Tomlin's Time Marked By Accountability

Mike Tomlin's short time as defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings was filled with quotes about accountability, playing with passion and offering no excuses during times of trouble. We review the quotes that registered regularly in the Winter Park fieldhouse.

Mike Tomlin's passion for football and defense was evident from his first press conference at Winter Park, shortly after the Vikings hired him as their defensive coordinator. Now, one year later, Tomlin is moving on to become the 34-year-old head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It took less than a year to discover what Tomlin was all about as a coordinator – accountability and passion. So we looked over his 2006 season of press conferences and found the quotes that seemed to support his ideals time and again on Thursdays at Winter Park last fall.

Talking about the confidence he had in allowing Greg Blue to start the opener vs. Washington, when the Vikings deactivated starter Dwight Smith: "To be quite honest with you, we have confidence in everybody on our football team. If we didn't, they wouldn't be on this football team, and that's the reality. That's the nature of football. Guys get injured, guys get deactivated, other men have to be prepared to step up. If we're going to be as good as we aspire to be, every man has to be a viable guy. That is our approach, and we mean what we say in that regard. We just look forward for the next opportunity for someone that's a potential unknown to step out and show what they can do."

On being pleased with the defense two weeks into the season being ranked seventh: "I don't say pleased very often. I like some of the things we're doing. We've got to continue to get better from a detail standpoint in terms of our execution. The guys are playing extremely hard and they're playing physical and that's where it starts. Those things and things that require no talent: playing hard, playing fast and finishing, they're doing a great job at. We've just got to continue to hone up in terms of the details and we understand what we ask them to do in that regard. Sometimes those issues are only solved by time and snaps. We've just got to feel the urgency of it and get better day-to-day."

On moving on after the injury to Erasmus James and how comfortable he feels with Darrion Scott and Ray Edwards: "Very comfortable. We acknowledge that injuries are part of the game, but the guys we have on this team, we're very comfortable with all of them playing. If we weren't, we wouldn't have them on the team. It's a great opportunity for them to step up and show what they're capable of. We respect what they're capable of doing, just like we respect what Greg Blue was capable of doing in Washington, D.C. It's part of football. I'll say this, any time someone gets hurt or something happens, it's unfortunate for them, but we accept it as part of the game and we'll move forward."

On getting the defenders to lose weight: "When you play attrition football like the Chicago Bears play attrition football, they play great defense, they play smart special teams, they don't turn the ball over, and that's really the kind of style of ball that we play. Games are decided in the fourth quarter. In order to swing that pendulum in the fourth quarter, we've got to be in great physical condition, so that's why we take that approach with our defensive linemen. I'm sure Coach (Lovie) Smith does the same thing with his in Chicago."

On Ronyell Whitaker giving up the game-winning touchdown against the Bears early in the season: "Ronyell Whitaker is a cornerback in the National Football League. He can't remember what he had for breakfast last Sunday. That's the nature of this business and it has to be. You've got to move on. People score points, that's why they have scoreboards. Unfortunate for us as a football team, but we accept that and we move on. That's just the nature of this game and I'm sure all secondary people and defensive players view performances that way, not only Ronyell."

On looking at his defense's statistics or just concentrating on win and losses: "To be honest with you, that's all I care about. Stats tell the story of a loser, you know. We just want to win and we'll let the stats speak for themselves. The Super Bowl champion doesn't care what their statistics were and that's the bottom line. We're here to win. We feel like we need to do what we have to do to help our team win and the stats are the stats. We're not going to judge that. We're going to let the tape tell the story. We're going to prepare ourselves week-to-week to play great defense and leave it at that."

On looking at the statistic of points scored: "You know, we don't want them to score. That's obvious, that's one of the actions involved. Personally, I don't overly concern myself with stats. We have to outplay our opponent's defense and to do that we have to give up fewer points than they do, and that's to win, so that's the way we approach it. Sometimes I think as coaches or as players we can become enamored with stats and you can choose whatever stats you want to tell whatever kind of story you want. We're not in the business of telling stories. We want to report the news and the news is what we put on tape, and we want to work every week to put the very best product on tape to help our team win. Not trying to dodge your question, but that's just my take on it. I could care less."

On playing good run defense: "It's responsibility football; each man taking care of his gap of responsibility first and expecting the other men to do the same. I think the accountability. I know people don't like to use that word that much in society anymore, but it's about accountability. It's about being where you're supposed to be and using the proper techniques that you're supposed to and trusting the other men to do the same. When we do that, we have an opportunity to potentially shut down the run."

On his statement that coaches lose games: "Absolutely. When the stuff hits the fan, blame us. We're paid to deal with that, and we accept that. We don't care who gets the credit, man. We're just trying to win week in and week out, and we've got a great staff of guys. We've got a great, great crew of players that are blue-collar in their approach. That's all we're focused on."

On keeping players' spirits up after a loss: "I don't live in that world, to be honest with you. It's a privilege to have those problems here in National Football League. It comes with being in the NFL. If guys aren't up to fighting that challenge, it says a little bit about what they are capable of doing. It's the NFL. Every week is going to present an awesome challenge and competitors appreciate that. We expect our guys to be competitors, and I think that they are."

On losing middle linebacker Napoleon Harris to injury: "We don't use injuries as an excuse. This is a bottom line business. Nobody in January and February when we get to the offseason is going to remember whether or not Napoleon played. Nobody is going to remember whether Erasmus James played. We're the Minnesota Vikings. We've got a job to do, and that's to win week to week. The 11 that we have on the field is our defense."

On Pat Williams being outspoken about opponents: "I don't fear guys talking. They've got to back their own words up. The more they talk I tell them the hotter the tape needs to be. That's my personal take on it. Pat is a confident guy and he has a right to be. I like to think that we as individuals can keep it focused on the team and what the team needs to do, but those guys are their own men and they say what they say."

On the mystique of Tampa Bay's defense: "The secret is that there's no secret. You're 60 minutes away from drinking wine or squashing grapes."

On teams passing and thereby neutralizing Pat Williams' effectiveness: "Maybe it neutralizes Pat as an individual, but we are a team defensive concept. We worry very little about how situational football affects individual players. It's 11 guys that are on the grass, so from that standpoint as a coordinator, I worry very little about that. I'm more concerned about getting them stopped."

On changing up defenses from week to week: "Yeah, we mean what we say when we say that we are fundamentalists in our base. We have a small menu and a big understanding, so you can make week-to-week adjustments to cater to what you need to do at any specific time. And within that, you should be able to plug guys in at maybe different spots with inside the scheme. Because when you have a small menu, guys not only know what they have to do, but what's being done around them. So it just provides flexibility in that regard. We are a work in progress. We are going to continue to fight the battles day in and day out to get better, but it does lend itself to interchangeable parts."

On Pat Williams' knee injury: "Again, he's a 33, 34-year-old A-gap player. This time of year they are less than 100 percent. Specifically how much is hurting, I do not know. Pat is a tough guy. He's not going to complain about the labor pains; he's just going to deliver the baby. That's just his mentality and we respect him for that. I'm sure it's bothersome at times, but he's going to show on Sundays."

On the linebackers measuring up to his expectations: "They haven't measured up yet. I guess you guys thought we were joking when we expected good things from them. They are capable men. When you are in this business you better be a personnel buff. We were familiar with these guys even though I didn't know them. I know what they are capable of. They've got more to give. They're blue-collar workers and I'm sure they'll continue to search for the ceiling in that regard. But they've done some good things, definitely nothing to be ashamed of, but our best ball is ahead of us."

On being first against the run and last against the pass: "I'm not going to try to paint a rosy picture in regards to our pass defense; it is what it is. We don't make any excuses about anything but people that know what they are taking about understand that we are not the worst pass defense team in football. We defend more passes than anyone else. We are first in the league in red zone defense, we are fourth in the league in touchdown passes given up, we are seventh in the league in yards per attempt or completion, etc., etc., etc. People throw more passes against us than anybody else. The quarterback comes out and throws 25 passes and throws for 220, or he comes out and throws 51 like he throws against us for 280. You be the judge. Our tape stands on its own. We stand behind our tape. Do we need to get better? Heck yes, because we want to be number one in every statistical category because it's going to help our team win."

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