Coaches Corner - Part 2

Part 2 of Mike Shanahan's final press conference of the 2005 season.

Mike Shanahan
On whether he expects RB Ron Dayne to return
"Yeah, I do. I thought Ron did a great job. He's a guy that -- I think if one of our other backs went down, he would have taken advantage of that opportunity. I liked the way he handled himself. I like the way he worked. He's a free agent. But I talked to him and I sure like him back and hopefully he will be back. He's got a lot of talent."

On where WR David Terrell fits in the future of the team
"Well, when (WR) Todd Devoe was going to miss that one game, we were going to bring David up, so it gives you an idea that he was pretty impressive to our organization, our football team. Our wide receivers stayed healthy so we never really got a chance to see them play. One of the reasons was the other two receivers (Devoe and Charlie Adams) were very good on special teams. But I think David's got a chance to be an excellent receiver and we'll get a chance to work with him in the offseason and we'll find out what he does once he gets to the preseason games, but he does get a lot of talent."

On whether Terrell could play special teams
"Usually when you're an early first-round pick and kind of the guy in college, you don't play a lot of special teams. That's what he was. In college he was a top wide receiver, early first-round pick and really didn't play special teams very much."

On whether WR Darius Watts fits into the team's future
"Darius was a guy that was inconsistent the year before and was not consistent enough in preseason to give him that opportunity to play. With the numbers two, three and four wide receivers playing well on special teams, he didn't get an opportunity. Now, he still probably has as much ability as any receiver I've been around. This offseason will be crucial for him to get consistent catching the ball and when he does, he'll be a difference-maker, and if he doesn't, then he won't be on the field."

On how he feels about RB Mike Anderson's age going into next season
"I don't really think about guys being old. It's when they're old and not be very productive. Hopefully Mike can come back in great shape and be productive for us. If he's productive he'll play, if not, he'll play in a backup role."

On whether he felt RB Tatum Bell was not an every-down back
"I'm not going to say not. We played him in that role because we thought it was best for our football team. If he proves he can carry it 25 times a game and still be productive, I'd love to have him in that role because he does have a lot of ability."

On what it takes to be an every-down back
"I can't tell you what it is. You either do it or you don't. We'll evaluate that in practices and in games. That's usually evaluated for a back during the season."

On how he feels about bringing C Tom Nalen back
"I feel very good about bringing back Tom. I talked to Tom. If we didn't have Tom back, I'd be very disappointed. Hopefully we can compete with everybody out there. He wants to be a part of this organization. You never know in free agency, but I will do everything I can to make sure he's back here."

On who the difference makers on the current roster are
"I don't talk about that. That's for you guys to decide, how many guys we have, how good we are or how bad we are. The guys that we've got we let them contribute and play as good as they can play. I've been pleased with the effort and the way guys have stepped up. Everybody wants difference makers. Everybody wants great players. Sometimes you get a great player who isn't a team player, and you have a great player who still doesn't help you win games. It's a fine line what you do to a football. You have to do things the right way."

On how well C Tom Nalen played in 2005
I think he played very well. Tom is a guy who gives you everything that he has on every play. If he's not giving you everything that he's got, then he'll retire because that's his make up. I think he was a bit healthier this year, he wasn't as beaten up than in years past, that would be the reason that he played at a very high level."

On whether CB Domonique Foxworth's performance against Pittsburgh tainted an otherwise strong rookie season
"Not at all. Young guys are going to have some great games, they're going to have some tough games. Pittsburgh played well. We talked about those third downs, 8-for-9. Touchdowns on third-and-8, third-and-8, second-and-13 with 17 seconds left or whatever it was. Those are things that you fight through. The bottom line is did you get it done or not, and we didn't get it done."

On whether he feels rookie CBs Domonique Foxworth and Darrent Williams will be good going forward
"To be honest with you, you don't know. You're always hoping you drafted the right guy. It's been stated many times that we haven't been too good with our corner picks - even though Deltha (O'Neal) is in the Pro Bowl and Tory (James) has been to the Pro Bowl, but I won't go into that I'll just throw that out there – you're never really sure how guys are going to step up, but I was really impressed with how those three young guys stepped up. All three of them, even though Karl (Paymah) didn't play that much. He played on special teams, when he did play he played well, except for late in the Washington game."

On TE Wesley Duke's progress
"He's a guy who's never played the game. For him to play as much as he did is pretty impressive. He's got some athletic ability. He's going to play in NFL Europe and get a chance to put the pads on a little bit more. We'll see what he can do blocking, receiving, game situations. It's about a month earlier than it normally is, so we'll still get him back in plenty of time to get ready for the season. It should be a great experience for him. Time will tell."

On his history of letting good defensive backs go
"I knew that was going to come up and I should have kept quiet. It's kind of funny with Tory James. I don't know if anybody remembers, but the Raiders made him a pretty good contract after he was hurt. We were dealing with the salary cap at that time, but I still hit myself in the head for letting him go, especially to that team. Deltha (O'Neal) has done a great job. He's really stepped up and made some plays. I take my hat off to him."

On who he is rooting for in the Super Bowl
"I always go with the AFC. I kinda pull for the AFC. I'm also good friends with(Seattle Head Coach) Mike (Holmgren) and know a lot of people in that organization. It's really tough. I'm just rooting for a great game. When I'm in the AFC, I'm always rooting for the AFC, when I'm in the NFC, I'm always rooting for the NFC."

On his assessment of DT Gerard Warren's season and if he expects to re-sign him
"Like I said, we're going to do our best to sign these guys. I think Gerard Warren had one heck of a year, played extremely well. I like the way he handled himself, the way he worked. As I told him, I said, ‘Hey, hopefully you're with us.' I'll be surprised if he's not."

On his assessment of DE Courtney Brown's season
"I think Courtney did very good. I thought he got better as the year went on. That injury early (left elbow)… He's just so strong and powerful and he seemed like he was getting better and better as the season went on. There was a part of the season when he was still hurting a little bit and we had the chance to rest him. When we did rest him, he came back stronger and was healthy. I think it was a great year for him to get a lot of playing time in, feel better about himself that he can stay healthy."

On whether he will have an increased role in the play calling next season due to the loss of Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
"One thing that I'll always do is stay involved with the football aspect of the offense, defense and special teams. To me, if you don't do that as the head coach, you're usually not a head coach very long because coordinators will come and go. You have a gut feeling. That's what got you there. If you're really into football and you give that up, I think it's a big mistake for a head coach."

On the void Gary Kubiak leaves at offensive coordinator
"Like I said, I'm happy for Gary (Kubiak). It's always tough to lose good people. At the same time, I'm excited about his opportunity. We're going to have somebody come in that is going to be dedicated and want an opportunity to show what they can do. I'm sure that person will work out great."

On what the search for a new offensive coordinator means to him
"It's going to take some time. No question about it, but it's kinda fun. Getting back involved, spending some time with some new people. New ideas. It's a learning process. You're always learning. Sometimes it takes change to improve."

On whether he might promote someone from within the organization or from outside
"It could go either way. I haven't sat down and made that final decision either way. I want to sit down and talk to the coaches first and let a little time go by before a decision is made."

On how long it takes him to contact the team's free agents
"What we do is the day after the game they come into the facility and take physicals between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. I talked to a number of people who are free agents and let them know that I'd like them back on our football team. We don't talk about a contract or anything like that. I just want them to know that I appreciate how hard they worked and we're going to do everything we can to try to re-sign them."

On more details of those discussions the day after the last game
"These guys are grown men. They're very smart. They've got agents. All I want to do is convey to them that we'd like them on this football team. All that other stuff will be worked out in time."

On WR Ashley Lelie's season
"Ashley is a guy who made some tremendous plays this year. Some big time plays. Some of the best catches I've ever seen. As we stated last year, he keeps working to improve. He's a guy who has so much talent, I think some of that talent is still out there. The great part about it is that I keep seeing him improve every year. If he keeps working like that, maybe we'll see those consistent 1000-yard seasons."

On whether Lelie has the build to consistently go over the middle
"Yeah, he does. He's a big-stride guy. He doesn't have the feet that Rod (Smith) has underneath. He definitely has the speed. Some different things that he needs to work on, and he has, to get much better."

On his assessment of QB Jake Plummer's season
"I think if you watched Jake this year and you watched him perform, you have to feel very good about Jake Plummer. You're hoping that he keeps on improving and getting better with time."

On whether the four turnovers in the Pittsburgh game tarnishes his season
"First of all, you can't consider that last one a turnover, it was fourth down, If he gets tackled, whatever it was. On that first fumble, (QB Jake Plummer) was trying to make a play. He did everything he possibly could. He wishes he would have held on to the ball. The two interceptions, he wishes he could have those throws back, but that's life as an NFL quarterback. Jake made a number of big plays when some of the protection broke down. People forget about some of those big plays he did make. Jake has been pretty consistent for us. I love the way he competes. He's not afraid to put all of the responsibility on his shoulders when he doesn't play well. I think he's got a real high standard. I'm glad he's our quarterback. I think he's going to keep on working to improve and if you've got a guy like that, you've got a chance for real good things to happen."

On replacing Plummer's relationship with Kubiak
"Well, some of the same plays are still going to be called from different formations. Regardless of where the plays are coming from, it's the practice, it's him working in the offseason to where things become second nature. He'll continue to improve."

On whether he thinks Jake Plummer has what it takes to be a Super Bowl quarterback
"You're always hoping. I remember when we were 13-3 and we lost to Jacksonville (in the 1996 Divisional Playoff Game), there were a number of people in this room who were saying that John Elway was too old and we should get rid of him. I'm not going to name any names because I've said a few things like that myself. That's just the nature of this game. You keep on trying to get better. We missed an opportunity that we're disappointed in. The only thing I know is to get ready for next season. Go regroup, do the best you can to get your football team ready. It starts with free agency, the draft, it's going through these OTA (organized team activity) days, getting your team all pulling in the same direction. When I felt good about our football team, it was because I thought we had so much character. The way the guys monitor each other. The way they handle themselves on and off the football field. That gives you a chance to do something special, and hopefully we will."

On whether he is concerned about the age of some key players
"I think everybody has key players that are over 30. That's the nature of this game. You also want enough young guys so you don't get too old. Hopefully we've got that balance to do something special."

On how long he thinks Rod Smith can continue playing at his high level
"Twelve years. I think 12 more years."

On whether Rod Smith reminds him of Jerry Rice
"He reminds me of Jerry in a number of ways. The way he takes care of his body in the offseason. If you take care of your body, the way he does, you have a chance for good things to happen. That's why he plays at the level he plays at. He never misses a workout. Jerry played at a very high level until he was about 40. Pretty consistent. Rod is the same type of guy. He's a natural leader as well."

On what keeps him coming back as a coach
"I enjoy competing. I enjoy the competition. You're going against the best. It's a great challenge year in and year out to put the best football team on the field. We were one win away from going to the Super Bowl. We're very disappointed we didn't take advantage of that opportunity. I think once you experience Super Bowls, especially a Super Bowl win, it's the greatest feeling in the world. That's why you want to try, at least, to get back."

On whether he enjoys his vice presidential duties in the Broncos' organization
"I don't like the VP aspect at all. That's why so much of my responsibility that I get credit for sometimes is done by the other guys. I don't enjoy negotiating contracts. I don't enjoy looking at the salary cap. I enjoy coaching. It's one of those necessary evils that you have to keep on top of for the obvious reasons."

On the problems the salary cap presents
"That's what you're trying to do all the time. You have to put your best football team together. Guys like you mentioned, you have one guy who made $10 million in a signing bonus and you can get five guys for the same $10 million. It gave us some depth and obviously some key players. We like (former Broncos DE) Reggie (Hayward), but you have to make some decisions some times that are tough. I love (former Broncos S) Kenoy Kennedy. All of a sudden, we had to make a decision there where you're paying three-and-a-half million dollars for a starter where the guy that's backing him up played very well for us isn't making anywhere near that money. It's not that you don't want the player sometimes, because you want the player, but you're dealing with the salary cap, so that's why you have to keep on top of it. It's not a lot of fun."

On his assessment of DE Trevor Pryce's season
"It was nice to get Trevor back. He missed the whole year (2004) with the back surgery. Nobody was really sure if he could play, especially as he gets older, especially with a bad back. I thought he did a great job for us."

On Pryce's start
"I think it took him some time, going through the preseason to get comfortable with his back. I don't think you go in there and feel very good about yourself because that back takes a while. I think through the preseason once we started the regular season, he was close to 100 percent. At least he felt that way about himself."

Click here to read more of coach Mike Shanahan's comments.

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