Q&A with Bill Cowher

<b>Q:</b> In 2000 your two coordinators were Tim Lewis and Kevin Gilbride. What led you to make a change? What often contributes to a change with a head coach and his coordinators?

A: I think every year you have to reassess where you are. I'm not going to go into specifics about anybody. I've been fortunate. I think Kevin and Tim have both made great contributions to this organization, and they're both very good coaches and that's why they're still coaching in the National Football League and are doing a good job of it. I have a lot of respect for those guys and sometimes you have to make changes and we've done that here, and I think everyone has moved on and have done well even with the changes.

Q: When you started the season Ben didn't start. Was he just not ready at that time or did you feel that Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch gave you a better chance to win?

A: Charlie got hurt in preseason, but certainly I think that we felt very comfortable with Tommy Maddox in. Certainly the circumstances that led to Ben starting were simply that Tommy got hurt and he was thrown into the role but he's done a very good job. I think he's gotten better each week and the coaches have done a good job of giving him things that he does well and he's got a good surrounding group.

Q: As a coach, do you handle a rookie quarterback any differently than you would a veteran?

A: I think you certainly do initially. I think again from a standpoint of the fact that in this offense that both Charlie and Tommy understood it much better than Ben did when he first came here just because he didn't have a year with it. There's a good opportunity for Ben to sit behind them and watch them and at the same time Ben did a good job of coming here and did the off-season program, was here for the mini-camps, got here the second day of training camp, so he's had a lot of repetition but certainly the one thing he did not have was the experience. I think you have to always take that into consideration, but once you start playing I think you forget about whether he's a rookie or a veteran and you just keep going.

Q: How much has having a supporting cast and veterans around Ben helped him?

A: Obviously, I think it's helped him a lot. I think our approach to the game and this whole football team has been one that's been based and built on the whole team concept. We don't have a lot of star players; we've got a lot of guys that have very good years. Certainly on the offensive side, the offensive line has been very solid and we've been able to stay healthy there. We've got two really good backs in Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis and three outstanding receivers in Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El. I think there's a lot of good people at their positions and certainly Ben has done a good job handling his part of it.

Q: Do you think that's something that could be hurting Eli? (Supporting cast and veterans)

A: I think there's a bunch of circumstances. They've had some injuries on the offensive line, they've certainly gone against some tough defenses and I think there are just a number of circumstances. But you know who am I to make those assessments? I'm not on the inside and Tom is doing what he thinks is best and I think that Tom has got a great history of success in the National Football League so I would never be one to question his choices or his judgments. I think Eli is going to be a very good quarterback in this league form what I see. I think he's got mobility, he can make all of the throws and I think he's got a great feel for the game. He's gone against some tough defenses. Baltimore makes a lot of quarterbacks look bad and we're no exception from our first game. I think again that you give the kid time and give him some experience. I don't think there's any question that he is going to have success in this league.

Q: Is it simplistic to think that you run the ball well and they've had trouble stopping the run so you can continue running this week?

A: We're going to do what we do best. Certainly I've been impressed with what Tim (Lewis) has done with that New York defense, they play hard. Those guys fly around, they make plays and I've been very impressed with that. What we're going to try to do is what we do every week, which is we're going to try to establish the running game and hopefully we'll then make some plays off the play-action game and convert some third downs. If we can do those things successfully, and hold onto the ball, that gives us the best chance of winning. It's not going to be an easy task for us this year because I think, like I said, it's a group of guys again going through some injuries that they've had…losing Michael Strahan. That's a key because to take out of your defense and in the safety situation the Gibril kid was playing very well for you guys and Brent is also. I know he (Brent) knows the defense and I know he was a good player for us last year so it's going to be a big challenge for us, there's no question.

Q: How does it feel to play a team like the Giants that are basically out of it? Some people would say that this a dangerous game.

A: I think the one thing about it is that they're in the NFC, they're not out of it. I know they're still in the thick of it. Obviously it will take some help from outside but I think again you have to look at this team. There are a lot of weapons on this team. Jeremy Shockey is arguably one of the best tight ends in the game; Tiki Barber is having a career year, probably the most yards out of anybody in the National Football League. You've got two outside receivers in Hilliard and Toomer, those are quality receivers. Like I said, defensively those two corners are good players and their guys up front, particularly if the get Norman Hand back this week, and I think Carlos Emmons is a good player. They've lost some tough games. I know last week's game got away from them but before that there were a lot of close games. In this business there is a very small margin of error that you have and so I think they're a much better team than their record indicates and we are not overlooking anybody. We can't afford to. We're not good enough to be able to overlook anybody.

Q: Going into this week with obviously clinching a playoff birth, probably a home field advantage, is there a point where you want to take your foot off the gas pedal and be healthy for the playoffs or can you do that?

A: I don't know if you've looked at the AFC picture. Nothing is going to get clinched this weekend. There are two teams at 12-1 and two teams at 10-3. I think if you sit down and you try to take the foot off the pedal, you're going to have about three teams passing you right by. I think the one thing we've got to do right now is we've got to continue to play the way we're playing. We've played some close games and some tough games and this is going to be no different. This is going to be a close, tough game and the one thing that we have to continue to do is be resourceful and find ways to win this game. You want to be playing your best football into the end of January and there's some things that we have to continue to do better and even though we're winning games we're doing some things to do that but at the same time we've got to get better in really all three phases.

Q: Knowing human nature do you think Tim (Lewis) would like nothing better than to beat you this week?

A: I think everyone would like to beat us every week. I don't think there's any question that when you play a team that you were formally with, whether as a player or a coach, I'm sure there is a part of you that makes it a little bit more special if you could pull off the victory. That's all part of it and I'm sure that this is a big game for New York in trying to snap their losing streak and finish up their season strong and who knows, it may take them into the playoffs.

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