Coach, can you talk about the loss last week, and losing a game where you had control for 60 minutes and sort of paved your own downfall. What does that take out of a coach?
It takes the same thing out of me that it takes out of everyone on our team. It's disappointing, but you can't be devastated by it or you'll never recover. It's still early in the year and you have to look at the positive fact that, as you said, it was within our control and we were much improved defensively from Week 1. Offensively we moved the ball much better, but there are some things we need to fix or we won't correct how we felt on Sunday, like taking care of the football, protecting our quarterback and getting the run game going.
What's it been like coaching Torry Holt and seeing him work from the inside as opposed to seeing him from afar? What have you learned about him?
He's a professional. Everyone knows that he's a great route runner, has great hands and is a playmaker. He has a nose for the end zone. He's just a world-class guy and you wish that you would hear more about guys like him. He has a positive message and creates a positive environment on our football team as a leader. I can't say enough good things about him.
Coach, how good a football player do you have to be to do what Steven Jackson does, catch that many footballs and run that many times in that offense? For those of us who haven't seen much of him, how good a football player is this kid?
He's just now tapping his abilities. We've gotten off to a slow start with him this season, but that's not unlike how we started last season. But he's one of those guys who can run, he can run behind a back, he can run it inside and has the speed to get to the corner. What's most surprising to us was his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. There are a number of different ways to tap that talent because he's one of the most versatile backs in this league.
Many teams are trying to platoon back. Is it hard to commit to one guy all the time, or does a guy like Steven Jackson make it easy?
I think most teams have a feature back. I know Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in New Orleans — I'm not sure how many teams have that kind of a combination. I think Dallas is doing a nice job with their people, and we're familiar with them because we've played them. Carolina had a couple of good backs, actually three, that played. So I think you utilize the best players on your team, and if two of your backs are two of your best players then you have to find ways to get them on the field. In our case, we have some very solid backups that have done things for us. But Steven has the ability to stay on the field every down so we try to utilize that as much as we can without wearing him out.
The stuff that's going on with New England (spying), (Ravens coach) Brian Billick coming out and talking about the Jets. Does this put a black eye on the NFL?
I don't think so. There's always some kind of controversy going on. This just happens to be the one we're hearing about right now. From our end, concern about any of that kind of thing, it's always been part of the game. Protecting your signals and covering your mouth when you call plays, that kind of thing, that's part of the gamesmanship of the game. But I'm sure there will be a crackdown on the electronic kind of things that are going on, which I would think is pretty isolated and not a big issue.
What's some of the key lessons you've applied this season out of your rookie year as a head coach?
You have ups and downs and you expect them, though you're still planning on having success each week. The bottom line is that anyone can beat anyone and the teams that prepare the best and play the best win. So you prepare for that. But you have to maintain a certain level of consistency, whether you win a game or lose a game and that is the part I've worked the hardest on. Unfortunately the part I'm working on right now is handling the losing the last two games. It is part of the job and you have to expect it.
What's surprised you the most in making the transition from an assistant (to a head coach)
Well, the coordinator that goes on with managing a franchise. That's what you look for and it's what's expected, but there's a lot less football that crosses my desk in the course of a day. When I was an assistant coach or a coordinator, you were pretty much football 24/7. Now it's football related, but there's a lot of things entailed in the job that you don't know about until you do it. That's was all a year ago, so it's old hat to me know, I think.
Coach, from an offensive standpoint, what are your thoughts about the Bucs secondary, with or without Brian Kelly?
I think they played very good football the first two games. There were a couple of big plays (they allowed) in the Seattle game. But they've played very good. I just know Monte (defensive coordinator Kiffin) and his staff does as good a job as anyone in this league at playing that defense (Cover 2) that they've made famous, that everyone seems to be copying. You see the changes and how they've adjusted from five years ago, 10 years ago, and you see why they've been so successful. They have a secondary without Brian Kelly that can still play very well. It's a good testament to the scheme they're running there.
Talk about the talent you have at wide receiver in (Isaac) Bruce, Holt and (Drew) Bennett and the challenge of facing a defense with four solid cornerbacks?
That's our big challenge. I'm certainly very happy to have our personnel and we have some new faces with Bennett and Randy McMichael. But you have to be able to match up in this league and we're going up against a team with some extremely talented defensive players and secondary players that are playing well right now. You have to have weapons yourself, and then you have to protect your quarterback so you can get those guys the ball. Those guys have to get open, and that's our biggest challenge right there.
With all the changes you've had to make on the offensive line, including losing Orlando Pace, how has that affected what you want to do in the running game? And what was Steven (Jackson) barking at you at the end of that game (against San Francisco)?
He was real disappointed. We went out and we had good field position, and we came off the field without taking advantage of it. It was nothing in particular. It was more, we have to take advantage of our opportunities and I don't disagree with that. He wasn't barking at me. He was talking in a competitive voice, so to speak, and it was nothing. We have those conversations all the game. It was a heat of the battle moment and he was really trying to fire everybody up.
And the offensive line is kind of a work in progress right now?
You know, part of this game is injuries, and Tampa had a lot of them not too long ago. You just deal with it. You have to put guys in spots and let them play and not worry about it. We've had our fair share at the start of this season. But we have five guys up that are going to go out there and get it done.