We were talking to the Washington folks and they were mentioning the talent of your team. I know you mentioned on Monday if we kept going and the reason I didn’t want to go for two or if we kept going, I thought we were the better team. Where do you put your talent, in terms of, I know you watch a lot of tape of the rest of the league, where do you think you guys are in terms of that?
“I don’t know. I have to spend a lot of time to evaluate the rest of the league. I do that really week-to-week. I’m excited about the players we have in this building. I think we have a lot of guys who can help us right now and I think there’s a lot of guys who are going to be a big part of our future here, too. So, I’m excited about the guys we have. I always want to improve and keep getting better, but I think we’ve got more talent than what we’ve shown so far.”
What did you like about coaching Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins and what do you admire about him today?
“Just the way he plays the game. He’s a talented guy who works at it. Very tough and accurate and very solid quarterback.”
We talked with him today and his interpretation of the whole 2012, of you guys taking a quarterback at number two was that you would develop him and then possibly trade him down the line. Was that the intent and was that communicated to him that he might end up being trade bait?
“I don’t think that was necessarily it. We thought he was very good, so we thought that eventually could help us. I remember we went into that draft knowing we wanted to take two quarterbacks. After we made the trade we knew who we were going to take with the second pick in the draft. Actually, our goal was, we were going to take [Seattle Seahawks QB] Russell Wilson in the fourth round knowing what type of offense we were going to run and we wanted to pair some guys with that, but he went before that. And we had Kirk ranked high. He was there in the fourth. He fell that far, so we thought it made a lot of sense for the organization.”
How would you describe his presence at the line of scrimmage?
“Good. Kirk is very poised and pretty locked in in everything he does and plays the position very well.”
Is he playing the position now like you would have had him play it had you guys stayed around there? Just from a style standpoint, what you would ask of him?
“Yes, I believe so. I think he’s been playing pretty consistently for the last few years. He looks, to me, the same way he always has.”
Are there similarities between he and QB Brian Hoyer?
“Yeah, I think they are similar type guys, the style of how they play. Guys who are pocket passers, who can both throw. Guys who you’re not going to design a huge run game around them, making plays with their legs. I think they are similar style of quarterbacks.”
Back in the offseason when you guys made the moves you made whether it was trades, adding draft picks for next year, things like that, if you do indeed want to address the quarterback next offseason, do you feel good about the options you’ve created for yourself?
“Yes, I feel like we’ve created that in every situation. I think that’s one of the reasons that we were so excited to come here. When you go to a team that has that much salary cap room, has that many draft picks, I knew we had to really improve it before I came, playing against us last year and just studying it on tape. So, I knew we were going to have to add some resources. What made this such an enticing spot is we had the ability to do that from a salary cap standpoint and draft picks, so it was exciting.”
It’s a weird time, because this team is 0-5. Obviously the goal is to win, that’s what the NFL is about. But, when you talk about the salary cap, finding those right players, is it a unique opportunity for you as a head coach to also find out what some of that talent is on your roster more so than if you guys were 5-0?
“Definitely. You’re always carrying two thoughts. You always want to win right now, but you don’t want to do it at the expense of hurting yourself over time. It is a long season. What’s the best for you throughout 16 games and what’s the best that when you’re done with 16 games that’s going to make you better for the next year? You try to take everything into account. We are going through a lot this year. We’re going to find out a lot about our guys. I’m definitely not happy about being 0-5. We’re going to find out a lot about our guys regardless just athletically and how talented they are and what they can handle throughout the year. More than anything, especially where we’re at right now being 0-5, you find out the type of people you’re dealing with. A lot of people can fool you when you’re 5-0. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s perfect. It’s very easy to do everything. When you’re 0-5, a lot of true colors come out with people and you get to find out the guys you want to go to war with and the guys who are going to be a part of turning this thing around.”
Have you had a lot of one-on-ones with guys that may be concerned or do you meet with the leadership council every week?
“No, I don’t. I do everything just for when I think it’s necessary. I don’t have an exact, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this every Monday.’ I try to look at each situation for what it is. A lot of one-on-ones, I think when it’s needed, it’s very good. I think I’m a guy that I think our players feel they can very easily come to me and communicate with. Anytime I want to talk to a player, I don’t hesitate to do it. But, I also am a guy who sees a lot better than I hear. I watch how people handle themselves, not only just on tape, but around the building, on planes, at practice. It’s very hard when you call someone in to have a one-on-one with the head coach. It usually goes pretty good. It’s usually a good conversation. I don’t always like to go based totally off conversations. I’ve been hustled before plenty of times. I see better than I hear, so I like to watch people’s actions. Of course, if there’s something I need to talk to someone about I don’t hesitate. But, I’m saying it over and over again now, but I say it over and over again to our players, too. I see better than I hear.”
With the air quality today, is that going to impact any of the practice in terms of will you curtail it at all if it gets worse?
“Probably not. We need to practice. We need to go through there. Hopefully our guys can handle it. I think they’ll be able to. I think it’s pretty important to get all our reps in at practice.”
With LB Reuben Foster coming back today, what’s going to go into the decision on whether or not he plays Sunday and how does LB Ray-Ray Armstrong’s play over the last couple of weeks maybe impact your thinking there?
“Ray-Ray has gotten better each week, which I’ve been very excited about Ray-Ray for that. He’s been working hard. He always plays hard. But, when you play hard and it’s important to you, most guys do get better with reps and Ray-Ray has done that. As far as with Reuben, and even [S] Eric [Reid], we’re not going in set with ‘Hey, they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that.’ We’re really not sure. They’ve looked good at doing the rehab stuff, but you really never know about these guys until they get out into team drills, not just individual but are in movement with 22 guys out there. Really trying not to decide until I can see with my own eyes today. When we see how they move around then we’ll make our decision. Of course you don’t want, when guys miss the time that they have, which they’re both I think around a month, it’s very tough from a football conditioning standpoint just to throw them into the fire. Even if they do look great, I’ve got to be smart with that, but I’m also going to watch how they move.”
Are you confident, or do you believe that they will be able to get out in team drills today?
“I do believe they’ll get out today. Yeah, I’m pretty sure of that. That’s why I’m kind of really holding any judgement until I can see how they move with my own eyes.”
You’re a few years removed now from your time in Washington. Just thinking back to that, how did it maybe impact or help your development to get you where you are?
“I think it was crucial. Before I went there, everything had been very easy. I’d been in some good situations. I’d been a coordinator for two years and had a lot of talent on the offense that I was with in Houston. We went to Washington, took over a team that had struggled, wasn’t real high on talent and went through some tough years. Had I had one pretty successful year there, I felt like after Washington though, going through a lot of things, I felt extremely battle tested. It wasn’t always fun, but it was a great opportunity. It was a great chance for one time in my life to be able to coach with my dad, which I would never take back. Even stuff that were tough there, I wouldn’t take any of that stuff back too, because I feel like it’s led me to here. I feel like some of the things, going to Cleveland the next year, some of the things I noticed that helped me make some tough decisions to move on to go to Atlanta and some of the things that made this place so attractive to me. So, I think it’s all been part of the process of me just trying to become the best coach that I can become and everything that I see and that happened in Washington, whether you can perceive it as a positive or a negative, it was a positive for me because I believe it really helped me get to where I’m at.”
You talk all the time, but now specifically about your players of how you can gauge how they deal with adversity and kind of come through things. Did you learn something about yourself in those years in Washington?
“Yeah, definitely. I think it happens with younger people more. You don’t have those scars yet. What are people stressed about? What are they worried about? Everything is fun and easy and you just go out and do it. Sometimes you run into something and you’re like ‘Man, this isn’t so easy.’ You’ve got to work through some of this stuff. It’s not easy when you get like that, but it really challenged me. Some different situations, depending on personnel, or whatever it was, that you can’t always do what you want to do, you’ve got to figure out ways to do it, figure out ways to help your players. You have to try that through experiencing it as a coordinator. I think that’s allowed me to do a bunch of different things. That’s why I feel no matter what situation I go into, I feel confident that I have a chance to succeed. I don’t think, you get that way through failing and succeeding. You’ve got to learn from that stuff and I think that’s what’s given me confidence to feel like I can handle most things.”
With that said, obviously you want to win every week, but anything extra this week?
“Not really. My first year after I left Washington, I think it was maybe a bigger deal then. My first game after leaving Washington was at Washington. I didn’t think I was going to go back there for a while. It was actually our second preseason game in Cleveland. So, I’ve been back to Washington before and I played them in Atlanta. There’s a bunch of guys there that we did draft that are still there. There’s a bunch of guys in that building that I’m close to and consider friends. That’s always neat to say hi to those guys you haven’t seen in a while. But, besides that this is my third team since there. They’ve gone through a lot of different things. There’s absolutely nothing personal anymore.”
If Eric Reid is fully healthy, is the plan to put him back at that starting strong safety spot or has S Jaquiski Tartt asserted himself now to where maybe that’s a little bit of a competition to get back in the lineup?
“Yeah, I think everybody is a competition. You watch how they played on tape and I thought Eric Reid was playing at a very high level before he got hurt. That’s why we look at everything in practice, too. That’s why Eric has got to be fully healthy and we feel gives us the best chance to win and whatever that group of guys is we have out there, that’s what we’ll go with. I think the good thing about all those guys is I do think they are all pretty versatile. Whether you’re a strong safety, whether you’re a free safety, whether it’s nickel or dime where we can move you into linebacker spots. I think we’ve got some pretty good safeties that can play them all and that gives us some options, whatever package we’re going against, whatever type of personnel we’re going against and really how healthy all the guys are, too.”
So, that decision will come after three days of practice I would assume?
What’s DB Lorenzo Jerome’s status? I know he was released, but wasn’t released immediately or signed to the practice squad. Where do you guys stand with him right now?
“Jerome is a guy who did help us. We had to make a tough decision. I do think highly of Jerome and hopefully he can be back here. We’ve got some other situations we’re looking into, but we’ll see how that works out. I’m not totally writing him off at all.”
Can you talk about CB Leon Hall and what he brings as a veteran?
“Couple things; first it’s always nice to get a veteran in here, especially when you’ve got a pretty young group. But, that’s not the only reason we would bring him in. I think his strongest asset is that he can play pretty much all the positions back there. He played at a very high level in Cincinnati as an outside corner, being a high draft pick and doing that for a number of years. And he’s a very smart player who we’ve also seen play nickel. He played the safety position too with the Giants last year. We’ve had a bunch of injuries last week and we’ve got a veteran guy in here who is a great person, who works hard, who also can play all the positions and help us wherever we need be, so his versatility really makes for a big asset for us.”
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, any thoughts on what’s happening in the North Bay?
“It sounds pretty bad. It sounds like some serious stuff and our prayers are with those people. I’m not exactly sure of all the exact information. I’ve heard that a lot of people are struggling up there. I can tell from the smoke and everything down here. I haven’t seen a lot on TV, my wife’s told me some things and it sounds like some pretty serious stuff and our prayers are with those people.”