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A Conversation with Editor-in-Chief Vic Ketchman: Part Two!

Our interview with Editor-in-Chief Vic Ketchman continues

Chris: On a more serious note, my expectation for the 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars is to eliminate the "yeah, but" from the team.  By that I mean casting off the "yeah, but they couldn't beat Indianapolis" or "yeah, but they didn't win the division", when discussing the team in comparison to the top tier of the NFL.  What are your expectations for the 2008 Jaguars?  Do you think the Jaguars will seriously contend for the division and give Indianapolis a challenge?

Vic: Yeah, I do and in fact I not only think they can, I think the expectation is that they will.  That should be the expectation.  In my opinion the goal going into this season as we sit here in June is win the division.  I know, the goal is always win the super bowl, but there is plenty of time for readjusting the goals heading into the postseason.  They'll be plenty of time to readjust the goals based on new circumstances that present themselves along the way.  You're going to have injuries, you're going to have a surprise sleeper team come from nowhere, you're going to have a situation heading into the postseason that you didn't expect.  There's going to be surprises.  So there will be plenty of time to readjust the goals, or not so much readjusting the goals, because it's always "win it all", but there's plenty of time to reorder our thoughts when the regular season comes to an end and this team heads into the postseason, if in fact it's going to make the playoffs.

At this point in time there is no doubt in my mind a very crystal clear goal is win the division.  I say that not only because this is a pursuit that has eluded this team for all these years while Indianapolis has dominated the division, but I say that because mostly because if you look at the schedule, you'll see that three of the first four games of the year are against the Jaguars opponents in the AFC South.

Chris: We'll know where we are in the division race before October 1st.

Vic: Exactly. The bottom line is that if at the end of september the Jaguars haven't won at least two of those three games, it's a bitter disappointment.

Chris: We'll know if the Jaguars will be a wild-card or a division contending team by that point.

Vic: Well, no.  I don't want to suggest that the season will be decided by the first of october.  What we'll know is if this team will disappoint us as far as it's performance against teams in the AFC South.  This team does not have a good record against AFC South teams and that's why it hasn't won the division. 

So in my opinion the goal has to be to beat division opponents and win the division.  I think that the immediacy of what the schedule presents makes that goal very obvious.  You've got to win division games, and you've got half the games you're going to play in the division in the first four weeks of the season.  So what does that tell you?  If that doesn't scream out that the goal is "win a division title", then I think you have to be trying to ignore it.

Chris: Huge topic shift here, if you don't mind.  What writers would you say influenced you in your development as a Journalist?

Vic: The honest answer there is that there are too many to name.  Here's why.  For just about all the years of my career I have been an editor.  Which means that I'm reading all the stuff of the guys on my staff, which means that I'm reading a lot of guys.  Guys on my staff, guys on other newspapers staffs, all the Jim Murray's, all the syndicated guys, and all of that stuff.  Everything I read impacts me.  Jim Murray would be the trendy answer for someone from my generation because he was such a dominant writer when I was at the most impressionable age.  His column on Woody Hayes is immortal.  

Jim Murray's column about losing his best friend, his eyesight, is something I'll never forget.  Clearly Jim Murray is one of those guys and one of those names I could throw at you that people would recognize, but there are a lot of guys whose names you wouldn't recognize that have had major impacts on the way I wanted to write.

One of the things I really liked about re-reading what I wrote from 1981, and I haven't read anything that I wrote from that far back until I read that recently on your website, but the thing that hit me from reading that was that my style hasn't changed.  You know what style is another word for?  Personality.  You are what you are.  You can't make a style. You can't sit down and say "I like Jim Murray style, I'm going to write Jim Murray style".  You can read Murray and get an appreciation for how he perceived the same thing that you've seen, but you can't write according to someone else's style.  Style is unique, it is your own, and if I got something from the Jim Murray's of the world it was inspiration.  I never felt that I was capable of imitating them, but I was clearly inspired by them.

I would urge everyone who has an appreciation for sports-writing to somehow look up or find the Jim Murray column on how he lost his best friend, his eyesight and read that column on what those eyes had seen.  It's a beautiful piece of sports-writing and it's what we don't do enough of these days.  We give too much of our time to the Chad Johnson's of the world who just blather and blather and tell the people nothing that they didn't already know.  Which is to say that it's all about them.  We don't have enough guys who give us real prose, who give us real literature, some real drama, some really worthwhile writing. 

Chris: One of the hot issues in journalism and sports-writing is the rise of the internet and the role of Blogging in sports coverage.  Specifically the tension that is growing between people like me, on the outside of coverage, and those on the inside in traditional journalism.   The debate recently embroiled Buzz Bissenger, author of Friday Night Lights, and Will Leitch of in a very public fight.  What do you think of the rise of new media and how it relates to what you do?

Vic: Whatever you're going to ask, I can answer it this way.  I have one great advantage; I'm too small, too insignificant, and I'm too thick skinned to care.  Also, I believe, very very strongly in freedom of speech.  It's number one of all of our freedoms, it's number one.  I'd rather not be called dirty names, and there are probably more distinguished of expressing dissent, but if you want to rip me, that's OK, go ahead.

Chris: It's the readers right to choose what they read?

Vic: Yeah, I'm OK with it.  I'm too small and too insignificant to think I'm too big to be criticized.  I am clearly not above it.

Chris: If you had to identify something to watch out for as a potential problem for the 2008 Jaguars, a problem area or position, what would you keep an eye on as we get into Training Camp?

Vic: I have tried to answer that question.  While alone, I'll be driving down the road and I'll think to myself  "What's the trouble spot on this team?, come on Ketchman, every team has one, you're missing it".  And I can''t come up with an answer.

I have some candidates: for whatever reasons my instincts tell me that the defensive line is still an issue.  You've drafted two guys, but I think it's unfair to expect them to be Bubba Smith and Deacon Jones in their rookie seasons.  We've counted on Rob Meier for so many years to be the answer at defensive end or defensive tackle whenever we've needed him, but we've never counted on him to be a starter.  That's a new role for him.  It's not like coming off the bench for a play here and a play there or a game here and a game there.  John Henderson was up and down last season, was that just a departure from what he has been in previous years or is it something to be concerned about.  I don't know what the answer to these are, but if there was one place I could put my finger on as a place of concern, it would probably be the defensive line.

Can Rob Meier be an every down, every game player?  Will John Henderson play like he did at the end of last season or will he be like he was at the beginning of the season?  Can Paul Spicer do it again?  Can Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves do it right away?  Those are a lot of questions.  That's why I would point my finger at the defensive line.  But remember, the answer to those questions could be on the positive side?

Chris: Do you think Defensive End Reggie Hayward could be a "surprise cut" through training camp?  Looking at the roster it seems unlikely that the Jaguars would carry as many players as the have on the Defensive Line.  It's almost like Hayward is competing less against the rookies at defensive end and more against how many players the Jaguars want to carry on other positions like offensive line, etc.

Vic: He's competing against Harvey and Groves.  They drafted two defensive ends, figure it out.

Chris: Yes, Reggie is obviously competing against the rookies, what I mean is that Reggie's future with the team could depend on how many players they want to keep at other positions.

Vic: Chris, they didn't draft defensive ends with their first two picks because they liked the depth they had.  Clearly the intent is to upgrade defensive end.  Reggie is being challenged.  We know about his Achilles injury and that's why he's being challenged.  Before that injury, if he was the guy he was before he got hurt, they'd never of made those picks.  These were need draft picks and the Jaguars jockeyed themselves to into position to fit themselves where the player was. 

You betcha, he's facing a big challenge.  He's a great guy, he's a guy I'll rooting for him every step of the way.  I love the guy.  he's a sensational interview, he's a real reporters dream.

Chris: On Matt Jones. There were some reports that there an element of punishment as to what was happening to Matt Jones and OTA's.  Specifically that the team was going to hold onto Matt for as long as possible and then release him after most teams have set their rosters.

Vic: I have no information along those lines.  I will tell you this, that I watch very closely for these kind of indicators.  I don't try to play scout, I try to play reporter.  I know what a reporter should be looking for.  What I saw during OTA's was Todd Monken, the Wide Receivers Coach, working with Matt Jones individually before and after every practice every day, throwing him ball after ball after ball trying to improve his catching skills.  Working with him in an individual capacity day after day after day.  Why would a coach dedicate all that extra team if a decision has already been made to release him.  Those are things that a reporter looks for.  Forget all that cover 2, cover 3 crap, I'll leave that for the experts, the ex players and their analysis.  I'm not a scout, I'm not an ex player, I'm a reporter.  When I go out to practice, I look for little things that will tell me what the truth is.   The truth is that Todd Monken gave more of his extra time during spring practices to Matt Jones than any other wide receiver on the team.  That's a fact.  That's an opinion of what I believe is a fact.

It's up to Matt, they haven't quit on him, it's up to Matt.  He'll decide based on what he dose during training camp what his position and place with the team will be.

Chris: Do you think placing a guy like Mike Walker on the PUP list is an option for buying the Jaguars a little more time to figure out what to do at receiver?

Vic: I'm not clairvoyant.  I know that he's got an issue with his knee and that he has to prove to Jack Del Rio that his knee can hold up to the daily regimen of training camp.  If they see that he's the same guy day after day after day that will indicate that the knee is ready to take the punishment.  If he's not as good tomorrow or the day after and they see that there is a decline then they have to react accordingly, whatever that means.

In the last week of OTA's, he was better every day.  That's the good thing right now.  He only practiced for the last 8 or nine days of spring practices, but he was better every day and really, really, had an eye-popping practice on the final day.  All the indicators there are good.  They'll be watching closely.

Thank you Vic for taking the time to talk with us!