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Tradition takes time

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

Lee from Stuart, FL:
Orlando has postponed $175 million in renovations to the Citrus Bowl due to the state of the economy. Do you believe that will have a significant impact on the Jags staying in Jacksonville, especially in light of their showing in Tennessee and what will most likely be shrinking attendance the rest of the season?

Vic: You're overreacting. Tourism has declined and, as a result, Orlando is not generating the bed-tax dollars to be able to fund the stadium renovation at this time. If the economy recovers, the funding source should recover. Additional funds might also become available if the Jaguars or any NFL team commit to playing a regular-season game or games there. The bad economy won't last forever.

Wayne from Jacksonville:
I miss the old NFL, where the men lined up and did whatever they were best at (be it run or pass) and didn't change it until the opposing team learned to combat it. I saw the part about David calling audibles (switching out of runs in the first nine plays) but after MJD showed what he could accomplish against this particular defense, I would have given him the opportunity to bring his 22 yards-per-carry average down some by feeding it to him more.

Vic: I agree that he should've gotten more carries. Nobody likes and promotes the running game more than I do, but we also have to understand that his 80 and 79-yard touchdown runs decreased his rushing attempts. If the long touchdown runs had been 13-play drives and Jones-Drew had gotten the ball seven times in each drive, he'd be at 20 carries in the game.

Rick from Jacksonville:
In all of your years of covering football, have you ever figured out why it is so much easier for fans (and reporters) to blame a bad result on play-calling instead of poor execution?

Vic: It's just easier to do. The assumption is that another play would've worked. Sometimes the criticism is justified. I think the Jaguars should've run the ball more on Sunday. In this case, I'm not just saying it after the fact because I made it number two in my 10 things column on Friday and I wrote in "Ask Vic" last week that I expected the Jaguars to run the ball and then I had to explain why I felt that way to a reader who said I was wrong because the Titans have the worst pass-defense in the league and that means the Jaguars should pass against the Titans. Hey, I was right before anybody was right, but I'm not gonna get blown out on this thing because not running the ball enough wasn't the reason the Jaguars lost the game. They lost the game because they didn't do the number one thing in my 10 things, stop the run.

Jeff from Richmondale, PA:
I'm going to Navy basic training tomorrow so I wanted to make this question count. In your opinion, what has to happen to turn Jacksonville into a passionate football town? Do they have to win a Super Bowl and, if they do, how long will that last? St. Louis seems to have cashed in all its Super Bowl credit.

Vic: Honestly, Jeff, I don't know what it'll take. Sometimes it just happens for no apparent reason. Everyone likes to say winning would do it, but I've been here from the beginning and I can't remember one time that winning was good enough, including in 1999 when the Jaguars were 14-2, the best record in the NFL. Attendance actually declined that season. That's when we saw storm clouds on the horizon. If there's one thing that seems to always work, it's the long and often painful development of tradition. Tradition always seems to work. The problem is that developing tradition takes time, a lot of time. Good luck to you in the Navy and be safe.

Ken from Palm Coast, FL:
Is it normal to have to rebuild twice in seven years? That's where the frustration is coming from.

Vic: When you don't draft well, yeah, it's normal. Is there some kind of mental block that keeps fans from understanding the draft failures of the past several years? That's where my frustration is coming from. I keep wondering when are the fans going to get it.

Bruce from Jacksonville:
Is it possible our defense left with Mike Smith? I know it's players, not plays, but doesn't a team have a heart and soul?

Vic: Forget about that heart and soul crap. This team has plenty of heart and plenty of soul. What it doesn't have is a lot of speed. That's the problem. If I hooked coach Smith up to a lie detector machine and asked him if he'd rather have heart and soul or speed, he'd answer speed or the machine would blow up. For the record, nobody will tell you more quickly and more sincerely that it's players, not plays, than coach Smith. We had many a conversation in my office about that very subject and I can still see him smile as he said, "Players, not plays, always." That's a direct quote, by the way. Coach Smith used the word "always."

Jim from Jacksonville:
A former Jag commented that Del Rio threw Garrard under the bus with his comments about changing plays. Did Del Rio go too far?

Vic: If the coach stonewalls a question, the fans are angry that the coach is trying to protect his players by not being honest with the fans, but if he tells the truth and it reflects negatively on a player, then the coach is guilty of throwing the player under the bus. I'm tired of this wimpy crap. I want the truth. I want the bus. I remember years ago asking a coach why he took a certain defensive end out of the game in the second quarter. This was his answer: "Because he was being blocked." Yeah, that's what I want. I want the truth because the truth is the pure defense and grown men should be able to accept it without being offended. I understand that coaches and players should be supportive of each other, but not to the point of lying. Coach Del Rio was asked a direct question and he gave a direct answer.

Terrance from Jacksonville:
How do you improve tackling if, as coach Del Rio said, "You can't do that?"

Vic: He meant you can't conduct live tackling drills at practice in midseason. It can't be done because the roles the players fulfill and their salaries are too critical to the success of the team to risk injury in live tackling drills. Jammed fingers and sore shoulders won't make them better players on Sunday. It is my opinion that if a player isn't a good tackler by now, it ain't gonna happen. The bottom line is that freshman games on Sunday are the last times a lot of players practice live tackling in their careers. That's just the way it is in today's game.

Tim from Jacksonville:
What does "leverage the ball" mean?

Vic: It means to take good angles to the ball so as to make sure it doesn't get behind our outside the pursuit. It means everybody is doing their job, executing their "fit" responsibility in the big-picture scheme of run-defense.

Jordon from Corning, AR:
What I remember from the good-defense days of the Del Rio years is intensity and hard-nosed football. That means players hitting and pretty much saying I'm going to hit you in the mouth. I would like to see that intensity back on this team. That would make me feel a whole lot better.

Vic: It would make everyone feel a lot better but it's not as simple as players willing themselves to be more physical. The Steelers cornerback who got run over by Adrian Peterson was trying to be physical. How do you think that felt?

Wallace from Jacksonville:
Listening to your show and the talk about Reggie Nelson, do you really think he can learn how to tackle and cover receivers? I don't.

Vic: I think he can certainly be good in coverage because he has all of the athletic ability a good coverage guy needs. I think he can be an effective low-tackler, a "shoe duster," as they're called, but I don't think tackling will ever be the strength of Nelson's game. If you're a long-time "Ask Vic" reader, you might remember that a couple of years ago I was chided by a Gator fan for having said the rap on Nelson is that he's not a real physical player. I was sternly reprimanded and reminded that Nelson's nickname at Florida was "The Eraser." I begged the Gator fan's forgiveness. I wonder whatever happened to that guy.

Evan from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
How can you explain the lack of sacks?

Vic: Here's a multiple choice question for you, Evan. The Jaguars lack sacks because: A.) All of the opponent's quarterbacks are getting the ball out of their hand quickly. B.) The Jaguars are saving their best for the second half of the season. C.) The Jaguars coaches don't know strategies for doing it. D.) The Jaguars lack pass-rush talent. Which one do you think it is?

Bryan from Orange Park, FL:
The negativity is crazy. I see so much to like in the future of this team. Gene Smith did a great job with the draft. Do you believe the general negativity of fans can have a compound interest effect on the young players who are still learning how to win and lose in the NFL?

Vic: No. The good ones will get better and the bad ones will be replaced by better ones and the team will slowly improve. Fan negativity has nothing to do with losing.

Art from Jacksonville:
If the Titians took the slants away, what quick patterns are left? I am assuming you mean they lined up inside the receivers and we couldn't risk an out pattern?

Vic: Or they dropped their linebackers into the hook zones, etc. Art, I'm not a coach. I don't put on the tape and review the whole game and determine what should've been done. I just don't view football that way. I don't see it as a battle of wits. I see it as a physical battle and the Jaguars lost the physical battle. The Titans ran faster and hit harder and that's why they were successful. Amazingly, when a team does that, the things the other team is trying to take away start to open up. I was asked what the Titans did differently and I answered in the technical terms I thought the reader was seeking, but it was an incorrect answer. You wanna know what the Titans did differently in this game: They kicked butt. That's what they did differently.

Michael from Fruit Cove, FL:
Why can't we play a 4-3 with Harvey and Groves as bookend defensive ends, which is what they were drafted for?

Vic: Because it would likely produce a new Jaguars opponent rushing record. That's not enough meat on the line, Michael.

Matt from Jacksonville:
Rashean Mathis is not our best player on defense and you are a fool for thinking so. You are clueless.

Vic: I yield to your superior knowledge.

Nick from Jacksonville:
I spent time in Atlanta and Jacksonville. Atlanta seems to have more intelligent and reasonable fans than Jacksonville. Sad to say, but fans in Jacksonville whine and hate a lot (sometimes even after a win). I hope for our sake this changes.

Vic: Wadda ya mean? Jacksonville fans are the best.

Tina from Tuscaloosa, AL:
Is it time for a "Ladies Day," yet? I'm getting a little tired of the questions you keep taking from all the little whiney boys. Wadda ya say, Vic?

Vic: I can't imagine there are enough women who plow through this testosterone field every day to fill a column with questions, but I'll give anything a try. All right, Thursday is "Ladies Day." Ladies only, please.

Steve from Greenville, DE:
I want you to know that you inspired me. My father and I are flying into Jacksonville this weekend for our first father-son trip in nine years to attend the Jaguars-Chiefs game. We bought our tickets on the site on Monday and we are going to enjoy the experience of a Jaguars game together, no matter what the outcome. We used to live in Jacksonville but moved midway through the 1995 season. Fourteen years have passed since we have been to a game together; we live in different states and now I am a dad. The Jaguars have helped us create memories together and will continue to do so.

Vic: What a lovely story.

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