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True fans don't have to try

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

Richard from Dover, NJ:
The team is what it is, a .500 ballclub. The real trick is to find a way to win with what you can put on the field. Fans are upset over ticket issues when their club isn't winning, so that brings the blackouts. The question is, what would you do right now to right the team?

Vic: I would internalize. If I was the head coach, I would instruct my players to block out all thought of everything they can't control and turn their full attention to those things they can control, which is to say their individual play. That means tuning out the media, tuning out the fans and not worrying about whether the team is going to win or lose. Let the coach worry about those things. Each player should only be concerned about executing his specific function because if everybody does his job, the team will win. The greatest motivator in professional football is job insecurity. That's why I say it's about the money. It always comes back to that because this is how players earn a living and they have to know they will be judged solely on the merit of their individual performances. Just do your job. Nothing else matters.

Muhammad from Philadelphia, PA:
When I'm watching the Jags on offense I see Byron Leftwich in the pocket and he reminds me of a sitting duck; a fish out of water. Do you think the production of the offense will be improved if Leftwich learns how to step up in the pocket better? It just seems like he's a statue in the pocket.

Vic: Step up in the pocket? What pocket? What you're suggesting is the equivalent of going the wrong way in an elephant stampede. You know, turning your back to attackers isn't a natural act. We tend to wanna peek. Quarterbacks can't do that and be successful, however, which is why it's so important that a quarterback gains a level of trust and confidence that his offensive line will protect him. Anybody who thinks Leftwich is getting enough time to throw is so out of it they can't possibly have a lucid opinion on what's wrong with the offense.

John from Jacksonville:
The Bengals this year have played the Browns, Vikings, Bears and Texans. None of those four teams seem to be very strong contenders. Personally, I feel the Jags are the first team this year that will be a really tough match for the Bengals. I think we will surprise the nation and beat them soundly. Your thoughts?

Vic: It's that way for all "new teams on the block." Fans don't wanna believe in them until they see them win a breakthrough game. I agree the Jaguars represent the toughest competition the Bengals will have faced so far this season; especially since it's a road game. Their breakthrough game, however, will be Pittsburgh on Oct. 23. That's the one that, should they win, will vault them into the blue-chip category. Don't sell the Bengals short. They've got the goods. I said it all spring: Watch out for these guys.

Garry from Bedford, KY:
Being a life-long Bengals fan, I always read the website of our next opponent. I am amused, shocked and somewhat confused over the negative reactions of many of your fans. You are only 2-2 with a bunch of games to go. I can't imagine how they'd be if they had to follow the Bengals for the last 15 years. The NFL is tough and built for .500 teams. Is that the way you see it?

Vic: The NFL is about staying alive, staying alive, staying alive, then getting hot in December. It's not always that way, but if you hang around .500 and then get on a roll in December, you'll usually find yourself in the playoffs and playing at your highest level. That's the goal, isn't it?

Tim from Jacksonville:
My question to you is in regards to Byron Leftwich's throwing style. He's a great passer with good accuracy and incredible power, however, when throwing the ball he tends to start at his hip and throw like he's a major league pitcher with a big wind-up. I believe this also attributes to the high rate of pressure and sacks we have had this year. Is the coaching staff working to change his release or is this not viewed as a big issue?

Vic: It's not the speed of Byron Leftwich's release that's a problem, it's the width of his delivery, which is what you're describing. You'd like your quarterback to be able to throw in a phone booth, so to speak. The less area he needs to be able to operate, the less area his offensive line needs to provide in the way of protection. The Jaguars continue to work with Leftwich on the fundamentals. That's a constant with all quarterbacks. Mark Brunell has had a tendency to drop his head and take his eyes off the field. I saw him do it a couple of times the other night when the Redskins were playing in Dallas. It's human nature to resort to bad habits, especially when we're under pressure. I think that's what's happening to Leftwich right now. He needs to tighten up his delivery. His offensive linemen can assist him in that pursuit by eliminating the pressure he's feeling and the chaos it's causing.

Tommy from Melbourne, FL:
I don't know if this will help but maybe it would be a good idea to write up a story or an article on what it means to be a good fan. I agree with you that the Jags are a relatively new team and few of the fans are lifetime Jaguars supporters, so help them out and tell them what it means to support a team. There are benefits of having great fans. I'm not sure if they realize how lucky they are to have a franchise.

Vic: You don't teach someone how to be a fan. It has to come naturally. Just like it was when you fell in love for the first time, all of a sudden you have no control over your interest in "her." In this case, "her" is a football team. You can't tell yourself to stop supporting "her" and you can't tell yourself to stop being interested in "her." All you know is that this is something that really matters. It's not about entertainment. Entertainment is for the ballet. Football has a scoreboard and the numbers on that scoreboard are all that matter. True fans only care about one thing, winning. When their team wins, they have joy. When their team loses, they are sad, even though they know it's illogical to suffer that kind of an emotion about something to which they have no tangible claim or gain. Being a fan is a purely emotional thing. At Mike Ditka's Hall of Fame induction, George Halas said: "Mike Ditka didn't try harder, he cared more." True fans don't have to try. They can't stop caring.

David from New York, NY:
In response to Chris from Jacksonville about "no more excuses," it seems to me that what we have here is a college football town. A large percentage of the fans refuse to invest in a long-term commitment to a team that isn't pounding the minor league equivalent 6-7 times a year. This is the NFL, the highest level of competition. That's what makes it so sweet when you win. The Redskins have been about as bad as bad can be for almost 10 years, but try to buy a ticket to one of their games. I love the Jags but unless more people in Jacksonville buy into the true NFL experience, which is many times a grind, what hope does this franchise have in Jacksonville?

Vic: College football was here long before the NFL arrived, so it's understandable there might be a college mentality that is making it difficult for Jacksonville to fully appreciate and embrace the pro game. I agree with you that wins are not adequately valued. It happens that way if you play Vanderbilt and Duke often enough; when you have teams on your schedule that pose no threat of beating you. There is no such game on the Jaguars schedule this year.

Chris from Gainesville, FL:
I know you hate this question, but do the Jags have a set game this year for the all-black uniforms?

Vic: The Jaguars will not wear the all-black uniforms this year.

David from Jacksonville:
I finally get it. I read your column every day. When we buy a ticket and support our team as a city, we support them win or lose. We go to games to see fabulous players, even if they aren't on our own team. That's true football fans.

Vic: Ask yourself this question: Did the loss to Denver make me sad? If the answer is yes, you're a fan and you can stop trying to get it because it got you.

Lou from Jacksonville:
I really enjoy listening to your comments on the Jaguars. You make a lot of sense most of the time, however, I disagree with something you said tonight on "Jaguars This Week." You stated that Fred Taylor may be nominated by someone for the Hall of Fame if he gets to 10,000 yards. Although he is the best running back in Jaguars history, he has never made the Pro Bowl. Do you believe he would be worthy of a nomination?

Vic: There has only ever been one running back who gained 10,000 yards rushing and didn't make the Hall of Fame, and that's Ottis Anderson, who gained 10,273 yards rushing in a 14-year career that included two Pro-Bowl appearances. I stand on what I said: If Fred Taylor reaches 10,000 yards, he'll be nominated for Hall of Fame consideration. I don't think he'll be elected to the Hall of Fame because of the lack of a Pro Bowl, but I would be shocked if his name isn't nominated for consideration. Let's put it this way: He would become the first running back in history to have gained 10,000 yards and not be nominated for consideration.

Shaun from Jacksonville:
I was wondering what we should expect from Khalif Barnes this week. How has he looked in practice and what does he do better than our current left tackles and what does he not do as well?

Vic: I can't answer all of your questions because the media is not permitted to watch practice. Khalif Barnes' insertion into the starting lineup isn't as much about now as it is about the future. He was drafted to be the future at left tackle and the situation at that position has become so desperate that the Jaguars need to make the move into the future a little more quickly than they probably would've liked. In my opinion, we should expect Barnes to play like a rookie, which means he'll flash talent on some plays and inexperience on others.

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