Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br> First of all before we get started let me just make an opening statement basically about where we are. Certainly we're sitting here at 5-9. It's disappointing to be here in this position. It's been frustrating throughout the course of the season but we're here. We have two games left. We're eliminated from the playoffs and really at this point it's our obligation as coaches and players to finish this season strong.

It's not a choice. It's an obligation. And now is not the time to reflect or to ponder about what takes place after the season. What we have in front of us are two games and we're going to do whatever it takes to win these final two games. That's how we're going to approach it and that's where all our focus will be.

As far as injuries in regards to this game, Marvel Smith (pinched nerve) is out. We've got four players that are probable: Kendrell Bell (groin), James Farrior (knee), Hines Ward (knee) and Jerome Bettis (knee).

Q: Do you plan any drastic lineup changes to look at anybody?

A: No. We're going to play whoever gives us the best chance to win.

Q: Is it tempting to want to look at some of these younger guys, Bill?

A: The bottom line is we have to find a way to win the games, and in the course of doing that, if we're able to do that we will do that. But certainly we are in a position right now in my opinion that the priority has to be on finishing strong. We are playing a lot of the players right now that are out there. We'll look at it but I think it's very important at this point that we play to win games not play to evaluate players.

Q: What about Charlie Batch?

A: For what reason? I think I just stated it and I will state it again. We are going to play the players that give us the best chance of winning and that will be the only prerequisite that's made in terms of who plays.

Q: Does a threat like LaDainian Tomlinson change your blitz packages?

A: I don't think there's any doubt. I think this guy is a very special player. If he's not, he's one of the best running backs in the National Football League. He hasn't received a lot of recognition because of the lack of success San Diego has had this year, but he can catch the ball, he runs the ball and you have to be aware of him at all times. He's that type of player. He's a very special player.

Q: Bill, is the purpose for that approach to restore some confidence in the players?

A: No, Gerry, it's our obligation. You don't have a choice. It's an obligation you have to this football team, this organization, to the game itself. You have an obligation. It's a privilege to be in this league, to have these jobs. It's an obligation to go out there and try to win every week.

Q: Haven't you rested players in the past, though, when you've had the No. 1 seed locked up?

A: I think those circumstances are certainly much different.

Q: How so?

A: Aw, come on Ed. Because you know you're playing more games. I mean that's really a common sense question. I mean really. We're 5-9. No one likes losing. You try to win a championship every year. There's nothing that comes out of losing and right now our players, they're down, as they should be. I'm glad they are because they're dealing with it. They're not accepting it. It's one thing to be losing. It's another to rest a player when you're going into the playoffs, when you have a chance to win a championship. There's a distinct difference in that. If you put some thought into it there's a distinct difference between the two. You don't go out to compete and say 'well, hey, we'll just try to look at players and it doesn't matter if you lose.' But if you know you're going into the post-season and you're trying to rest a player because that gives you a chance to win a championship, that's a distinct difference.

Q: But either way, for that game, it's still the same purpose-

A: No it's not the same purpose. If the game has a meaning, it's a chance to win home-field advantage, you're going to have something to play for. In the past we've played the last game when it's had no bearing on the outcome. At the same time you don't want to just let an egg and sit there and let someone do it because now you start to waver and try to turn it back on in the playoffs. I mean there is a different approach based on where you are but for us right now I'd like to see us win two games in a row. We haven't done it all year. Contrary to people who had us written off three or four weeks ago, but they have not. We've been very close. These last two losses have been very tough losses, two games that we could've and probably should've won. And that's been hard. It's been frustrating. It's been disappointing. That's why these last two games to me, if there's any degree of at least getting that sour taste out of our mouth. Let's win these last two games. That's what we have to live with going into this off-season, and it's important.

Q: Would replacing some of these veterans necessarily weaken your lineup?

A: Stan, again, we're going to play the players - I'll monitor it. If a guy I feel isn't playing up to the level he's capable of playing at, and if we have an option to put somebody else in, we'll do it.

Q: Do you have enough information on the young players to make a decision in the future?

A: Those are all the things we're going to sit down and talk about after the season. As I said before, now is not the time to sit back and reflect or ponder.

Q: But you -

A: You're asking me to reflect and ponder. You're asking me a question about information about the off-season and we're not talking about the off-season right now. We're getting ready to play the San Diego Chargers.

Q: Would playing young kids really mean anything next year anyway?

A: Again, the question is again a question about off-season, questions about decision-making. Those are things at this point, as I said, I do not want to reflect and I'm not going to sit here and ponder about the future. We're going to find a way to play and try to beat the San Diego Chargers. That's what we're preparing for. That's what we're focusing on right now as a football team. You guys can focus on all the other things and I understand that and respect that but understand I'm not going to sit up here and talk about the future. I'm not going to talk about information we have because the only information I have right now is relative to the San Diego Chargers, the players we have and preparing to try to find a way to beat them.

Q: You're not going to shut Marvel down for the season?

A: We'll see how he is next week.

Q: Since you're both out of the playoffs, would that mean anything different than when you go into Baltimore and that game means something to Baltimore and Cincinnati, how you would approach either game?

A: Ed, we've got to find a way to win these last two games, bottom line. That's all I can tell you.

Q: Can you reflect a little bit about Sunday? Why did you pass so much?

A: In hindsight, if we had known that passing so much would've been incompletions, yeah, we probably should've run it. Again, those are things that happen in the course of the game. I have all the confidence in Mike (Mularkey) and his decision-making, his calling and our players' ability to execute. We had our opportunities. We really did. We had a number of them. Unfortunately, when they fell incomplete the questions will be asked. If you complete a couple of them then we're not asking these questions. But we didn't and those are legitimate questions to be asked and obviously in hindsight maybe you should have because it didn't work what we did.

Q: Did Tommy Maddox have trouble gripping the ball?

A: Yeah, but when you thought it was a consistent problem then he'd throw the seam like he threw to Hines, the skinny he threw to Plax (Burress). It seemed like it wasn't consistently troubling him but it wasn't consistently feeling good about throwing it. It was not every play but certainly there were times where certainly he was having problems gripping the ball.

Q: Bill, when exactly did Jerome get hurt and did it affect the play-calling?

A: Well, he was hurt in that one series before. I'm not sure of the time frame. When Amos (Zereoue) went in, we ran the ball with Amos and felt fine with that. We ran the ball down at the goal line with Amos.

Q: Is that as well as Jerome's run?

A: He ran the ball well and we were moving the ball. We were throwing it and moving it. We had 10 plays inside the 20-yard line. In the whole fourth quarter I think it was like 26 plays to 8. We moved the ball. We just got down into the red zone and we weren't able to put the ball into the end zone. They moved a ball on their first drive and kicked a field goal; we moved the ball on our first drive and miss a field goal. They moved the ball inside the 10 and kicked a field goal; we moved the ball inside the 10 and we missed a field goal. Both teams moved the ball. They were able to convert their two field goals and we were unable to convert a first-and-3 at the 3 and that was probably the most disappointing part of it.

Q: How are the young defensive backs playing?

A: They've been playing fine. Troy (Polamalu) has played very well, so has Ike (Taylor). Chris Hope has gotten extended playing time. He's played well. Look at the other day, we lost some field position with some of Curtis Martin's runs. There's no question about that. We did hold them to a couple field goals. I don't know what happens on a dry field on both sides of the ball, but the week before and we held Oakland to seven. Really, three of the last four weeks we've held them to one touchdown. The most disappointing element of this last month has been the 1:04 drive that Cincinnati executed at the end of the Cincinnati game. I think for the most part they've played well.

Q: Have you and Marty Schottenheimer commiserated?

A: Yeah we've talked quite often. They're obviously going through a tough time. It's amazing for Marty Schottenheimer: 17 years in this league and he's had one losing season. This will be his second one. I think anybody that stays in this business long enough can really appreciate what he's done on a consistent basis. He has a football team that's playing hard. You watch them. They've had some unfortunate situations happen. They've been ahead in some games, taking the Chiefs to the fourth quarter and being ahead of Green Bay last week. He's got a young team but they're playing hard, getting better. Their record isn't real indicative of how these guys play.

Q: Is that a trademark about which you're most proud with your team?

A: I don't know. Again, we've got to win these last two games.

Q: Has Jeff Reed been kicking OK in practice?

A: He's missed a few in practice and a couple weeks he's been fine, but it hasn't really been bad week of practice/bad game type of thing. He's in a little bit of an inconsistent slump right now. He's got to fight his way through it and I believe he will. He's a young kicker. You see these guys all the time going from team to team to team. There's a degree of maturity that needs to take place. Hopefully what he's experiencing right now will make him a mentally tougher kicker for the future.

Q: Have you talked to him about his confidence?

A: No. I kind of go through Kevin (Spencer). I talk to him at times but he's got a lot of guys in his ear, I'm sure. I just want to get a feel for him and how confident he feels. He's our kicker. He's got to be able to go out there for a game-winning field goal and be able to kick it and feel good about it. In the short period of time I've been around him, I think he's got a very bright future. What he's going through right now is not unlike what a lot of kickers have gone through. I'd be surprised if he didn't rebound from this.

Q: What did you think of Joe Horn's stunt?

A: I wasn't aware of it until late yesterday afternoon. I think it's a disrespect to the game, in my opinion. Those things to me are not just disrespectful to the players that are on the field, but to me it's for the players that have played before them. It's a great game. It doesn't entitle you to anything. It's a privilege to play this game. It doesn't entitle you to have the right to do whatever you want to do out there. There will be many people that come after you and there have been many people before you. That goes for players and coaches as well. It's a privilege. That's why it's an obligation you have to the game and for us, this organization, to go out there and compete every Sunday you're out there because you're representing more than just yourself.

Q: Coach, coach Haslett says he should fined by the league. If a player did that in this organization, would you fine him yourself?

A: It would be dealt with in-house but it certainly would not be tolerated.

Q: Speaking of fines, should the safety who vaulted into Hines be dealt with?

A: It looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit. I've got to be careful with what I say.

Q: Coach, do you see some guys on this team who should go to the Pro Bowl?

A: We've had a lot of very unselfish players on this team. We've had some players change position, like an Alan Faneca, a Pro Bowl guard who went to tackle for the betterment of the team. You know how I felt about him as a player. And certainly Hines. They've reached some milestones but yet they've give it all back for a few more wins. There's a lot to be said for that. I think that's true with our football team, defensive guys as well.

Q: What kind of crowd do you expect Sunday?

A: I don't know. It's the last game of the season so I'd like to think a lot of people will come out and have an opportunity to watch us play and hopefully we can get off to a good start and give them something to get excited about.

Q: With Verron Haynes out, will Jerome and Amos take his role, or will one of the others compete for playing time?

A: I don't see anything changing as we speak.

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