I was real pleased with our performance yesterday for the most part. We lost two key members of our football team for the season. Carnell Williams and Luke Petitgout will have season ending surgery this week. That's a big blow. They're great guys and we'll have some people that need to step up now. We support them and wish them the very best in their recovery. It's a tough day that way, but we're very happy with the win and we look forward to the challenge that awaits us this week in Indianapolis.
Jon, how do you fill the holes at running back and left tackle? Do you do the
Is there any thought to bringing Kenneth Darby up from the practice squad?
There are a lot of thoughts going on right now. I don't want to comment on that. Our personnel people will handle that. At this point Earnest Graham and Michael Pittman will take the bulk of the load and we're confident in them.
At this point how hard is it get past these losses, especially your starting left tackle?
Well you lose a lot of skill. Watching Philadelphia yesterday, they were without their starting left tackle and their running back. It's not an easy thing to overcome. Experience and production at those positions are something that every offense relies on. We're confident in Donald Penn. We're confident that he can go and that he will do a good job for us. Anthony Davis has proven in the past that he can do the job at that position. Michael Pittman has helped us win a couple of division titles. Earnest Graham has showed he's capable of running in this league. We'll move on and do the best we can in the absence of these players.
Talk about Donald Penn. He got a lot of reps during the preseason. How big was that for him? He did a pretty good job yesterday filling in for Petitgout.
There are a lot of guys that have experience in the preseason. Facing Dwight Freeney on the road is a little bit different experience. He and Robert Mathis will be eagerly awaiting our young left tackle. We think he's shown promise. He's an athletic guy who's worked his butt off. It's a credit to Bill Muir and Aaron Kromer and Donald Penn. This is a great opportunity for him and we'll see what happens.
Is this the way this league is? It can be filled with sunshine one moment and then dark clouds the next?
Unfortunately that's part of the business. Sometimes you hear the old Wally Pipp story, someone fills in and becomes a great performer for a long time. Sometimes teams struggle for a long time to replace a guy when he gets injured. The story will be told in the coming weeks.
Do you have a Wally Pipp story?
I'm sure I do but right now I'm not in the mood.
Do you feel snakebit by all of this?
No, man. I feel excited at this point (about the team and season)
You've had catastrophic injuries just about every season?
I don't know if catastrophic is the right word. Catastrophic is a word I use for hurricanes and things like that. I'm just very proud of our football team. I want to focus my comments today on this team and how they're rallying around each other. We have a lot of confidence in this team and we have to move on.
Jon was the resolve of this football team exemplified in how they responded when they carted Cadillac off the field?
I'm better in shallow waters than in those deep philosophical conversations. We have a group of guys that really do like each other, respect each other and care about each other. To see a guy have a very serious injury is hard to swallow, it's hard to take. We have a lot of resolve on this team. We can't look at this as a season-ending situation for us. The season is just beginning and we're excited about what we have left.
What was your outlook on how the team picked up and carried on yesterday without Cadillac and without Luke? They seemed to battle through it.
We battled, we battled. We played 60 minutes of hard-nosed football yesterday. Sure there were some feeling and things going on emotionally, but our guys maintained their focus and continued to pound away. It showed a lot of concentration and mental toughness.
Jon can you talk about the challenge of playing Peyton Manning? What do you remember about him from their visit here (in 2003) ?
I don't remember that being a very fun night. He's the best. He does more at the line of scrimmage than any quarterback I've ever seen. He's going to run the show. Tom Moore is a friend of mine and is one of the best (offensive) coordinators during my coaching career. Those two collaborate on what is a very exclusive scheme, where they highlight Manning's intellect and his understanding of the defense. He will not wasted a play. He is one of the most complete layers at his position and it will be a great challenge.
Can you talk about what he did in 2003? Was that comeback one of the most impressive things you've seen a quarterback do? Do you take that as a lesson or do you purge it from your memory?
Where's Tim Wansley? Tim Wansley's not here anymore. Not to be disrespectful to him. But it's not just Manning. (Marvin) Harrison is a Hall of Famer. (Reggie) Wayne is on his way to being a Hall of Famer. And he's never been injured (Manning), to my understanding. They've enjoyed a tremendous run. Like I said, they will be a handful.
Jon can you talk about the special teams unit, especially the punt unit? It seems they've given you guys good field position on offense the last three weeks?
They've done a great job. We've added a lot of good, young players with a lot of athleticism that have contributed there, not just on punt returns but on kickoffs as well. It certainly helps when guys like Josh Bidwell and Matt Bryant are hanging the ball the way they are. We are improved and, as you said, that field position is a big part of winning games.
Jon would you say the three areas of this football team are as good as they've been since the Super Bowl?
I can't even remember. It's been a long time.
Can you talk about the job your defense did yesterday, specifically against (Carolina) wide receiver Steve Smith?
That's one of the things we're very proud of. Steve is a phenomenal talent and they're very creative in using him. I thought Monte Kiffin did a great job of putting together a plan and our players executed tremendously. We got a pretty good pass rush at times and when he did get the ball we were able to get him down or knock him out of bounds. It was a collaborative effort. He had really smoked us the last four games.
How do you like your chances right now in any game with your quarterback (Jeff Garcia) ?
Well I remember driving from Green Bay to see (former Minnesota head coach) Bud Grant speak, and I remember he said that every coach needs three things — an understanding wife, a loyal dog and a helluva quarterback. Not necessarily in that order. We have a helluva quarterback and he gives us a chance every Sunday. I'm impressed with his playmaking and what he does between the lines. In this building he's real important for our football team.
Talk about the first quarter of the season being complete and the biggest area of improvement you've seen from this team?
Well we have improved in all three areas. We brought in some young guys that have gained valuable experience and gained confidence in the process. We have some free agent newcomers that have come in and assert themselves, not only as good players but also leaders in the clubhouse and the practice field. We're playing off of each other. We're moving the ball, and we may not score every time, but we're doing a pretty good job of moving the ball. We're kicking the ball well, we're covering pretty good, our defense is playing good. We're complementing each other. It's not a lopsided thing as it's been in years past around here. And that's an exciting thing.
Jon, I know you're not a big stats guy, but the defense is ranked fifth —
Fifth in what?
Yards allowed? Is that what you said? Yards allowed?
That's why I don't like stats.
And they haven't allowed a touchdown in the first half of the last three games as well. Talk about your thoughts about this defense and the standard they're starting to set here?
The standards are high. Not to be disrespectful to you but I hate stats. The NFL Network, ESPN and all that stuff. Fifth in the league, fifth in yards allowed — we want to win games. And to do that we have to play very good defense, team defense. We have to stop the run, we have to get some three and outs and we have to generate turnovers. And we certainly need to do that at a high level against the Colts. Fifth or 14th in yards allowed, I could care less. I just want our defense to play like they're playing — physical, fast, opportunistic and if they do that we'll have a chance.
The Colts are trying to do what you tried to do (in 2003). What is the biggest pitfall in trying to repeat?
Sometimes good fortune is hard to repeat. I remember when (Mike) Alstott and (Joe) Jurevicius were carted off the field. Brian Kelly went down early. When you lose three or four of your key performers you don't have as much good fortune as you did during your Super Bowl season. So far I don't really know the Colts injury history. But they're a great football team. Coach (Tony) Dungy is a great football coach and has an excellent staff. Bill Polian has done a great job building that team. Sometimes repeating that good fortune by staying healthy is a big part of it.
Probably something you hate more than stats is people trying to frame games in terms of the head coaches. Is it good that the teams in this game are 4-0 and 3-1 and we can focus on the game?
Coach Dungy is a legend here and in this country as a head coach. God bless him. He's a very influential man in this business and in this country. This game will be decided by the Colts and the Buccaneers players, and coach Dungy and I will do our best to have them ready.
If he's a legend, you won a Super Bowl here. If he's a legend here, what are you?
I've been lucky to drive down the freeway and not have my hat sideways. I don't what the hell I am. I'm just proud of our team at this point in time and that's what I'm focused on.
Jon the first quarter of this season is over. Is that how you look at it?
Obviously we'll have a different team in the second quarter of the season — a different feature back, a different left tackle. We'll have focus on some change today and tomorrow and a different group of opponents this second quarter of the season. Just like the first quarter of the season started in Seattle, we start (the second quarter) in Indianapolis and that's a tall order. It will be a great challenge for us and we're excited.
Coach you finally got to see Patrick Chukwurah yesterday. How did he look to you?
He really did (make some impact plays). He gave us speed. He gives us another creative rusher. He can play on special teams and can give us another weapon there. He's not truly 100 percent yet, but he gives us another talented athlete that we can use creatively in the pass rush.
For someone outside of this club they might say, ‘Yeah, they're going to Indy this week and it's the defending Super Bowl champs. They're playing with house money.' But I guess it doesn't work inside the building leading up to that game?
We're going to be ready to do and to compete. We realize the Colts are very talented and we'll be a heavy underdog. But we'll be there and be ready to do and do our best to get a win.
Jon, describe the attitude of this football team. I see a different attitude from you. What is the confidence factor?
I can't speak for everybody, but I'm very tired today. It's a grind. We have a quarterback that has stabilized us. He hasn't thrown an interception yet. He hasn't turned the ball over yet. He gives us a chance to move the football and do some things. We're excited about that. Defensively we have a lot of new players. Cato June, Barrett Ruud, Kevin Carter, a lot of new guys. Phillip Buchanon played stellar yesterday. It's a new team and we're staring to get to know each other. We do like the progress we're making but we have a lot of respect for what we have to overcome and we have to find a way to win another game.
When the Colts came down in 2003 and won that game, even Peyton Manning admitted they stole that one. Have you ever been on the other side of that?
You like talking about that game don't you? I remember when we played Monte Kiffin years ago we beat him 45-0. You forget about it. Sometimes things steamroll on you. That was one of the most dramatic comeback victories in NFL history, and we were on the wrong side of it. Peyton Manning smoked us that night, he sure did. I've gotten over it, but if you want to keep dwelling on it, you'll bring back some memories.