

Joseph from Davenport, FL:
I noticed in reading your list of quarterbacks that have started three or more Super Bowls that all played for great coaches. So how many coaches that have gone to the big game three or more times have done it while starting more than one quarterback?

Vic: Don Shula coached in five Super Bowls with four quarterbacks: Earl Morrall, Bob Griese (2), David Woodley and Dan Marino. Tom Landry coached in five Super Bowls with two quarterbacks: Craig Morton and Roger Staubach (four). Joe Gibbs coached in four Super Bowls with three quarterbacks: Joe Theismann (2), Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. Bud Grant coached in four Super Bowls with two quarterbacks: Joe Kapp and Fran Tarkenton (3). Dan Reeves coached in four Super Bowls with two quarterbacks: John Elway (three) and Chris Chandler. Bill Parcells coached in three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks: Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler and Drew Bledsoe. Gibbs is the only coach in NFL history to have won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.

Jamal from New Jersey:
If Sean Taylor continues to hold out from OTA's, do you think he could be more vulnerable to a trade? You know, a Darius trade for Sean Taylor?

Vic: Sean Taylor has way too much remaining amortization for the Redskins, especially considering their salary cap situation, to be able to trade him.

LeRoi from Cleveland, OH:
You sounded very worried on the radio show last week when you were discussing a potential uncapped year. Could something like that be as bad as you believe it to be? Or much worse? You kind of made it sound like a post-apocalyptic NFL disaster.

Vic: I think you're exaggerating my position a little bit, but not much. An uncapped year would threaten the existence of the salary cap and could plunge football into labor unrest. Everything depends first on an agreement between the owners on a revenue-sharing plan. The league can't go forward on an agreement with its players on a new CBA until the league's owners agree on a new revenue-sharing plan because that plan is needed to address the new "Total Football Revenues" model the league and its players are expected to pursue. I have a vivid memory of the replacement-players strike of 1987. I don't want to see that happen again and I don't think it will because the NFL's owners and players are very good partners, but if we get to an uncapped year, all bets are off.

Vince from Greensboro, NC:
Do you think Winslow Sr. was correct in his assessment of the media coverage of Winslow Jr.? I understand his point, but being in the NFL puts you in the spotlight. Jr. should have known better.

Vic: There was a saying when I was a kid: Children should be seen a not heard. When "children" reach the NFL, I think fathers should be seen and not heard.

Doug from Winthrop Harbor, IL:
With the exception of the Jags' 62-7 victory over the Dolphins in the 1999 playoffs, what is the most scored points in league history?

Vic: The highest regular-season total is 72 points by Washington against the Giants on Nov. 27 1966. That game is also number one for the most points scored by both teams in a regular-season game, 113. The postseason record is 73 points, by the Chicago Bears against the Redskins in 1940.

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