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Sometimes the better team wins

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

John from Starke, FL:
What happened? The city was all decked out, the fans showed up, ESPN showed up, the Jaguars didn't. I was expecting a good, hard-hitting game but the Titans had us for lunch.

Vic: I don't know what happened, John. I strongly believe the Jaguars wanted to win the game. After a game such as that, I think it's logical to consider the possibility the better team won. It's a simple and effective explanation. It has always worked for me.

Ryan from Las Vegas, NV:
How do you feel about the Titans' run play-call on fourth-and-five at the end of the game?

Vic: I'm OK with it. The Titans ran nine plays in that drive, all of them runs. It reminded me of the first time the Jaguars played the Titans in 2003, Jack Del Rio's first year as head coach. The Titans did the same thing at the clock-killing time of the game and Del Rio went off on his team in his postgame press conference. He ripped them big-time and vowed it wouldn't happen again. Do you remember that game? That clock-killing drive was the turning point in the Jaguars' season. They finished the year as the league's number two run-defense. I thought to myself, in Monday's postgame press conference: Why isn't he ripping his defense for that 80-yard drive at the end of the game? When I thought about it, I realized the circumstances are very different. The Jaguars played hard against the run on Monday night. They didn't need a kick in the pants. They needed to know their coach had their back.

Tom from Jacksonville:
Took my son, age six, to his first Monday night game. Though it was a late night, he begged to go, so I relented. He loved every minute (except the score) and we had a great time. As we were leaving, he looked at me and asked: "Can we come back next Monday night?"

Vic: No! No more Monday night games this year. No more prime-time games. We don't need any more we-don't-get-no-respect whine-athons.

Mike from Peachtree City, GA:
I'm reading your "Which team is the real Jags team?" editorial. You made a statement in the article that said: "We hope. That's all we can do." Hope is not a plan. Your comments struck a nerve. I do hope. I wish I had a plan.

Vic: The Jaguars have a plan. The problem is nobody wants to hear about this kind of plan. The plan is to do the best they can and, when the offseason arrives, do everything they can to fix the problems they didn't have enough time or enough draft picks to fix last offseason. Nobody wants to hear about a plan if the plan doesn't include being great right away. Well, let me tell you about the best plan I ever covered. The plan was to take a team with the worst roster in the NFL and in year one draft Joe Greene, in year two draft Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount, in year three draft Jack Ham and in year four draft Franco Harris. That's five future Hall of Famers in four years and the records of those teams in years one, two and three were 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8. It wasn't until year four of the plan that success followed. Two years later, that plan included selecting Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, Mike Webster and John Stallworth, four future Hall of Famers, all in the same draft, and then that plan won four Super Bowls in six years. It's the best plan and the best football team I ever covered and it began its ascent to the top with a 12-30 record. Good thing it wasn't in Jacksonville. The fans would've been screaming for the coach's head. By the way, the coach is also in the Hall of Fame.

Brian from Phoenix, AZ:
How would you compare the Jaguars to the Chiefs in terms of where they sit along the growth/rebuilding curve?

Vic: Why compare? We'll find out this Sunday.

Lonnie from Orange Park, FL:
A lot of people are saying these big hits are a result of bigger, faster players. Isn't it also a result of a league-wide emphasis on passing?

Vic: You get this week's award for "fan with a brain." Bless you for allowing me a whiff of intelligence in an outhouse of, well, in an outhouse. I blame the league for these violent collisions. I'm blaming the league because it continued to change a game that didn't need changing. In its mania for stimulating scoring, it opened the field and created the space that is causing these violent collisions. It's real simple: The more open-field action the league created, the more collisions that resulted. The old guys were vicious, but they played on a smaller field. The game was compressed. It was pound, pound, pound until you established the run, then you sold play-action and struck deep. OK, I agree, it wasn't as exciting as today's frenetic pace of action, but the stadiums were packed and the TV ratings were through the roof. The popularity of the modern game was built on that game. Why did it need to be changed? What is it about packed stadiums and high TV ratings that's not good enough? The Monday Night Football ratings of today are good but they aren't in Howard's and Dandy Don's league, and we've a rash of blackouts occurring. Yes, something has to be done immediately to curb the senseless violence but, in my opinion, the game needs to be tightened a little bit. It needs to throttle back on its pace before it crashes.

Barb from Jacksonville:
I am a club-seat holder and long-time fan, however, Monday night's performance was horrible. The team was psyched and so were the fans. What will the owner and coaches do to repair the extensive damage?

Vic: Please, everybody, gather around. I'm going to answer Barb's question the best I can, with the hope that we can turn the page to new subject matter. I agree that the team was psyched and so were the fans. Everything was fine until the game started. What will Wayne Weaver and the coaches do to fix the problem? Barb, I don't know; I wish I did. My experience tells me that they'll all go back to work today and try their best to fix what is broken. My 39 years covering the league tell me Jack Del Rio and his team will do everything they can to win this week, get to 4-3 and get themselves back in the playoff race. My reporter's instincts also tell me that they know this is not a playoff-caliber team, but a lot of teams make the playoffs that aren't playoff-caliber. Frankly, the 1996 Jaguars weren't playoff-caliber. They got lucky and they got hot at the right time and that's a winning combination. Barb, what has to be done to fix what is wrong with this team, in my opinion, will require at least another offseason, maybe two more offseasons, to accomplish. For me, that's easy to say because I'm a very patient man when it comes to these matters, and I was fortunate to have had great training on the construction of a championship football team. Barb, you're no different than a lot of other fans who've expressed the same type of frustration to me. You wanna know what can be done to fix it now? I am now going to provide what I believe to be the cold, hard truth that you and every Jaguars fan deserves: Nothing can be done because it can't be fixed now. This is going to take time. I think I've been very consistent with that message.

Jason from Brooklyn, NY:
I must be missing something. On that first-quarter tackle by Rashean Mathis on Johnson, some sort of penalty was called. It seemed to me like they were calling a facemask penalty, but Rashean did not touch the facemask. Would you mind clarifying this one for me?

Vic: The penalty was for grabbing the ear hole. One finger in the ear hole is a five-yard penalty. Two or more fingers in the ear hole results in a 15-yard penalty. The whole helmet thing is out of control. If a player's helmet comes off, the play is immediately whistled dead and, of course, helmets are getting blown off by the wind these days. I can remember my high school football helmet. I had to lift weights just to be strong enough to pull the flaps far enough apart to pull it down over my head. Helmets fit like skin in those days. They're so big now it looks like the players are wearing pumpkins on their heads. I'm at the point that I think I'd like to see them play without wearing helmets.

Jared from Banning, CA:
People need to look at the positives. Cowboys, Chargers, Vikings, 49ers and Bengals, who were all thought to be Super Bowl contenders, have either the same record or fewer wins than us.

Vic: The problem with the Jaguars, Jared, isn't the record, it's the lopsided losses. That must stop.

Marcus from Jacksonville:
We've all seen the play where the ball-carrier drops his shoulder to try and get a few extra yards and, in the process, causes helmet-to-helmet contact. Is the NFL going to punish offensive players for helmet-to-helmet contact, or is it all going to fall on the defensive player?

Vic: Penalize offense? That's funny. When has offense ever been penalized? Offensive players dominate the Hall of Fame, they grossly out-earn defensive players and offense is nearly always favored in rules changes. Some day somebody in a high place is going to figure out that the charm of the game always has been and always will be its physical confrontation. The foundation of the game isn't built on Jerry Rice. It's built on Dick Butkus. The old guys understood that. The new ones don't.

Mike from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
You haven't responded when I've questioned this in the past, but I have to give it another shot. You have a full house, the fans and players are fired up, the defense is ranked 30th, you have an exciting new kick-returner and your offense has scored 30-plus points in two straight games. So, you win the toss and then you defer? What kind of message did that send to the team and the fans? I just don't get it.

Vic: I answered the same question following the San Diego game. I explained in detail what the strategy might have been. Personally, I don't think it means a darn thing but, obviously, you do, so why ask me when you can ask the coach? Call his radio show. Ask him, just as you asked me. Say, "Hey, coach, why did you defer?" Ask him what kind of message he was trying to send to the team and, of courses, to the fans. Tell him you don't get it. Be forceful. Don't be afraid to ask. I'll be interested to hear what the answer is. If you're asking me what I would've done, I would almost always not defer because I would want the second choice to start the second half so I can take the wind in the fourth quarter. Everybody has their thing. The wind in the fourth quarter is my thing.

Clayton from Palm Bay, FL:
I just wanted to know what you think of the Gerald Alexander cut?

Vic: Should there be a limit to how many times you have to comment on the same guy getting cut in the same season? Here's a line from my in-game blog, during the Titans' opening drive: "Young to Bo Scaife for a big gain. He was wide open. They're going at David Jones' side of the field. Gerald Alexander was slow in coming over." Slow in coming over gets safeties cut.

Kevin from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Yes, Jacksonville deserved better, but when the clock struck triple zero Monday night, I was the only Jag fan left in the stadium. You get what you give. Fans are fans and should support their team, for better or for worse.

Vic: It's peaceful isn't it? An empty football stadium is one of the most peaceful places on earth. When I was in high school, after the game I would walk back up the tunnel, sit in the bleachers for awhile, feel the fall chill in the air, look out over the darkened field and think. I would envision the plays that had occurred on that field that night, but now the field was empty. It might as well have been a cornfield. It captivated me. I don't know why, it just did. There's something about football fields that fascinate me.

Andrew from Toledo, OH:
How can you not see that the defense is the strength of this team? They are under constant pressure because of that anemic offense.

Vic: This is earth calling the aliens that have stolen Andrew's brain. Please return it. His new one isn't working. It's cruel to leave him in this damaged state.

Lim from Orange Park, FL:
I'm a season-ticket holder and go to every game with my wife. We meet our friends three hours prior to kickoff to cook, eat and have a few beverages. This provides a complete game-day experience for us and, win or lose, we will always be back. I feel that people who don't experience what we do and watch the game at home are cheating themselves.

Vic: When I got back home from Buffalo, my wife asked me if the Jaguars had won. I said they did. Then she asked me where I had been. I kind of like it this way. It's our own version of don't ask, don't tell.

Ryan from Statesboro, GA:
I read Tuesday's "Ask Vic" and I didn't see anyone mention the fact that Garrard was knocked out of the game. At least when he was in there I still felt as though we had a chance to make a comeback. We were only down 14 at the time. We are nothing without Garrard this year.

Vic: I feel like one of Pavlov's dogs. I'm losin' it, man. I mean, if something doesn't change, my brain is gonna turn to mush before we get to the bye week. Do you know how many e-mails were in my inbox when I got to work at about 9:30 on Tuesday morning? Over 700, and I got at least another 500 in the rest of the day. Everybody wanted to know why the Jaguars didn't win. After I read the same question for the 200th time, I started giggling. I saw Mel Tucker in the hallway outside my door yesterday morning. He just looked at me. I said, "It's a stupid game." He wanted to laugh but couldn't. It's nonsensical that a game could cause adults so much angst.

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