Join jaguars.com senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Keith from Jacksonville:
As I've said on "Jaguars This Week," you, Brian and Jeff are the most unbiased reporters in town. What grade would you give Del Rio in hiring VanGorder, Campo and Smith? I think it's a very solid upgrade in the coaching staff and the coaches all have experience in bringing out the best in players. I would give it an A-.
Vic: The guys they're replacing are good coaches, too, so I take exception to your use of the word "upgrade." I think it would be more appropriate to use the words "better fit." Jack Del Rio wanted a linebacker coach who would give his group high energy. That's what Brian VanGorder is expected to do. He's a holler guy and that makes him a good fit. It's Carl Smith who represents the best fit, in my opinion. I always struggled to understand the union between Del Rio and Bill Musgrave. Del Rio is a run-the-ball guy, while Musgrave is a "West Coast offense" coach. They just don't go together. Smith is exactly what Del Rio wants in a coordinator: Run the ball between the tackles, then sell run in play-action, freeze the safety and throw it over the top. There's no sense running the ball if you're not going to take your shots deep. Running the ball and throwing short don't go together. You're living in the same zip code. Musgrave is a talented guy and with a coach who wants to go shotgun, spread it out and throw it all over the field, he's perfect. Let's not forget the level of performance the Jaguars offense achieved in Indianapolis this past season. But that's not the way Del Rio wants to play and this is his football team. I think the head coach took the bull by the horns with his selection of Smith. Del Rio's stamp is going to be all over this team next season.
Mike from Summerville, SC:
Love the column. My question is, when a college player requires surgery or medical treatment, who foots the bill? Is it the university, the boosters or the NCAA?
Vic: I don't know the particulars of the college rules, so I don't know to what degree an outside person or agency is permitted to be involved in medical assistance, but I can tell you that the university provides free medical treatment for its athletes for injuries sustained while participating in their sport.
Joe from Jacksonville:
Can an injured player return to play without a doctor's clearance? If so, do you expect Terrell Owens to play if clearance is not given?
Vic: It's not as though you have to bring a note from the doctor or your mother before you're allowed back in school. These people work together. Part of the doctor's evaluation is verbal feedback from the player. How do you feel? I feel great, doc. That'll usually work, provided there aren't any bones sticking through the skin. Yes, coaches rely on their medical people to provide the final word. If a player isn't cleared to play, he's not going to play. But when all of the x-rays and MRIs, etc., say there's no risk of further damage, it's up to the player whether he plays or not. At that point, he's the one who makes the decision.
Tone from Lancaster, PA:
Aren't the Jags still missing an assistant coach for Del Rio?
Vic: I expect Jack Del Rio will also hire a quarterbacks coach. In fact, I would imagine Del Rio is interviewing candidates for that job at the Senior Bowl this week.
Andrew from Flagstaff, AZ:
Do you have any update on how Mike Pearson's rehab is going? If he is not able to play in 2005, where would OT rank in the list of the Jags' offseason needs?
Vic: Mike Pearson sustained a severe knee injury that required major reconstruction. We won't know about his recovery until next summer because it's not likely Pearson will be able to practice until then. Obviously, that makes offensive tackle a position of need.
Steve from Williston, FL:
Are we foolish to be counting the Eagles out? All the talk seems to be about T.O. Some sportswriters have already awarded the Patriots their third title in four years. The Eagles are not a bad football team. Why not the Eagles? Who do you like in the Super Bowl?
Vic: I'm picking the Eagles. Why? Because I believe they have a better defense. I didn't like what I saw in the Patriots defense against the Steelers. I think the Patriots' secondary is very vulnerable and Donovan McNabb is throwing the ball better than he ever has in his life. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Trotter is playing the best brand of linebacker I have seen since Ray Lewis in 2000. The Eagles defense is in a full attack mode and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is pushing all of the right buttons. To do what they did against Michael Vick is amazing. The Eagles defense actually appeared to be more athletic than Vick.
Enrico from St. Augustine, FL:
I think we would all agree the Jags will be interested in a DE and CB in the draft. Where would you put the Jags' need to find a WR who can stretch the field, considering Jimmy Smith's age and our new coordinator's philosophy? I think we will agree Reggie is more of a possession receiver and not a burner. Were there any standout USC burners you think Carl Smith would put his two cents in for? How about the WR from USC who was not allowed to play last year? Is he still a solid first-rounder? Could you see a scenario where the Jags go WR again in the first round this year? Perhaps we can address pass-rush and CB in free agency? Your thoughts?
Vic: My thoughts are you have too many thoughts. It's not that difficult. You target those players in free agency you believe are worth the money you'd be willing to pay, but you never overpay. In the draft, you pick the best available player, then you wait for your turn to come around again. You can't pick everybody. In time, we're going to have a list of available free agents and a value board of players eligible for the draft. It's not time yet. We need the tags and the scouting combine to pass before we can start on that stuff. Please be patient.
Mirnes from Jacksonville:
Do you think Byron Leftwich will have a blow-out year with Smith as the new offensive coordinator; maybe have a year like Matt Leinart?
Vic: How about a year like Tom Brady or Donovan McNabb? Wouldn't that be a better comparison? They don't award a pro Heisman Trophy. Byron Leftwich will be in year three next fall. Expectations should be adjusted upward. My expectation is for him to lead this team to the playoffs. Would that be enough of a blow-out for you?
Adam from Whitewater, KS:
I'm about the only Jaguars fan I know because I live in Kansas. All my friends are Chiefs fans. Anyway, my question is, do you think Dan Cody would be a good pick for the draft?
Vic: And Erasmus James, and Justin Tuck, and David Pollack, and on and on and on. Everybody has a favorite. Within the next month, these players are going to begin ordering themselves. Then we're going to look at who occupies the same place in the rankings as the Jaguars do in the draft order and that player is going to be the best pick. Let it happen, please.