Cowher Transcript and Steelquotes

<p><b>BILL COWHER<o:p> </o:p> </b></p> <p>First of all, I'd like to announce that we've made a couple roster moves. We have placed John Fiala on injured reserve. He's got a left knee (injury), PCL-MCL, and the good news is he will not need an operation, but it was clearly a 6-week injury. We signed Jeff Smith, a center last with Tennessee. He played with Jacksonville and Kansas City also, a veteran center.<o:p> </o:p> </p> <p> <o:p> </o:p> </p>

We have one player who is definitely out and that's Jeff Hartings (knee). He's doing very well and again he'll be out this week and after this week we'll take it week to week. Kendall Simmons is doubtful with a knee. We have four players that are questionable: James Farrior (knee), Mike Logan (groin), Hank Poteat (knee), and Brett Keisel (shoulder). Then we have four players that are probable: Chidi (Iwuoma, knee), Jerome (Bettis, knee), Larry Foote (calf), and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (chest).

In regards to Tommy Maddox, in talking with Dr. (Joseph) Maroon, he has been cleared both physically and mentally to play. He will be available to us this weekend. We'll see how the week unfolds and we'll go from there. I'm not going to be in position to go any further into detail in regards to that right now. Certainly they are very contrasting type of quarterbacks, so need I say more?


Does that mean you want to give (Tom) Coughlin something to think about?

Need I say more?


What kind of player is Jeff Smith?

Jeff's been around. We played against him when he was in Jacksonville. He went to Tennessee. Jeff has played guard, center. He's a veteran player we were looking for with the situation with Jeff and Kendall. I asked Russ (Grimm), who would be our next snapper if Chukky (Okobi) got hurt. He said, "We don't have one." That was not an acceptable answer so that necessitated us making a move.


Will Keydrick Vincent start at right guard?

Yes. If Kendall can't go, Keydrick's the next guy. He finished up in the game.


If James Farrior can't play, who's next?

Mike Jones. Mike Jones played really well the other day, very well.


What's going on on third down?



Care to elaborate?

Not really. I don't know what the elaboration would consist of other than you passing judgment on calls that are made or people that are doing it. We're just not getting it done.


With Maddox cleared, you wouldn't have any reservation about putting him in?

No. He's been cleared totally. I talked to Dr. Maroon this morning. No reservation whatsoever.


How will you keep this decision in doubt?

We'll keep it quiet. It's always hard with you guys, but we'll attempt to do so. Whatever amount of time we can keep it that way, it will serve its purpose. With all due respect to you guys, it'll give you something to look forward to when you come to work tomorrow.


It's been decided in your mind?

In my mind, right now, there may be perceived a lot of issues. There really aren't many. I think what's very clear-cut with our football team, we can't control over what's taken place the first 11 weeks. The one thing we do have control over is the last five.


Why did you bring the players in Monday even though they won and you usually give them the day off?

I didn't think we played well enough to get the day off.


Coach, could you talk about the opportunity ahead of you?

I think first of all last week's game was the first game all season we did not turn the ball over. We're talking Week 11 before we went through one football game where we didn't turn it over. We need to continue to play that way. We've done a good job of minimizing penalties. I believe we only had five penalties the other day and four were on the kicking game, one of them was intentional. If you don't beat yourself, we will have a chance in every game. When you play on the road it's a bigger challenge. You're dealing with noise, the other obstacles that are involved with playing on the road, and you're playing a football team whose backs are against the wall.

They can't afford to lose again and we know that. It's a good football team that offensively has Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor. We've played those guys a number of times. They're very potent. They can put up some big numbers. They present a challenge.

Defensively, there's a little bit of a change but you still see T.J. Slaughter in the middle, you still see two big tackles in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. They're very disruptive. Donovin Darius in the secondary. Fernando Bryant. (Jason) Craft is playing very well as a corner. Bobby Shaw's on there. He's returned one punt for a touchdown. It's a challenge for us. It's going to be that way every week and playing on the road, it's a big game. There's no margin for error right now. We have a lead, but it's very, very slim.


Is Jacksonville a lot different than the days, like last year, when you were rivals?

I don't think so. I think there's a little bit of a different take on defense. You had (Tony) Brackens and (Renaldo) Wynn and Hardy Nickerson and Kevin Hardy. Certainly on offense it's a lot of the same people with Kyle Brady and Jimmy Smith and Stacey Mack's giving Fred Taylor a bit of a blow now. They've got a good one-two punch going with those guys. But Fred Taylor, I think, is back to running and he's been a little nicked. When he hasn't been 100 percent, they haven't been as productive on offense. Certainly when he's back there he gives them a big-play threat in the running game. He's a big challenge and Jimmy Smith is still a premier receiver in the National Football League and I think Brunell looks like he's as healthy as he's been in awhile. He's scrambling. He's moving well in the pocket. He's a guy that you have to disguise well against because he sees the field very well and sets his protections based on things we show him. We're going to have to be on our game in regards to him. He's moving around better than I've seen him in a few years.


What was up with not giving the ball to Amos Zereoue?

Certainly it wasn't by design. We wanted to get him into the game early. We had some quick scores we hit pretty well and then when we were talking about getting Amos into the game. All of the sudden you could sense Jerome starting to get a little stronger. I think it was more happenstance than anything that he didn't get an opportunity to carry the ball on first and second down. We'll go in trying to utilize them both and keep them both fresh. We'll need him down the road. He plays third down but we still want to get him involved some on first and second down at some point in the game.


Verron Haynes was in there as a single back on third downs. Was that just the personnel groupings?



Do you have a theory as to why Jacksonville, with all of its offensive talent, they're not winning more?

If there's a theory, you might want to apply it to a lot of the teams in the National Football League this year. You know, I wish I had a theory as to why, with everyone we have coming back on defense, we can't get off the field on third down.

There's a fine line in this league. The talent level has evened out. I think people might be strong in one area and have a little bit of a deficiency in another. Injuries have played a key role in it. It's hard to say. I think every week in the National Football League, expect the unexpected. When Week 11 you have 10 teams within a game of having the best record in the AFC, that's pretty unusual but that's where we are. I don't have an answer. I don't have a theory. Just try to win games and maybe we'll be a part of something. I don't know. We need to concern ourselves with just us. If we do that we'll be fine.


With Keenan McArdell gone, is Smith getting more attention from opposing secondaries?

Yeah. He's always gotten a lot of attention. He's a guy you can't relax on. Keenan was a good player. Bobby Shaw's a good player and he's opposite him now. But Jimmy's a guy Mark Brunell has a lot of faith with. They've developed a rapport down through the years and you'd better be careful how often you put one-on-one coverage out there. Through the course of time they'll burn you.


More confidence in your kicker?

Yeah. I feel very good about Jeff (Reed). We'll take it week to week, but that was big. For us to have two 40-plus field goals, that to me is the one area that separates kickers. I like to think inside 40 are makeable field goals. 40-49 is where you separate kickers and he made two of them so that was encouraging. Yeah, I've got a lot of confidence in him right now.


How do you counter the spread? Send them anyway?

Oh yeah. You blitz. We've blitzed. You can blitz, drop. … It's a chess match at times. We just haven't won many of those matches this year.


Are you disappointed about not putting Cincinnati away a little bit earlier?

I'm not going to be disappointed with the win, so don't misunderstand me. I'm not disappointed for the win and I will not apologize for winning, regardless of how it may look.


Coach, could you praise Kordell Stewart?

He has been the consummate pro. You talk about unselfishness on a football team, nobody has exemplified that more than himself. He has, without a doubt, put this team before himself. He has carried that attitude in his preparation, looking to seize the moment when he's asked to go in there, and I think it has been reflected in how he's played. And I think a lot of people should sit back and watch how this young man has handled the set of circumstances that have been presented to him because he has made the most of it.


Coach, are the players trying too hard on third down?

We talked about that last week and the more we talk about it the more the questions keep being raised. Right now it's not a time to raise questions, it's time to go out there and perform. We talk about it in a room. I think it serves no purpose to go publicly whether you question calls or point a finger at technique breakdowns. It serves no purpose. The most important thing is that we're all on the same page with what we need to get done. Certainly there's a degree of frustration that exists, as there should be. I totally understand that. At the same time, when you look around this league and there are 10 teams within a game, right now there is not a dominant team. There's probably a lot of criticisms that are going to exist with other teams in other cities right now. You have to be able to deal with that. That's all apart of being able to surface, or come out of this pack of teams.

We have a golden opportunity in front of us. Let's look ahead. We know the issues that are there. You can't escape it. We get asked about it all the time, so certainly we're aware of things that we have to address. The only answer to that is to stay together, go out there, and try to rectify the problem. Be a part of the solution; don't be a part of the problem. I think that's how our mindset is. I liked how we finished that last game and I liked how we started fast. We started fast and finished strong and in between we had some lulls. We've got to address those lulls. But I like starting fast and I like finishing strong and I like not beating yourself in between. We'll get those other things addressed. Just don't lose sight of the things we are doing well. There's too much focus at times being placed on things you're not doing. Be careful you don't fall in to just thinking about things you are not doing. We're stopping the run. We're doing a pretty good job of that. We had a big stand at the end of the game last week. Think about that. Don't think about all the negative things. You've got to be careful.


Are you becoming a convert to the downfield passing game Maddox presented?

I don't think so. I think you play to your team's strengths. If we're in a situation where we're able to throw the ball very efficiently and we can score, you would never complain about scoring too fast or scoring too often. How can that be a problem? There's no way that should be a problem. Obviously you'd like to control the ball. But you're not going to be able to turn on the ground game. "Ok, we have the lead. Let's run the ball." Well, if you don't have that mindset going in, you're not going to be able to just turn that on. I'd like to think we can run the football and we're a team that's a physically tough football team that we can run the football at any point in the game. And you may stop us again and again, but we're going to keep running again. And at some point you'd like to think we're going to impose ourselves on football teams. That hasn't always been the case, and sometimes it's more of a grind than others when you're playing football teams. At the same time you have to keep them off balance by throwing the football to keep the extra defenders away from the line of scrimmage, you've got to run some gimmicks some times to keep people from overpursing plays. That to me is what offense is about.


Coach, are injuries concerning you on special teams?

I'm not going to make any excuses. Certainly you'd like to have all the players out there. We just weren't very good with our coverage, and that was probably the one phase, after the Raiders game, that's been the most consistent phase we've had. It was almost a highlight reel that I was showing on a weekly basis with our kickoff coverage team. Chidi, since he's come aboard, this guy has just been dynamic. He has been a force out there and he was a little banged up the other day. Brett Keisel came in and did a great job. We didn't do a good job of reading their returns, we really didn't. We did a very poor job in regards to that. There are some little things that are very correctable there. Like I said, that game was a one-game thing from that standpoint. That's been the one phase that's been pretty good and that was the only phase I felt we weren't very good in the other day.


--Jim Wexell




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