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You gotta do both

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

Matt from Jacksonville:
What do you think the chances would be that the Jaguars will pick either Ashton Youboty, CB, Ohio St., Tye Hill, CB, Clemson, or Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida St., then in the second round A.J. Nicholson, OLB, Florida St. or Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida St., and in the third round Dominique Byrd, TE, USC or Joel Klopfenstein, TE, Colorado.

Vic: Come on, there must be somebody from Florida State the Jaguars could pick in the third round, too.

Jill from Jacksonville:
I loved your article on the choice of jerseys for the Steelers. The white jerseys are truly symbolic of their amazing road achievement. I now find myself rooting for a team I've never really given much thought to. After watching them these past weeks, it wouldn't be the same if they weren't wearing white in the Super Bowl. Congrats to a group of good guys with a great leader.

Vic: You understand perfectly. Bill Cowher's decision that his team would go against tradition and wear their white jersey in the Super Bowl has nothing to do with fashion. It has nothing to do with the heat or marketing or even superstition, although I'm sure some players wouldn't feel comfortable changing jersey colors during a winning streak. There was no option but to wear white. In this particular case, and this is an extreme case, the jersey has become symbolic of who they are and what they have done. No matter what happens in the Super Bowl, the 2005 Steelers will forever be remembered for beating the first, second and third-seeded playoff teams in the AFC on the road. Their white jerseys are the symbol of that achievement.

Charles from Rogers, AR:
In playing Xbox 360, I used Matt Jones in the manner for which his body was made. I threw jump balls using the sideline and he gained over 1,000 yards, 30-plus touchdowns and went to the Pro Bowl. In your opinion, were Jones' rookie numbers muted due to play-calling?

Vic: The problem was that he's too tall to squeeze into that Xbox.

Kaarel from Tallinn, Estonia:
I really enjoyed this week's radio show, which mainly revolved around salary cap and team management issues. Considering its importance these days, that side of the NFL is almost as fascinating to follow as the game itself. I'm pretty sure that way less than 99 percent of the audience thinks talking about it is a waste of air time.

Vic: The salary cap and the CBA and revenue-sharing are really difficult subjects to understand. In a lot of ways, I think it's unfair that fans have to know about those things to be able to fully understand the game of pro football. That's why I try so hard to explain those three topics as simply as I can and, frankly, a lot of times I fail in my attempts. I'll be in the middle of an explanation and I'll find myself speaking in "capese" and I'll think to myself that everyone has stopped listening and I become frustrated. The salary cap is so important in understanding the game that's actually played on the field that if you don't know the cap you can't fully understand or appreciate anything else about pro football. A guy who knows the cap can take a look at a team's cap and know instantly what kind of team it is and what its future is. The cap is the ultimate tea leaf. I appreciate your attempts to listen and understand.

Mike from Raiford, FL:
At the risk of sounding stupid, I have to ask why was 2007 left as an uncapped year?

Vic: That's not a stupid question at all. That's a great question. The 2007 season was left uncapped because it was felt it would encourage both sides to extend the cap. There are negatives for both sides in an uncapped year. For the players, a guy who just completed his fourth or fifth pro season and whose contract expires in '06 won't become an unrestricted free agent because one of the provisions of the uncapped year is that the qualification for unrestricted free agency is raised from four years to six years. The negative of an uncapped year for owners is that they run the risk of losing a great system of operation.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL:
I'm a strong believer in run the ball, stop the run. I understand the whole concept and what it does. Last week at work I talked about running it, stopping it and not turning it over to another employee. He insisted that passing is just as important as being able to run the ball. I believe running is much more important.

Vic: This has become a ridiculous debate; it's like a dog chasing its tail. Why do people pick sides? You have to be able to do both. The whole idea of running the ball is that it'll cause your opponents to respect the line of scrimmage, instead of dropping seven guys into pass-coverage. Once you're able to make your opponent respect the need to stop the run, your quarterback has a chance to have a big day so, go ahead, throw it. He can sell the play-action fake. The threat of run has quieted the rush. Why do you think Ben Roethlisberger has been successful in the playoffs? The Steelers' opponents are so consumed with stopping the Steelers' vaunted running game that Roethlisberger is throwing into man-to-man coverage; eight defenders are always at the line of scrimmage. The Steelers' playoff run is the best example of what a strong running game does. The Steelers are beating teams with their running game and they haven't run it worth a darn. They're beating teams with the mere threat of running the ball. It wouldn't mean a thing, however, if you didn't have a passing game that could take advantage of what you've established with the run. It works the other way, too. Making opponents respect a wide-open passing game widens the running lanes. It's called balance; make the defense play the whole field. The issue goes beyond strategy, however, and that's where the true run-the-ball, stop-the-run guys dig in their heels. When you stress the need to run the ball and stop the run, you put the emphasis on the physical side of the game. Your team gets tougher. It practices blocking and tackling. It develops grit and a sense of physical superiority. I hear people talk all the time about swagger. That's swagger; the confidence a team feels when it knows it's physically superior.

Chris from Crestview, FL:
I still don't understand. If the cap is at $90 million and you sign a guard for $10 million, somewhere, somehow that has to work itself out economically. Big teams, small teams, they all spend the $90 million.

Vic: You're right when you say that it eventually will "work itself out." The problem is that until we get to eventually, the teams that manage their caps conscientiously are going to be at a major disadvantage. The reckless spenders have passed on their player costs to the conscientious spenders, who have realized higher player costs and a greater strain in remaining fiscally responsible. These conscientious spenders choose to have a competitive team every year, instead of chasing the Super Bowl in one year and then going into cap recovery for three years. This problem would not exist if we had a hard cap. What we have, however, is a soft cap. A hard cap would require all money spent in a year to appear on that year's cap; in other words, no pushing bonus amortization into other years. A soft cap is the opposite. A soft cap creates something known as "cash over cap." That's why teams are over the cap going into the '06 salary cap year. "Cash over cap" is bonus amortization that's been pushed out. The cap was $85.5 million in 2005 but the Redskins spent way over that amount. The money over and above the cap is proration and now it's caught up to them. So it worked itself out, right? Yeah, it did, but a lot of teams are paying for the Redskins' mistakes in the form of higher salaries and that's not just cap money, that's real money. There's one more component of large-market teams passing their costs on to small-market teams: The large revenue streams big-market teams have drive the cap higher and that'll become a major problem for small-market teams in a TFR (total football revenue) model. The small-market teams would be realizing higher salary caps as a result of money the large-market teams have generated but the small-market teams can't. That's where revenue-sharing becomes so important.

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