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Too close? Not in my opinion

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions. Vic: Dean Blandino of the league officiating office responded on Wednesday to my inquiry about the David Garrard fumble late in Sunday's game. Dean said that in reviewing the play it was: "too close to tell if the hand was coming forward with control (of the ball) or the ball was loose before it came forward. Had they ruled pass on the field, I would want them to stay with the call on the field, as well. It was that close." I went back to the TV tape of the game. I saw three TV replay angles. The first two were shot head-on Garrard and did not provide enough evidence to overturn the call. The third replay angle, however, was shot into Garrard's right side and, in my opinion, offered conclusive proof Garrard's right hand and the ball had moved forward before Jarvis Green knocked the ball loose from Garrard's grasp. I also watched the Jaguars' broadcasting department's tape, which was not available to referee Walt Anderson, and it offered an even better angle of the play and more conclusive proof that it was an incomplete pass. Dean has been a great help on these plays. If he says it was too close to overturn, then I believe him. I just don't agree.

Sean from Augusta, GA:
I am a long-time reader and fan of yours. What is the tuck rule?

Vic: The tuck rule provides that a player attempting to pass shall be judged to be in a continuous passing motion until the ball is tucked to his side. In other words, if a player is attempting to pass, then changes his mind and begins the motion of bringing the ball back to his body, he will be considered to be in the act of passing until the ball is tucked away. Tom Brady made the "tuck rule" famous in the Patriots' 2001 playoffs win over Oakland.

Jim from Jacksonville:
What lessons, if any, have the Jaguars as a team learned that could help them improve next year?

Vic: That's a great question. I just don't know if I have a great answer. Most people would say the number one lesson is don't lose to teams you should beat, but I don't buy into the theory that the Jaguars lost to Houston twice because they took them lightly. That's just too smug for my tastes. After what Houston has cost this team through the years, I think you'd have to be either stupid or fatalistic to have taken the Texans lightly. I'm not sure this was a "lessons" season. In my opinion, this has been a season when being a really good team just wasn't good enough. The Jaguars didn't have that one more thing they needed to get over the hump. I guess that's the lesson: make sure you have that one more thing.

Scott from Newtown, PA:
Who is the other player they are using?

Vic: He's Ken Pettway. If Pettway intercepts six passes in Sunday's game against the Chiefs, he will earn $8.4 million in incentives. Those incentives were just added to his contract. It's a salary cap maneuver to recover $8.4 million in room on this year's cap the Jaguars would otherwise lose. Here's how it works. Any incentive added to a contract after the regular season begins is considered likely to be earned. Pettway's interceptions incentive was just added on Wednesday. When he doesn't intercept six passes on Sunday, the Jaguars will qualify for an $8.4 million credit on their 2007 salary cap for incentive money charged to their '06 cap and not earned. Voila! The Jaguars' $109 million '07 cap just increased to $117 million. Why Pettway and not Quinn Gray, with whom the Jaguars had executed this maneuver in the past? Because Pettway is an exclusive-rights player and it's better to do this kind of a deal with an exclusive-rights player because it doesn't affect his tender.

Karl from Jacksonville:
I keep reading how it's the receivers that are the problem with the passing game. Could it be, in fact, a play-calling issue and not a receiving issue? Do you think that, maybe, if we could use the short passing and run plays evenly, that would set up deeper passing game, or should it continue to be 90 percent run and 10 percent pass?

Vic: How about 53.1 percent run and 46.9 percent pass? Is that even enough for you?

Clay from Jacksonville:
I know you have stated several times that Jacksonville is the smallest market aside from Green Bay (and Green Bay is the lowest only by technicality). What about New Orleans? I just read that New Orleans' pre-Katrina population was 455,000. Do the surrounding areas have that many residents that it keeps them from being a smaller market than Jacksonville?

Vic: Pre-Katrina New Orleans was the nation's 43rd-largest television market with 672,150 TV households. A TV market includes the city proper and its surrounding communities. In many cases, people such as yourself find population numbers for a city and then compare those figures to Jacksonville's, but that's not an accurate comparison because Jacksonville's city limits include all of Duval County. That's not the case in most cities. In most cities, what they consider suburbs and exclude from their city's population are what Jacksonville considers part of its city population. The only way to accurately compare markets is to include all of the people and households in that city's DMA (Designated Market Area). When the 2005 season began, Jacksonville was the nation's 52nd-largest TV market with 624,220 TV households. Jacksonville has grown since then, of course, while New Orleans' size is nearly impossible to judge in its post-Katrina recovery period.

John from St. Augustine, FL:
Were you joking when you said at the beginning of the year that your Super Bowl picks were Baltimore and New Orleans? How hilarious is this league that you are so close to being right? By the way, I caught your interview with Pete Prisco; absolute football nirvana.

Vic: You're right, it was a joke. I was wondering how long it was going to take for someone to call me on it. You're also right that it's hilarious that what was intended to be two joke picks at the beginning of the season are now top contenders to, in fact, be the last two teams standing. What does it say about the NFL?

Nick from Wakefield, RI:
Why didn't Rich Eisen discuss the Garrard fumble with Mike Pereira during "NFL Total Access" last night? I don't understand how such a controversial play wasn't even discussed during their conversation.

Vic: I completely agree with you that it should've been addressed by Mike Pereira, who has done a nice job on NFL Network addressing the previous weekend's controversial calls. Pereira may have wimped out on this one. It was a call that would be highly controversial, should it be revealed that the wrong call was made, which I think was the case. We're talking about a call with far-reaching effects. It would offer the potential to dramatically alter the AFC playoff picture. I'm getting the feeling the league just wants to ignore the Garrard fumble call. I am very sensitive to the tough job the officials have and I have been very supportive of them. At the same time, however, I remain highly critical of an instant replay system that, in my opinion, doesn't get it right often enough. In this particular case, it is my opinion that there was a system in place to correct the call and the evidence to do so was available. I have seen what I consider to be video replay that, in my opinion, proves beyond a doubt the correct ruling should've been an incomplete pass. So what happened? I'd love to know. I, too, wish Pereira would address the subject.

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