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What defines an NFL-caliber QB?

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

Lee from Jacksonville:
You are not the only person that I have read recently that has said Ray Guy is not a Hall of Famer because he was a punter. I can't buy that explanation. Every position on the field must be treated as important, otherwise there wouldn't be somebody playing it. If Joe Zelenka turns out to be the greatest long-snapper in the history of long-snappers, then he should get some HOF consideration, and if Ray Guy is considered the greatest punter of all time, then he should have a fair shot at the HOF, too. If that isn't the case, then try playing a season without a punter and see how that works out.

Vic: The Steelers just did.

Joe from San Antonio, TX:
I appreciate your approach on players who changed the game, but you should add one more: Mel Blount. They re-wrote the rule book because of how he played cornerback.

Vic: You're right. He's the guy, because of his ability to bump and run and physically dominate receivers, who caused the five-yard chuck rule change of 1978 and it changed the game. Lem Barney, however, is the guy who invented the bump and run, so didn't he change the game? You see, I look at things with a broader perspective when I consider players who changed the game. We know Unitas, Brown and Taylor did. Those three are for sure. What about Bob Hayes? Yeah, his speed had an impact on the game and caused changes in coverage, but how do we know it wasn't the combination of Bobby Mitchell, Paul Warfield, Homer Jones and Hayes, for example, that caused that change? It's not as though Hayes was the only fast receiver in the league. It's not as though he invented speed and the deep ball. Don Hutson caught deep passes. Dante Lavelli caught deep passes. I don't think it was Hayes' speed that changed coverages as much as the evolution of the quarterback position and passing offenses that demanded the change. What about Joe Namath? He changed the game by winning Super Bowl III because it helped legitimize the merger, but Lenny Dawson won Super Bowl IV so wouldn't that have accomplished the same thing? Red Grange certainly changed the game because he gave pro football legitimacy and produced big crowds, but wouldn't that have happened eventually? Everybody has their own opinion. I'm sticking with Unitas, Brown and Taylor.

Chris from Jacksonville:
Would you say the shift to soccer style kickers changed the game?

Vic: They quickly turned the game into a field goal match, but then the league changed the rules and put the touchdown back into the game. If you wanna stretch the truth, go ahead, but my standards are higher.

Jim from Jacksonville:
Regarding your question from Kris and the Hall of Fame, you mentioned Jim Plunkett. He was my favorite player growing up. Do you think he should be in the HOF?

Vic: He's a guy right on the edge. It's difficult to look at his body of work and vote for him, but I have a more difficult time looking at Dan Fouts' postseason chokes and accepting his selection. One of the reasons I don't like this mania for putting every guy who played well "last Sunday" into the Hall of Fame is because if we do that, then don't we have to go back and put in all of the guys who played well on the Sundays we've forgotten?

Franklin from St. Augustine, FL:
What are your thoughts on the Carolina Panthers owners forcing season ticket/PSL owners to pay over $200 for the privilege of keeping their PSLs just because they chose not to buy a ticket for the playoff game?

Vic: My thoughts are aren't you glad the Jaguars don't do PSLs, and when are Jaguars fans going to realize how good they have it?

Drew from Jacksonville:
How do you answer questions about Ray Guy and not answer a question about how you feel if the Jags were to switch to a 3-4?

Vic: I've answered it several times. I could be wrong but I just don't see this team going to the 3-4 as their base defense. Derrick Harvey might have to play linebacker. John Henderson might be too tall and upright to play nose tackle and the Jaguars linebackers aren't 3-4 types. Everybody thinks schemes win. I don't think I'll ever be able to make people believe it's players, not plays, even though any coach will tell you that's the truth. The fans see the Steelers play the 3-4 and they want their team to play the 3-4, but the Jaguars' personnel no more fits a 3-4 than the Steelers' fits a 4-3. Last winter, all the talk was about the attack-style defense Gregg Williams was going to install. How did that work? Please believe me, it's players, not plays.

Manuel from Jacksonville:
How do you know who is NFL caliber and who isn't or why successful quarterbacks in college won't make it in the NFL or need to make a switch to another position?

Vic: Go back to something I've repeatedly said about scouting: It's a crystal ball business. These guys don't get paid to tell you who's good. They get paid to tell you who's going to be good. The jump from college to the NFL is big and some players' talents don't translate as well in the NFL as they did in college because the game is played differently in college than it is in the NFL. Here's an example: During the Eagles-Giants playoff game, I saw Donovan McNabb standing in the pocket looking for an open receiver. He was having trouble finding a guy but he had plenty of time to throw so he just stood there looking. Then, all of a sudden, a receiver flashed open over the middle and just as quickly the ball was gone and it was in the receiver's hands. McNabb cut it loose so quick that his release was almost undetectable, and he threw a dart. Now ask yourself, how many quarterbacks in college football could make that throw? It's one of the throws that defines an NFL-caliber quarterback. Could Pat White make it? Could Tim Tebow make it? Matt Stafford can make that throw and that's why he's going to be a high pick. I think he has some accuracy and inconsistency issues but he has the arm to make all of the throws and that's what defines an NFL-caliber quarterback.

William from Jacksonville:
You've covered Super Bowls. What was your most memorable media-day moment of absurdity from those sessions?

Vic: I remember from Super Bowl IX or X a Franco Harris look-alike either crashing the media day or hanging around so he could be seen. The guy was a hoot. He looked just like Franco.

Matthew from Bartow, FL:
You've explained why Ray Guy is not in the Hall of Fame, but tell me why Ken Stabler is not there?

Vic: He's not in the Hall of Fame because everybody can't be in the Hall of Fame. A line has to be drawn somewhere. This Hall of Fame mania we're in really doesn't bother me because I like the attention it's bringing to the Hall of Fame and the guys who are in it. I like the examination their careers are all of a sudden getting. I cheer your interest but please understand that the measuring tool that's used must be very exacting. Canton is the pro football Holy Land and the Hall of Fame selection committee is its gate-keeper.

Margy from Jacksonville:
Is there any guy in the Hall of Fame whose position was to strictly kick the ball? It seems this is one position that receives very little respect. Am I wrong?

Vic: Jan Stenerud is that guy. He's the only kicker-only in the Hall of Fame; Lou Groza was a kicker who played tackle and Yale Lary was a punter who played defensive back. I've long detected a degree of regret from committee members on Stenerud's selection because it opened the door for other kickers who will undoubtedly equal or exceed Stenerud's performance. What about Adam Vinatieri? Matt Stover? Gary Anderson? Jim Bakken? You don't want the Hall of Fame to turn into a Hall of Kickers. I would have no problem with a separate display for dramatic kicks and great kickers, but I just don't think kickers and punters belong in the same room with the men who crippled their bodies playing the game.

Ed from Danvers, MA:
I loved Jim Plunkett when I had Patriots season tickets back in the day and I was so happy for him when he won the two Super Bowls. Did you ever get to interview him?

Vic: I interviewed him several times and he was a truly accommodating guy. I always liked him and I loved his life story so I've always been partial to him when it comes to Hall of Fame talk. He's just a really good guy who played his best football in the biggest games of his career. I always thought of him as a real pro.

Eric from Jacksonville:
I asked you a question before the playoffs started, asking if you thought Arizona was the worst team in the playoffs. You were not quick to agree with me. I owe them an apology. What did you see in this team to keep you from agreeing with me?

Vic: I saw Larry Fitzgerald. I knew he was really good and that's why I maintained a degree of respect for the Cardinals, despite their record and meltdown in New England. What I didn't realize is that Fitzgerald may be the best receiver I've ever seen. He's fabulous. The Steelers are going to struggle covering him because the Steelers play a lot of zone and Fitzgerald knows how to find the soft spots in zones.

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