I think that—this this isn't going to answer your question perfectly—for us, right now what we are looking for is to change the things that we feel like need to change for us to finish better. That is going to be our focus this year. We didn't finish very well last year. Is that one thing? No. How many things go into that? There are probably a lot of things that go into that. We need to be able to improve consistently as the year goes on. I think we had the pedal down on the floor since we go there last year—we really tried to accelerate our player's understanding of what we wanted to try and do. We had a very physical training camp and then started the season the way we wanted to, but didn't finish the way we wanted to. I think that we have to try and figure out that perfect blend of how to get your team ready to go at the beginning of the season, but continue to climb the mountain in a positive direction so that we can play our best football in December. We didn't do that last year, and I think whether that was a lesson learned or you just understand that if you are not getting better as the season progresses and playing your best at the end that something has to change."
On if he will back off in spots
"It might mean that, it might mean less of this or more of something else as well. It might be more of some kind of practice or some type of meetings, but there are certainly things that we have to try and do differently to try and get our football team to improve. It is no one's fault, we don't blame players, we don't blame coaches, this is something as a team as an organization that we need to do better. It starts with me and we are going to try and do all we can starting in the offseason and change the offseason program a little bit. We are going to try and get better in every way that we can and hopefully that will end with us having an ascension at the end of the season instead of a decline."
On if it was easier to evaluate Brady Quinn because of his familiarity with the system
There are also some things that he was doing in Cleveland—since (Cleveland Offensive Coordinator) Brian (Daboll) was there—that we do as well. There are plenty of things that they do in Cleveland that we don't do and vice versa. I don't know if it is easier to evaluate. I think you evaluate the player based on the opportunities he has to succeed and say ‘Alright was this his fault or was it someone else's fault? Was it a scheme thing? What was the difference he could have made on the play?' Anytime you are looking at a player, I think you have to try and isolate him and see what he could have done better and see what he could have done to affect the play in a positive or negative fashion. Like I said, I think it is our job as coaches to take a player and put them into our system and then make them better players. What he has done before statistically and all that stuff, I don't really care about that. I am focused on what he can do and try and make him do those things more consistently and that is our focus and that is our attitude with every one of our players. What did (DL) Jamal Williams do well? Well we are going to try and do that as well as we can and as much as we can and try to get him to improve as well. It is the same thing with all of our players; I think the familiarity with terms is just going to be a comfort thing for a quarterback, so that will help him. But I think that is the focus for the entire team, is to try and improve the competition and hopefully he can do that."
On if he is embracing the opportunity to help Quinn improve
"I am fond of that position, I am not afraid to say that. I am excited to work with (QB Tom) Brandstater coming from last year where he didn't know anything, now he knows our system and let's see how far we can take him. Same thing with Brady Quinn and same thing with Kyle Orton. That is why I said, Kyle's been in our system less than a calendar year, so for us we see great opportunity to build on what we did do already and trying to improve each one of those players at that position. It is a great position to be able to teach and focus on because there are so many things that go into being effective at it. It is not a physical thing solely, it is not a mental thing, there are a lot of little things that you have to do right and I think the more you work with them, the more repetitions they get, the more things that you can say ‘that is not a strength of his' you focus on it for the next three or four weeks and try to eliminate it. We did that some with Kyle last year and we are going to do that with all of our quarterbacks. I think it is a position where you can see some benefits quicker because there are so many little things that go into them being effective players that if you can change one of them you have made them a better player. So, there is a lot to work on with all three of those players and it is going to be an exciting thing for us and we are going to be hard at work.
On if he has affection for QBs who have been doubted
"It is more of what they do have in common than where they came from, when they were drafted. To me, Kyle Orton has always shown the ability to be a smart player, he is an accurate player. He can understand what we ask him to do. Same thing with Tom Brandstater, some people said ‘What about Tom's accuracy?' You can work on those things; there are certain things you can fix on a quarterback."
On being born with accuracy
"I totally disagree with that, I think that is one of the few things that you can certainly coach a player—that is our job. And I'll say this: accuracy is not something that is just the quarterback's responsibility. There are so many things that go into completion percentage and those kinds of things. Scheme, your players have to get open, you have to protect long enough for the quarterback to throw the football effectively. Situational plays and then obviously he has to put the football in a place for the player to catch it. So there are a lot of things that can affect that. I don't look at what they can't do, I try and look at what they can do and then say that we can do it better and we can build off of this and that is our job. If we can't improve the player then we are doing a good job with what we have to do."
On RB Knowshon Moreno
"I think those are things that players have to deal with all the time. Injuries and missing practice and those types of things. I am certainly not going to sit here and say he wouldn't have benefitted from practices, but like I said there are a lot of things that go into those kinds of plays. To have successful plays, you need to have a lot of guys doing the right thing. There were some plays where we had some very solid runs, there were games when we had great production, between he and Buck (RB Correll Buckhalter) and we look forward to having him improve. He hasn't been in our system a calendar year either. He hasn't been in the NFL a calendar year, so it is something that we hope to see a lot of improvement from a lot of our young players. We feel like we have a lot of potential there. We have high expectations for Knowshon in his second year but I don't think that is anything that he feels like himself. We are looking forward to year No. 2."
On CB Alphonso Smith's role with CB Nate Jones on the team
"Doesn't change a thing. We have high expectations for all of our young players. Nathan Jones is a player we felt could come in and improve our competition and depth. He has been a special teams player a defensive player, he has played safety. We love his versatility, we love his attitude. He has worked with (S) Renaldo (Hill) and ‘Goody' (CB André Goodman), so he came highly regarded in terms of his capacity mentally, the way he works. I don't think you can have enough competition at any spot and I think Nathan is going to come in with a great attitude and Alphonso is working hard. It is year two for a lot of our players and we expect definite improvement in a lot of areas."
On having a veteran defense
"We have a lot of young players that are in that mix though. The defensive line, we have a lot of 20-somethings right behind them that have played a lot of football. Alphonso is young, (S) Darcel (McBath) is young, Nathan is young, (S) David Bruton is young. (CB) Tony Carter played last year, he is young. Our linebacking core is fairly young, (OLB/DE) Mario (Haggan) is the only one over 30 in that group, so you can spin it either way. You can say we have a lot of younger players that have great mentors that can help bring them along so that they can play a bigger role on our football team, or you can say we are old. To me, we have a great blend. We have a lot of great veteran leaders and I think that you need a good blend. I think if every player on your offense or defense is real young, you could have real problems. If everyone is real old, you can have real problems. But I don't know what real old is though, I have seen a lot of players play a lot of good football at 34, 36 and 37. We had guys last year who went to the Pro Bowl in their 30s, that didn't surprise me or anyone else. We will look forward to big years from them this year."
On the offensive line depth chart
"It's March; we don't have a depth chart. We just have a bunch of sweaty guys working out."
On veteran players
"I think the mindset of a player as he gets older is he has to understand what he has to continue to do in the offseason to continue to play at a high level. All those players that we have that are 30, 31, 33, 36—they understand that their body is not the same as it was when they were 25-years old. I think that is a big part of it. If they think that they don't have to do a whole lot and I am just going to play at this level, I think they could decline quicker than what they do. To me, that is a tribute to them understanding their bodies, to them understanding that they want to continue to play at a high level and figuring out what they can do to maintain that. I think that is the common denominator that they all have. They have a great attitude, a great approach and they are all dying to continue to play. That is why Champ Bailey is there right now, that is why Dawkins is there right now. Jamal Williams is there and-on-and-on-and-on. They are working hard to prepare their bodies to go through the rigors. I think the other thing as a coach is you need to manage certain people. When we go to training camp or go through the season, there is no way we can just sit there and say ‘Look, we should treat Alphonso Smith the same as we treat Champ Bailey in terms of repetitions or rest.' Same thing with Dawkins, same thing with Jamal. If you just try and treat everybody like they are all 23-years old as a coach, then you can be the problem. We have to do the right thing, what is important is they are ready to go on Sundays in the season and that is going to be the big thing for us and then we are going to get the most out of everybody and that is what our goal is."
On not being afraid of age
"I think you evaluate what you see. What the league saw last year is Brian Dawkins have a Pro Bowl season, Champ Bailey have a Pro Bowl season, André Goodman have one of the best seasons of his career and on-and-on-and-on. There a bunch of players I can sit here and name. I think that is something that you blend with younger players. We have young players basically behind those players that you are talking about. To me, that is a setup that Brian (Xanders) and I have talked about trying to put in place, because who better to learn from as a young safety than Renaldo and Brian. Who better to learn from as a young corner like Nathan and Alphonso and Tony than Champ and Andre Goodman? Who better to learn from for Ronnie Fields and Ryan McBean than two players who have a lot of experience who have done this at a high level in the NFL? To me that is a great setup. I learned from a lot of coaches who were older than I was but I got to soak up as much of that knowledge as I possibly could from Romeo (Crennel), and Bill (Belichick), and Eric (Mangini), and Rob Ryan and Pepper Johnson and Charlie Weis. Those kinds of people had a profound effect on me and I don't know why it can't be the same with players. To build your depth that way, to put a few young players in at different positions to rest certain other players, that is a solid blend and what we aim for."
On the draft
"We haven't finished out preparations yet, it certainly seems there are a lot of tackles this year that are capable and offensive tackles that are good players. The defensive line seems deeper than it has been in some years past, linebacker, there are different types of linebackers certainly."
On the safeties in the draft
"I think there are some good safeties in there as well. This is a deep draft and to each his own I guess. It is all in the eye of the beholder and what you are looking for and what you think of those players. I think there is a lot of talk this time of year that may not be true. They try and smoke screen you. I think there are a lot of good defensive players in this draft. But again there are a lot of tackles that should get drafted high; there are some other positions that are strong in other areas."
On restricted free agents
"There is nothing we can do. We have done our part, we are not unique. Every other team is going through the same process and we are going to work hard to try and improve our football team every day. With the players that are there and we know in time we will have our team there and when we do it will be time to work."
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