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Were the Saints a surprise team?

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

Steve from Fleming Island, FL:
To all those fans that think the block on Peyton Manning after he was intercepted in the Super Bowl was in the back, well, it was. The reason it wasn't called is that Peyton was running as fast as he could to get away from Porter, and the only part of his body available to be blocked was his back.

Vic: That's kind of the way I saw it, and Jeff Lageman emphatically agreed on "Jaguars This Week" that it should not have been called a block in the back.

Scott from Chugiak, AK:
Will Jacksonville receive a compensatory pick with the signing of Matt Jones by the Bengals?

Vic: The Jaguars will not receive compensatory pick consideration for Jones being signed by the Bengals, and they wouldn't have received compensatory pick consideration had Jones been signed by the Bengals last year, either, because Jones was cut by the Jaguars. For a team to receive compensatory pick consideration for a former player being signed by another team, that player's rights must have expired at the start of free agency and he must be signed before the deadline for signing free agents expires. At that point, the player becomes a street free agent and does not count toward compensatory pick consideration. Jones would've failed to qualify on every count, plus, I would imagine the contract he signed with the Bengals is minimum wage, and those usually don't result in compensatory pick awards. By the way, whatever happened to the guy who said he guaranteed Jones would be signed within 10 days?

James from Jacksonville:
Blackouts are good for the NFL. They're good for the teams and good for the bottom line. This year's blackouts should've happened several years ago. They drive home the point that if you want to watch an NFL home game you need to come off the wallet and buy a ticket. TV is for away games. I'm only 28, but I hope one day I'll be able to pass on my season tickets to my children because the waiting list is too deep for new orders.

Vic: It had to happen. We had to reach the point that fans understood the home games weren't going to be televised if they weren't sold out. Last season got the message across. Now we have a chance. You get it.

Nate from Tampa, FL:
Jacob from Kentwood asked if you thought the Jaguars would retire the number eight, not if Brunell would retire a Jaguar.

Vic: I thought it was understood the Jaguars do not retire numbers. That's why they have a "Pride of the Jaguars."

Marcus from San Diego, CA:
If you won the lottery for, let's say, $15 million, what would you do with your paychecks from work to further fulfill your passion for football? I would take one player from every high school football team in Jacksonville and give them a pair of 2010 season tickets.

Vic: That would be a very nice gesture. I would probably head to the mountain and start working on that book. I'm not sure what the title would be, but it would be all about what football has meant to me, from my very first memories of it right through my years covering it. People have suggested to me that I should do a book about this guy or that guy, and I always tell them that when I do a book, it's gonna be about me and football, not somebody else and football. I've been doing "books" about other guys for four decades. The last decade, so to speak, is being reserved for me. I have a lifetime of stories to tell and I have a very good memory.

Gabe from Jacksonville:
Who are this year's Torry Holt and Tra Thomas?

Vic: I don't think the Jaguars will be in the market for that type of player this year. I'm talking about the one-year patch or security blanket, which is what Holt and Thomas were. After the Jags signed them last year, people asked me why the team would sign such "old" guys if the team was truly in a youth movement. My answer was that's exactly what teams in youth movements do. They have to find an old player here and there to provide security that the team will be competent at positions that are going to be dominated by young, unproven players. Holt and Thomas provided that security at wide receiver and tackle, but I don't see the need for that type of player this year. We'll have to wait to see how the draft goes. Defensive end would be a position of concern if the Jaguars can't address it in the draft.

Amanda from Jacksonville:
When do the Jaguars have the option to uncover the seats? I know that if the Jaguars decided to cover the seats they must remain covered. When do they have to make that decision?

Vic: I don't understand why anyone would ask that question now. Not enough seats isn't the problem. Not enough people in the seats is the problem. Any decision to uncover the seats must be made before the season begins. The decision for this season has been made. The seats will not be uncovered.

Paul from Gainesville, FL:
The Steelers' disclosure that they will use a "self-imposed cap" during the uncapped season certainly makes sense, and I would assume many teams will follow the same sort of plan. I can't help but think there may be a couple of teams that will instead spend wildly. Any thoughts on which teams those might be?

Vic: I'm thinking of one. Its name begins with R and ends with S, and it isn't the Rams, Raiders or Ravens. You know, I hear complaints from people all the time that the Jaguars need to bring in some high-priced players and win now. So how did that work for the Jaguars in 2008 and how has it worked for the Redskins?

Antonio from Huntington Station, NY:
I was hoping you could shed some light on the 4-4 defense. What are the advantages and disadvantages and do any NFL teams use it?

Vic: NFL teams use it every time they get an eighth defender in the box. The "44" is nothing more than a standard 4-3 with a "Hero" or "Monster" back, a safety that can bang with the big boys, hovering near the line of scrimmage in run-support. It's usually played with three across the back, but that would never work in the NFL. You have to pick and choose when to get that eighth man up at the line in the NFL, and you better disguise it. The NFL is a passing league. Loading up against the run isn't a formula for success.

Carlos from Barcelona, Spain:
I know you take many shots about your credibility and professionalism. As a long-time reader, I know what your opinion of Manning as a player is, but the truth is that this year, right up until the Super Bowl, you had nothing but praise for him, on the season he was having and two great postseason game performances. You stated what you needed to see from him, big-stage crunch-time, and he didn't deliver when his number was called for greatness. You've always said he's a good player, but you were clear on your standards for "best all-time," before the Super Bowl. Maybe you don't think some of us notice your professionalism on things like this, but I want to thank you for giving it to us straight. The truth is the pure defense, and I have no doubt that you always do your job with this in my mind.

Vic: I was prepared to canonize him. Then came seven points in the final three quarters and the interception and the failed final drives and what I had was confirmation of what I had always believed. He had a fantastic season and I acknowledged it. You might remember that I wrote that Manning was the clear-cut league MVP. I wrote that he had clearly passed Tom Brady and was, by far, the best quarterback in the game. In my editorial two days prior to the Super Bowl, I wrote to Colts fans, "Though I have long badgered and abused your team, I will concede to its greatness, should it beat the Saints on Sunday," and finally, "I'm picking the Colts, but only because it's becoming increasingly difficult to imagine anybody beating Manning. That's how good he's been this season, especially in this postseason." Those are words of disrespect? I don't think so. What Colts fans and Manning lovers want me to do is ignore the outcome, and I won't do that. He didn't get it done.

David from Ada, OK:
Which teams last year disappointed you the most and surprised you the most? Which teams (outside our division) are you looking forward to watching progress next year?

Vic: The Patriots, Steelers, Titans and Eagles were major disappointments in 2009. Yeah, the Patriots and Eagles made the playoffs, but they fell apart late in the season and played their worst football when it counted the most. I guess I could say the Jets were a major surprise, but I'm not sold on them as a true playoff team. They wouldn't have made it into the playoffs if the Colts hadn't let them in. I could say the Bengals were a major surprise, but late in the year the Bengals fell apart, too, and I'm not convinced of their playoff worth, either. I guess the Saints are the surprise team, but not for people who know their football. I think we all knew they were on the verge of competing for a Super Bowl championship. Frankly, I don't think there was a true surprise team this past season, to rival the Cardinals of 2008.

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