Amid multiple reports spanning a variety of possibilities for Sean Payton's future, the Saints head coach stepped to the podium Wednesday to re-affirm his allegiance to the franchise and the city.
The following is the full text of Payton's hour-long availability, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Opening statement: “Just a couple things, finishing up, really, the discussions of this past season. Mickey and I spent a lot of time, like we do every year, and each season and each year is different, trying to look closely at our team and are we on the right track. We talked at length last year about the things that we felt that we needed to do differently and moving forward and I would say after Monday, really the better part of Monday is spent with our players in our team meeting and then a large group of would be free agents and unrestricted free agents, that would, as long as I can remember, be the normal Monday, so we met a little Monday and we met quite a bit yesterday and today and really the main thing all the time, and it’s easy for me when I discuss Mickey (Loomis) because our working relationship is one thing and yet our personal relationship is just as strong, is to really try to look closely at, ‘hey these are the things that we need to improve at.’ Obviously when you finish 7-9, and you finish your second year in a row like that, you are disappointed. We have grown accustomed and certainly have an expectation of getting into the postseason and competing. I think the hardest time for us is right now. I would love this press conference to be about an upcoming opponent, and whether we can win in cold weather, or if we are going to change the type of Gatorade. Those are a lot more fun. That being said, as disappointing as it is to be in this position, there are still some things that were very encouraging. The win we just had at the end of the season, winning three of the last four games, with some of our younger guys and some of the players that stepped up in the game against Atlanta, there was something different about it. Certainly the locker room was more accustomed to what we have not expected or taken for granted, but it was more accustomed to what it needs to be. We are not there yet. We really have to do a good job with the upcoming draft and in the upcoming offseason with personnel, specifically we can get into what areas defensively, what areas offensively, but more importantly just kind of our mission statement after ten years. I think there is, and I understand it, there is that ‘Man, ten years is a long time.’ I’ve read and seen sometimes where ‘the message can grow old’ or become ‘maybe not as effective’ and yet I think maybe that really applied to teams ten, 15, 20 years ago when rosters didn’t have the movement (that happens annually in today’s game). I find myself, a lot, not wanting to repeat something that I think maybe the group has heard before and, in reality, it might be just four people, whether it’s Drew (Brees) or Jahri (Evans) or Zach (Strief). I’ve said this before, and I understand the interest and certainly the skepticism if you will, but this is where I plan on coaching and I don’t envision myself ever coaching for any other club. I’ve said this before and I can’t say this enough, just having met with Mr. Benson and his wife Gayle, I have been blessed coming in when I came. Listen, we all arrive at different times and for different reasons and it doesn’t seem like ten years. Shortly after that 2005 season that the team went through with (Hurricane) Katrina, and I have a good memory and I remember (that season) like it was yesterday, the very first press conference and I would say it was like the worst that I have ever been sitting here with a bunch of lines. Go back and Google it. I am just reading to everyone, and really anxiously excited and yet nervous about that task at hand, and yet I would share with you today that I am just as excited, and to some degree just as nervous, but (I am) looking forward to where we are going and I don’t take for granted for one minute the leadership that sits over me and has confidence in me to be a part of a team and a part of an organization and a structure and that’s Tom and Gayle (Benson), Dennis as our President, and Mickey as our General Manager. That relationship has been strong as ever. I would also say for one minute I never take for granted our fan base and how supportive they have been. Someone said this to me when I moved here in 2006, there is something about this city. You hear that initially, and look there was a lot back then that was uniquely different because of post-Katrina, but there is something unique and different and I can’t put my finger on it. I mean I drive through a pot hole every day like you guys do and get upset. When the water is down in a certain parish, I have to come here to shower just like everyone else might ago somewhere else, and yet it grows on you, and it is home. Hopefully that has answered a bunch of questions. I promise I won’t have any ‘next questions’ Mike (Triplett), and I promise to sit here until everyone is done asking questions. Why don’t we start there?”
Is this an official announcement that you will be coaching here?
“Well, I know it appeared there was a looming decision, but I think this is really me saying again, ‘Here I am and nothing is changing and I plan on finishing my career here.’ I think Zach Strief said it best last week, ‘I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me.’ I read something Fletcher (Mackel) said a few weeks back, and I can’t recall, but it was something like leave early a hero or stay late and become a villain, and if I have to someday become a villain then I plan on staying until everyone says ‘we are burning your wagon out of town.’ I am comfortable with that, I am, but I think that, honestly, more importantly, there’s more moments, there’s more wins, there’s more playoffs. I promise you there will be. And it will be not a secret formula, it will be the same formula we applied when we first got here. I can assure you ten years in I know, I’m in better shape, I feel like the energy and spending time with this staff, there is a lot of work to be done and we have never shied away from that though, and never been discouraged by that. In fact, sometimes, I think that is what draws us or pulls us as coaches and so the excitement, for instance in the game we just played here are two teams that really were playing a game where you could say there was nothing at stake and yet I would say there is always something at stake. We are playing Atlanta and Terron (Armstead) is injured and Senio (Kelemete) is going to play left tackle. Tim Hightower is going to be the running back and Travaris (Cadet) who has been with us a couple weeks is going to handle the nickel. We are going to lose a corner, we’ve had some injuries, and now Brian Dixon is going to not only play corner, he is going to cover Julio (Jones) and no one is going to tell Brian that Julio is number 11 until halftime, and hopefully still he doesn’t figure it out, and he plays him as hard as he can. Ramon Humber is going to come back, with David Hawthorne, and replace Stephone Anthony with an injury and play well. That feeling never goes away. I think that’s what the hardest thing is, someday whenever it ends for a player or for a coach, is how we felt after getting a win like that. I like this group of young players. You guys have heard me say that, and I think time will tell with regards to how, specifically, each one of them does on the field and how their career’s unfold, but I feel like when you have talked with our veteran players and they have a point of reference as to how a culture needs to be, I feel like that is strongly in place and that gets you excited as a coach. I think, hopefully I have answered your question Mike, but, yeah, I’m not going anywhere.”
Did you take this time to consider what else is out there?
“No. I know Mickey is too smart, and I know no one is giving up the compensation that he was, I’m sure, looking (for) or researching. I think that can only happen if I sign off on it, and I think that the cart just kind of gets ahead of the horse a little bit and yet I understand how that can happen. I feel like anytime there is possibly a report or a link, there is an assumption that it’s coming from someone in my camp, and my camp is really small, it’s just me and one other person, and any of you that have talked with or know who Don Yee is, he is kind of just the short, quiet guy in the back of the room that doesn’t say much. That is one of the great things about our game though. It’s being covered more now, and it’s minute by minute, and it’s great to be involved in it. I have learned maybe not to get as worked up with things that you can’t control. This past Monday is not any different than the last few years, six years, and it’s always difficult as a coach to see certain peers of yours that are going through some tough times or challenges. I mean, it’s difficult because I have been there as an assistant. I never plan on being there as a head coach, but there is so much that goes into it and there is so much passion and there are so many other things that go into it aside from just the head coach himself, the staff members and all the other people’s lives who are affected with it. I knew in my heart of hearts that was not going to be something that came to fruition, and that was something that I knew in my heart I didn’t want to come to fruition, and yet sometimes there is a part of what we do that we can’t control, and there will be a time where they don’t want you back, and that’s ok. There will be a time where they don’t want Zach back anymore, and that’s ok. One by one that train stops for all of us and Bill (Parcells) said this once, we are better for having ridden than never having been on at all, and so you appreciate it.”
Have you discussed a contract extension, have you agreed to one?
“Look, sometimes we are on this calendar and we flip the page and we are at that junction, two or three days after we have begun meeting. I’m sure, at the right time, all those things will take care of themselves. I’ll bet in our time together Mickey and I, I’ll bet any contract that we’ve done, and we’ve done a handful of them, have taken place in ten minutes. When it becomes so critical about the language, and the roster, and the draft, you’re already, I think, working at a deficit. I really don’t know today what specifically in my most recent contract in regards to some of those items. I just know how we have been able to operate and I think that that will take care of itself. I think the stability and history has told us that stability in programs provides for championships, it provides for success, and yet it doesn’t guarantee it. In other words if we just stay the course, as coaches as personnel, in every phase, we have to clearly look at how do we improve and how can we improve, and the minute that any of that is not constantly being looked at, and tinkered with and addressed, that that potentially can happen. That’s what he and I will do beginning this offseason and we constantly will look at ways that we feel like can help our team this year, and not only for this year, but in the years to come, and I think that stability. Specifically regarding the contract question, all of those things will work themselves out.”
Did you take this time to take personal inventory overall?
“Yeah. Man, it’s important to have people in your circles that will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I do feel more passion, more energy. Listen, some of our best coaching jobs this past year, despite the record, some of them showed up in maybe a tough loss, to Carolina (for example). There are some areas specifically, obviously, that we have to improve on to be competitive and to be playing at this time of the year. I know for certain that, and you guys are around me and you would be better able to answer that question, but I know for certain that it exists here. It exists in this in this city, and it exist at this stadium, for these fans, and this is it. There wasn’t ever a time where you are looking at what other opportunities (are available). This is where I want to be. I mean you’re here not because we are here long enough, but we built something and created something. I think in the beginning it was a lot more than football, and maybe that is what separates it, because it wasn’t just about wins and losses in 2006. We had some challenging years in 2007, starting out 0-4 and then kind of bouncing back in 2008, and then obviously got on a run there. It still starts with the procurement of players and the vision and the attention to detail in every aspect of the program, and those are the things that I still get angry over the little things, and that’s okay. I mean in other words I just have to look at it and make sure that it’s in check and it’s not something that is over the top in one area. Listen, I’m very clear and very happy and focused and excited about what’s to come and, with no script, I mean it’s real, and a lot of it, I think, different than a year ago, was you get motivated as a teacher when your students are as excited about excelling as you are teaching and I felt that this year and I pointed out that picture at Carolina on the final drive when Willie (Snead) is reaching out to catch a pass and someone captures a great picture on the sideline and it tells you everything. And when Tim Hightower gets the first down in the four minute at Tampa Bay and the bench is excited for him. No different than the interception, a guy like Jarmarca Sanford who prepares diligently every week as a backup safety, and he plays in special teams, and then here it is, and he is and is extremely smart, and here is the angle route by the halfback and he happens to be in the right coverage and he has prepared for that play countless times and yet never been able to enter the field of play to make it. Those are the things that I think excite, not just me, they excite us as coaches, as front office employees, as owners. It’s gratifying.”
Did you feel this way coming off last season?
“I don’t know the answer to that, Katherine. I probably would say more discouraged, because at this point a year ago, football wasn’t the only issue. In other words, we had to get that culture back and it was the first year it flipped.”
When you all talked this week did you need reassurances about anything? Did you all talk about things you all want changed whether its personnel or front office structure?
“Well, Mickey and I would always hit through a check list. One thing we are able to do is he’ll walk down to my office shut the door and we’ll talk for an hour or I’ll do the same in his office, but I would say our normal end of season discussion would take place just about Tuesday, Wednesday, like it did. In other words, Monday is pretty busy, and we talked about a lot of things. We talked about some of the positives, where we felt we needed to get the positions of must if you will, we talked about our staff, immediate staff, we talked about personnel and that would be pretty common for us at this time of the year.”
Is there any change of command or structure?
“It’s exactly the same. Listen, I think part of the issue is when I sent you steaks and lobsters instead of popcorn. Somebody at 504, and I don’t have anyone’s number, said listen my mother in-law thinks you’re leaving now that you got that. The chain of command is the same, and honestly I will just reiterate this ten years in: I want to be the football coach, the head football coach, and focus on that and be involved, obviously, in every aspect of the program. None of that was a topic or anything that was spent any time on discussing.”
You mentioned compensation did any teams reach out to see if you would be interested?
“No, and other teams can’t. I know there was one report, I don’t know the gist of it all, but no. The protocol would have been via the Saints, but no, not at all and it’s not about compensation either. In the beginning we get into this to teach and to coach, and after the success we had here, through 2009, 2010, 2011 and then even 2013, the compensation is something that provides security, but no.”
How much does Drew’s willingness to get a contract extension facilitate in the rebuilding?
“I think that is getting ahead. I’m not really good with the cap number and I know that there will be that time where as we sit down, as Mickey sits down, each year we have been able to look and maneuver. I think much like a family that is climbing out maybe some college debt or climbing out of some loans, I think that we’re one year now away where, and as that cap rises, we’ll manage that.”
Assuming you have Drew as your quarterback?
“I think that is a good assumption. I texted him before I walked in here, just five minutes ago. He and I met on Monday, and it was crystal clear, I’m not wanting to coach anywhere else or anyone else right now. I think that he played outstanding this season. Gutsy, man, this last stretch minus the Cadet fumble there right down on the two yard line, that’s four weeks in a row, would have been, without a turnover offensively. We took the ball away better defensively in this last stretch. I’m proud of how he is playing and how he is working. It’s easier for me not to look at a number, with regards to age, when you are evaluating someone like that, to really just look at what you are seeing. My hair has gotten a little grayer, and he has lost some of his, but that’s about all that has changed.”
Is there anything that has been reported in regards to you wanting to leave or any of this you consider flat out inaccurate?
“Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, and yet I think the challenge, and I think it’s a challenge for you all, is the clouds are coming together if you will between a blog, a report, a post, and a news story. Shoot, where’s Brett (Martel), is he in here? I’m telling you what now, he’s got to go through five channels, right? I think that it becomes more challenging. There have been a number of things that are (inaccurate) and yet I understand it. I get it. I understand its part of the interest. You go home any night and I just flip on NFL Network, ESPN, and there is just round the clock coverage and that is a good thing for our game, I think, and so part of that comes with the territory. You just try to control what you can with regards to your own team. Look, it’s a lot easier to come up here or out at the banner and try to hem and haw around an ankle injury then sometimes something that is as important and as true as this. There is no hidden story here. There’s not been any back door conversations, that’s not happened. I have said this before, obviously family is important to me, I have a son who is not too far from here and really views where I live as almost east Texas, and I have made it a point to be able to be involved in any type of game, and my daughter is now in college, certainly she is out west and they read and they see and they hear and pay attention to and yet it’s pretty normal at the end of the season. I think this is a little bit unique, but it’s pretty normal that there are for the clubs that don’t get into the post season, revaluate where we are at and then move forward, and I think that’s continued to become a bigger deal each year with the various teams in our league.”
How much is this presser also about the stability and strength in the franchise?
“I think it’s important, and I don’t know. Listen, Greg (Bensel) has concocted a lot of great plans, so I don’t know that this is one of those. There is no script. I’ll say this though, the ownership and the stability at the ownership position is vital to having a chance. It doesn’t guarantee success, but in many cases it can guarantee failure. I think there has never been a better time in our league to win. I think there has never been a better time, and I think being one of those functional organizations gives you an opportunity, it doesn’t guarantee you that opportunity, and certainly there is a lot of work that goes with it, there are all sorts of things that go into it, but when you look around the league and you pay close attention to who is winning and what the formula is, it would be no different than if we were in private business, and all of us depending on what it was we were discussing would research clearly and closely what it was and who is doing it well, and that can’t ever stop, you have to pay attention to that or all of a sudden it just passes you by.”
Is part of a formula for a head coach to stick around when times get tough and then is there when things turn around again?
“That can be part of it, but that is not a prerequisite either. In other words, you can have success (early) and teams are having success (early in a head coach’s tenure). Coach (Bruce) Arians at Arizona (from), very early on, they have a good thing going there. That is a team that the NFC is going to have to beat for a long time. That is just one example. Carolina – we’ve got to find a way to catch those guys. When people ask me about the Atlanta rivalry, I think in our division the rivalries start with who is on top. That’s the team that you have to catch first, the team in your division. I’ve seen it now for 10 years, where you come in and it’s Tampa Bay, then maybe it’s Atlanta or then it’s New Orleans, and that moves back and forth. That’s the first goal.”
Will Dennis Allen be back next year?
“We’ll go through all of that. If I answer that or don’t answer that – I think he did a great job. We’ll have a chance to sit down and visit, and we’ll cover the staff changes. I’m going to visit with Dennis (Allen) specifically and I think that, in all likelihood, there’s a good chance that that will be the case. It is just a little bit ahead of the game. I just spent 10 minutes with the (coaching) staff. I thought that he was real good coming in to a tough position. I thought that he was organized and detailed. I think there are a few pieces that we have to help him with that can help our team. I think being in charge of it (the defense) for the whole course of the offseason (will help). There are a lot of good things that he did. I think, finishing up the season (allowing) 17 points to that (Atlanta) offense with some of the players that really hadn’t received the work in the week (at practice) and playing at a high level (was a positive). He is someone that I think is definitely an asset for us. I think in all likelihood that that’s going to happen. I just haven’t had a chance to visit with him.”
How many things with regards to the structure, the culture or the scouting department need to change?
“Time will tell on last year’s draft. Time has already begun to tell us (about the) ’10, ’11 and ’12 (draft classes). We understand that. The focus for us, immediately, is this upcoming draft, this upcoming offseason, and any of the changes we need to make. I know this, in our conversations that we’ve had the last two days, it’s nice to be coaching guys that represent your organization the way our players do. It fires you up to come to work. That same charge that we took going into the draft last year, in regards to character, toughness, intelligence, and finding the players and having a vision for what they’re going to play, I think all of those things kind of hold course and are in place. There have been some changes already this past year in personnel and scouting, with the loss of Ryan Pace, obviously Jeff Ireland coming in, and Terry Fontenot working on the pro side of it. We’ve got a handful of new scouts that I don’t know that you guys would recognize yet, but that you’ll get to know or have a chance to see. All of those things will be in place in year one. This will be the first draft that they’re working.”
What would be the biggest change that you guys have decided still needs to be made?
“I don’t know that there was one specific change that we sat and spent two or three hours on. The one thing that we spent time talking about was how do we improve this defense and where do we feel like the positions are that we need to focus on. We’ll spend time with Jeff (Ireland) and Terry (Fontenot) on that and look closely on how we go about doing that. That has to happen, and we have to be better there to have a chance at the success that we’re discussing. If you just look at the teams right now in the (playoff) field, some run it maybe more than others, or some throw it, but at some point they have to be able to complete a third down pass, they’re typically playing pretty good defense or they are taking the ball away. I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind.”
What about the salary cap situation; is that something where you’re perfectly comfortable with where you are at or are there any regrets?
“I think that the regrets are hindsight and they would always be money that would be considered dead money. It is no different than the player that you had. (For example) There are still regrets every time I see (Rob) Ninkovich line up and sack somebody for New England. Hopefully, there are only a few of those, in the same way, hopefully there are less of those examples. I think the discussion and the focal point has not been like how are we here. It has really been like okay, where are we going and how are we going to put ourselves in a position next year when we’re discussing playing a home playoff game or an away playoff game, or the opponent that we’re playing in this first round. We’ll do that as passionately as day one in 2006. I know that just from the discussions that he (Mickey Loomis) and I have had. That drives you. There are some things that we have to build on from this past season and we will.”
You’ve mentioned the draft a few times; do you feel that is something that has caught up to you the last couple of years?
“It’s very clear and I have said this after every draft – hey, let’s look at it three years later. I think it is easy to look at, and it’s good to look at, these years weren’t good and these years were. How did we fail in this season? In other words, looking back, what didn’t we do correctly? Yes, that is part of it. I think that this is a league where you have to draft well. When you do that, you put yourself in a good position.”
If you aren’t drafting well, do you maybe have to take more risks in free agency?
“I guess that you could say that you might be more prone to. That would be fair.”
Do you feel like that is something that you guys have maybe done?
“Yes, but we have taken some (risks) when we’ve drafted well. That first year or two when you, all of a sudden, hit on a few of these targets like (Scott) Fujita, and a number of guys that came in and played roles on that first year, or in ’09 the same way. We’ll be smart and look closely at who we think (can come in and help). As long as there is the correct vision for the player, then we’ll look closely at that. Obviously, if you are hitting on more draft picks, there are probably a little less holes than if you aren’t.”
When you have not hit as well as you’d thought on free agent signings over the last couple of years, do you feel more pressure on yourself to get the next one right?
“I don’t know that there is more pressure. You are certainly more guarded.”
Guarded in a way that you analyze their tape more or do you look more into their character issues?
“I think all of the above. You just want to make sure that it’s the right fit. Mickey (Loomis) and I look closely at the numbers and that first week of free agency, there is a lot of risk because if you go back every year, and you just go back and look at last year’s first two days of free agency, and then if those teams, us included, whoever is involved, had it to do over again, would they or wouldn’t they sign that potential player. Oftentimes that percentage is not near where you’d expect it to be. Every time someone is involved in that, you look closely and say hey, this is the exception. I think after that first week and things calm down, oftentimes there is an opportunity to sign someone who has more value. That is not one specific direction at any player that we have signed in the first week or not the first week. Just in general, the percentages and the numbers suggest that.”
Several of the players that you have brought here through free agency over the last couple of years have had preexisting injury issues; does it also involve looking at the medical staff?
“That would be one area. That is something that you have to pay attention to. My mom is no longer alive, but she loved Sunday garage sales. That was her hobby. So we had, probably, 10 couches throughout my childhood. They’d arrive with great fanfare, and then maybe on Tuesday there would be a wobble. We just have to be careful that we’re excited about it for the full term.”
Moving to a new city and getting a new job could be reinvigorating; did you think about that for a minute? Was it tempting briefly?
“I don’t know that I got to that point. All of us like routine. I have said this before but I’m literally within a year of just building a place here. I have a routine. I think I would struggle not living here. I think I would struggle not living here, and not always having a place here. It still bothers me, (when I am) eating at a nice restaurant outside of this city and at the time the entrees come that all five servers don’t come at the exact same time with your meal like they do here. There are things that you get attached to. They are kind of what that person told me in ’06, where you kind of look at them at first. So no, I think I would have a hard time, struggling with not having a residence here and being here. I know for sure that there is something uniquely different. It’s easy to say, but it is probably much more difficult to understand if you haven’t lived here a long time. That’s true.”
When you first got here people would say that you were the outsider that became the hero because you turned tears of sorrow into tears of joy. Would it be more special to be the hometown hero who was able to bring another Super Bowl back to the place that you say is now your home for the people that you are now connected to forever?
“I don’t know that there is a date though where it became home. I think there is a date in which you are here, and maybe it is after the first four-year cycle for a coach. 10 years for any coach, or nine seasons, you’d say is fairly lengthy and longer than what would be the normal or the average. What is it for the resident who moves here? Is it two years where they get excited and are invited to their first crawfish boil? I think it happens gradually and I think that that began with rides home at the airport in ’06. It all kind of runs together. It doesn’t seem like 10 years or nine seasons. I keep saying nine (seasons) because there was a year away. The hard thing about winning that Super Bowl, and I have said this before but, you chase and chase this chicken and you catch it, and within 24 hours, you have to let it go and start chasing again. Making sure that we’re paying close attention to all of the things we learned about catching it before, and how it has changed. It has changed and we have to be able to adapt. Absolutely yes though. Absolutely, do you pursue it again. Yes. (Bill) Parcells would tell me that it’s never going to be enough, because you’ll catch it again and you’ll let it go and it’s never going to be enough. Maybe that’s a little warped. Maybe, I think to some degree, what we do as coaches sometimes, it can be very selfish, and can be very demanding time-wise and can be very tough on a lot of other areas. But, it’s what we do, and what we’re passionate about, and certainly I’m passionate about.”
People have alluded to Bill (Parcells) jumping from job to job. Have you talked to him about this?
“We have talked a little bit. He has been a huge influence on not only my career, but (he’s been) more of a father figure to some degree. He reminds me of how my dad looked to some degree, and yet we’re different in some ways, and that’s okay. In other words, his first question would be well then, how are you getting it fixed? It’s a good question. That’s what we’re going to figure out.”
For all of your insistence over the last few weeks that this is where you were going to be, did it bother you at all that people didn’t take you at your word?
“No. I felt like this year, especially down the stretch, that we were, as a staff, consumed with winning the next game. It was a little bit more challenging, obviously, playing the game on a short week, Christmas week. It is like you don’t have time to (think about it). You play Monday night, your players are off Tuesday, you are putting a game plan together, Christmas is Friday, and here is your game on Sunday. It was moved from noon to three, which was helpful, but It’s a very busy part of the season at the end and I think it’s very difficult to get too overly caught up in some of those things, because there is this anxious feeling that you have stuff to do. You have a hard time focusing on something other than what you have to do.”
How has things changed over the last few years, specifically the collective bargaining agreement change?
“The first thing that comes to mind is creating the toughness that you want as a team in the framework of practices, with limited opportunities to do that. All 32 teams pay attention and follow the offseason guidelines and protocol, and yet obviously, in 2006, our practices and training camp would have been much different under the current CBA. I’m not being critical of it. It’s just that we have to find a way to adapt to that, and still be better at technique, be better at leverage and be able to play with lower pad level. Well, some of that is hard until you get into training camp. I do think that training camp becomes that much more valuable because there is not one time in the offseason where you are in a pad or are truly playing football in regards to contact. I understand why. Those preseason games and those practices leading up to the start of the regular season carry a little bit more value, and then rethinking how you want to handle your offseason with the restrictions becomes paramount.”
You’ve met with us every year after the season and I don’t remember such an entourage of staff and ownership viewing this? Does this indicate this is a little different?
“Yes, the whole time I wondered who is going to ask the question, why is it different. I think that maybe whether it was the 10-year mark, another tough season…I don’t know one specific reason. Maybe if my response after the Atlanta game was a little different, the perception might have been different. I was genuinely, and I think you know this, really, really excited about winning that game. It was important and I was really, really proud of a handful of players that all of a sudden played some positions for the first time ever, and I think that’s a team that’s pretty talented and pretty good and anytime you beat Atlanta on the road like that, it’s always a good thing, but it was more for the excitement of some of these players like Jamarca Sanford. Holy cow, you can’t write the script, as far as what he’s meant and what he’s brought. We’ve had other players like him at safety, whether it’s been Pierson Prioleau or whether it’s been Chris Reis or whether it’s been Omar Stoutmire. We’ve had guys that have stepped in and functioned and all of a sudden had success. So there was something about that game that because of who we won the game with made it much more gratifying.”
Can you discuss how you guys shift into an offseason mode?
“The first week is spent on our roster. The coaches are evaluating their position groups, just as our pro personnel (department) will have grades. That will take place this whole week. I’ll spend time with the staff this week. Next week we’ll be down, coaches will get away, and when we get back right after that Monday, we’ll meet collectively as a personnel department and coaching staff and through each player on the roster, vision, grade, strengths, weaknesses and after that meeting takes place you transition into your scouting, the college draft, Senior Bowl and then any potential free agent we would want to coach or someone else could put their eyes on.”
Earlier in the week, Jay Glazer said on a report that you and Mickey Loomis needed to hash some things out this week. Could you discuss?
“Mickey and I had two days of real good visits. I have not read (that report). I feel like when he says something there’s this immediate (impression) that he just got off the phone (with the person) and it’s not always the case. Obviously his job is to be closely in touch with what is going on around the league, but I think there are more of those people that do it at a very competitive rate. Obviously I’m troubled once in a while when 30 seconds after we’ve done something, it’s tweeted, then I know we have an issue. We’ll figure that out. I didn’t specifically read his comments, but Mickey and I did have two good days of conversations. The thing that I appreciate most and I think he feels the same way is that we each like to win an argument, but I think it’s important in the discussion when we’re going through things that we both have the ability to look at what’s best and that’s what’s made it a great job, and that’s what’s made it something I don’t take for granted, and that’s what’s given us a chance at functional success, and that’s what’s missing quite honestly in a lot of these organizations that spin the wheels.”
Is dealing with the salary cap and contract situations of several players your first order of business?
“I don’t know. I think our first order of business, really, is just what I said, our own proper evaluation of every player on the roster. That would be our first order of business. Obviously as it pertains to the cap and how we move forward, those different items will have a chance to be addressed, but not today.”
Did you think about a month ago you would be up here saying some of these things?
“I think I felt I’d be sitting here saying these things, I didn’t know to this extent. I think I felt that throughout the course of the season, honestly. I said, without this assumption that I’m always welcome back, I had a hard time envisioning anywhere else, and so I think that all along (I thought I would be here).”
Are you excited about the possibility of being on Hard Knocks next year?
“That’s a great question. Alright, so you want me to go into coaches speak? If that were to happen, I’d put my happy face on…who are we kidding if that’s going to happen, right? My point is that, we will be presented that challenge I would imagine, we’ll deal with it. That’s not our biggest problem right now.”
Will you have conversations at some point with older veteran guys such as Marques Colston and Zach Strief?
“Every year we do and this year would be no different. It would be unfair to begin to look and lump a lot of those different, older players together. It all could possibly vary. I spent a half an hour with Marques (Colston) the other day in my office, and Zach today for half an hour. Nothing (was discussed) about next year, the future, (the topic) was really about this past year, how they are feeling, what’s their health like, just those types of things. This offseason would be no different with regards to not only your younger players, but obviously the veteran players that have been here a while. But I think what would happen first though would be these next couple weeks of (preparing) the (draft) board, the evaluation, (identifying) what’s the vision for the player and then really communicating that. One of the things we try to hit on with our team and if there are any questions to come see us. A lot of time, a lot can be written, and just pick up the phone and let’s make sure that dialogue exists. I think that’s important. It’s critical that the communication between the player and club is first and paramount. So, that’s not always easier said than done. That’s not implying that any one of those players potentially would or would not be back. Sometimes you get frustrated when something possibly is learned before you’ve had a chance to communicate it. That’s happened occasionally and that’s something that bugs me.”
Are you guys going back to the Greenbrier?
“Maybe we get Hard Knocks to pay for it. That would be a good deal.”
If you do Hard Knocks, would there just be video of a door?
“I said this once at the start of my career, I’ll never be videotaped releasing a player. I don’t find it appropriate. I understand it. I understand what it does for our league. Like I said, I kind of feel like we’re already assuming we have that. We’ll see when we get there.”
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