(on if it’s tough to think about how close the playoffs were)
Yeah, like we have been saying all along, it’s nice to be going 17 weeks and having the last week of practice where it still meant a lot to the team because I have been part of it when it hasn’t meant a lot and it’s a little tougher mentally to get ready to go. All of our focus was beating the Texans so it made for a fun week. We had to win and we did. We did what we had to do in the game and we put ourselves in that position to where we had to rely on others. Hopefully the lesson that we learned is that you can’t hope that someone else can do your job for you. We had to earn our way in and we didn’t. We are happy with a lot of things we did during the season but obviously the bottom line is to make the playoffs, to win the division number one or have to go Wild Card and we didn’t accomplish that. That’s something that we were disappointed with because our expectations were that high. We weren’t thinking that we were going to win two or three more games than last year because people don’t think we can do that, ours was always thinking higher than that and winning the division. We had a chance at that all year long really in our minds. It was in our grasp. We never felt like it was out of our reach until right at the end there when we lost a couple of those games and Houston got hot. It’s disappointing when it ends and you are not playing next week with the 12 other teams. But like I said, a lot of good happened in the season. I think we are heading in the right direction in a lot of areas, but unfortunately it ended last night.
(on his offseason schedule)
Well I think it’s just broken up into stages. Right now the season just ended and now evaluations begin. The first step is usually your coaching staff and what you are doing there and getting things done there. Then it’s your personnel. March 13th free agency starts so you start looking at signing your own guys back. There are a lot of things that are going to start happening. Some of the things we have done last year so I think it’s one step at a time. You start to look at the college guys and looking at our needs. You take a little time off and you start evaluating and you start looking at your players. It’s hard now to make judgments and you try not to. The season just ended yesterday. You can take a step back a little bit and then take a look at what you have and what you need and where we need to improve. All of those things will come later. We don’t play a game for a while so what we are going to change offensively or defensively we have a lot of time to figure that out. For us to make that decision today is not going to be very helpful because you will probably try to hold me to it. We probably need a little time to figure out exactly what we are going to do.
(on any changes in the coaching staff)
There is change as we know in this profession on all levels. Head coaches always happen first. It has already happened to three guys and some guys today so it’s the tough part of the business. There is always going to be some change but as far as change here I don’t know if that’s going to happen. It’s not something that you are thinking about during the season that I need to do this or do that or change this or change that. That’s not really something that I have thought much about. We have been together a short period of time, five months with our team, so there is a lot of evaluating to do but I think it’s going to take us a little time in a lot of areas but I don’t foresee anything right now.
(on how long it takes to establish a culture change and if he feels he has made progress in that regard)
There is no telling how long something like that takes. I think I saw a lot of changes and I think they got used to what is expected of them and I think as the season went on and the more we did things then the more they did exactly what was expected of them and I thought that was a good thing and was a good first step this year in a lot of areas. I think they are going to want to be part of this. I think that it’s something that they are going to say, ‘you know what, we did a lot of things well, I like the direction we are heading.’ If I’m a free agent on this team or a free agent on another team, I want to be part of that. That’s what you are trying to achieve here, that this is a place that you want to work because you know what’s expected of you. You know what we are going to expect out of you, we know what is going to be demanded of you. There will be no secrets with that and there will be structure and I think guys like that.
I have been saying all along I thought Matt (Hasselbeck) has done a great job for us and is a big part of why we are 9-7 and of carrying us at times when as a team the running game wasn’t as strong as we would have liked throughout the year. You lost your best receiver on offense and I thought he did a nice job of keeping us together. A lot of the receivers had their career years, the tight end and the receivers. Again, it’s credit to them, the receivers and Jared (Cook) but also to Matt of instilling confidence in them. He brought a lot of that to the table along with his leadership so I was excited to see him play so well the last two weeks and we needed him to because we felt that if we were going to win those last two games then we were going to have to open things up maybe more than we had in a few weeks and give him a chance because our strength was becoming him throwing it and our receivers and we tried to take advantage of that the last two weekends so we can have a chance to be in the playoffs.
(on his plans at the quarterback position with Matt Hasselbeck and
We didn’t have any talks as far as that goes, we talked more about this past season. That’s not something that they want to talk about is next year. That’s like, ‘whoa, we just finished this one.’ I hope it’s always going to be a competition, they should always be competing. They competed this year I felt and when we get back and start work, OTA’s can’t be until June so it’s a long time until we have to worry about that but I would think that in June they are going to assume that they are going to come out and compete and always the best guy should play.
(on if he will let Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker compete for the starting job)
Well yeah, it wouldn’t be fair to not tell Jake Locker that he had an opportunity to play next year and that he was going to sit for another season. I don’t think that Matt (Hasselbeck) would want to hear that either. I think Matt would want to know he is the best player to play right now for the team whether it be next year. I think they are both competitive in that way. I think it will be obvious when the time comes just like it was this past year that Matt was the guy that was most ready to help us win. I think it will be the same decision that we will make next year that it will be an obvious decision to us who should start.
(on fixing the running game and any changes in the offensive line)
Again, we will look at everything like we have been. It’s hard to tell now, until we start watching all of that because you get perceptions of what you think it was and I have done that plenty of times as an offensive line coach. I watch a specific player and I had a feeling about how he was pass blocking and then I will sit and watch all of these cut-ups. I will watch about 30 or 40 plays in a row of the same guy and I will go, ‘man, he did better than I thought.’ I was thinking that he was struggling and really he wasn’t, it was this this and this. I think you have to kind of wait on that. We will have time to determine what changes need to be made. We know that we need to improve our efficiency in our run game. The obvious things are there that we know we need to change, we just look at stats and how we finished in certain areas. We will definitely be addressing that and we will look at the best way to do that whether it be scheme, personnel, a mixture to improve something.
(on if he feel that maybe he was too close to the offensive line and may need the personnel department to help him evaluate the line)
I think I was thinking that they wouldn’t keep us from winning the Super Bowl. If we didn’t win the Super Bowl it wouldn’t be because of the line. I don’t know if that’s true or untrue because we didn’t get in the playoffs but yes I was close to that group but as a team we ended up second in the league in sacks allowed so they did one part of it very well. Obviously, the running game wasn’t what we hoped it would be so they get some blame there. You are going to look at that position like we do other positions. We haven’t drafted in quite some time there, so I’m sure that’s something that we will take a look at is getting younger there. What will we do as a team? It’s hard to tell now. Free agency is one thing. I think
(on the future of the secondary with so many being free agents)
We don’t control that decision in a lot of regards with the salary cap, there is only so much money that you have to spend. If you have a bunch of one position up, because of the cap then you can’t afford to pay everyone depending on what the business side of it is. We could easily sit here and say that we want all of our guys back. Unfortunately, because of the way the system is set up that’s hard to do. When teams have good offensive lines, you can’t pay five guys top dollar. You are going to lose a couple of guys because someone else is willing to pay a couple of those guys. It’s the same thing in the secondary. It just depends on what the demands are and what the costs are and a lot of that will go into the equation when you are talking about positions like corners and guys that we have available and the market that will be out there for them.
(on having time off and a full offseason)
Well as far as having the time off, that’s going to help going forward and I think where that helps is for the players. The good thing for coaches is we will finally have tape to watch. Last year when the coaches were here and the players weren’t there wasn’t any tape to watch because there were no cut-ups. There was no year before of the new systems. Jerry (Gray) was watching film from 1999 I think from back when we was here with the Titans. Chris (Palmer) was watching some stuff with the Giants. You didn’t have your own guys which is a lot harder to study from. I think the fact that the coaches have actual real film to watch this year it will help us looking at improvements that we need whether it be personnel, scheme, if it’s red zone or short yardage or goalline or first-and-10. You can now study all of that and compare to what other teams are doing so that’s our job as coaches to find ways to improve the system. As far as the players are concerned, that’s where the big difference comes in. When people always ask me who the lockout hurt the most, to me it was the linemen, especially when you have offensive linemen that the five of them together play very well, I think when all of the sudden they are not together anymore and they are not working out together and are not doing plays together in April, May, and June, it makes a big difference and I think that affected us as a group. Even with the defensive line it’s the same way. I think the big guys got affected more so than other positions as far as individually. When they say why did a certain guy struggle, I think now having that time together makes a huge difference and you could see that when the guys came back in town. A guy working out by himself somewhere is not near as strong as a guy working out with five or six guys; it’s just how it is. I think certain positions get affected more so than others. A skill receiver is not necessarily going to miss as much as
It’s hard to tell because we won’t have him run a 40 probably. You would think in your fourth year, he came out of one game in four years for injury which is amazing that he was able to do that. He set the standard that was so high because of the 2,000 yards and the average yards per carry that he had in his first two years that expectations were huge. The numbers weren’t what we all thought that they would be, we know that they are going to start declining at some time. Is he a step slower? Yeah, I’m sure he is, I don’t know how you would measure that exactly but I’m sure he has. When you carry the ball as many times as he has for four years and not missed one game, you are going to slow down a little bit just from body soreness.
(on Chris Johnson’s effort throughout the season)
Overall, yes. Like I said, I think he practiced hard. I have been around him this whole time since he has been here, he practiced every day. I don’t think he missed a practice hardly, I mean the last couple of weeks because of the ankle, we limited him, but he was practicing and playing in the games hard. He never complained with what we asked him to do and we were rotating guys out, going through the media attention week after week because of the results not being there. I thought he handled all of that well. On the field, would we want him to be more productive? That is just not on him that is on the guys around him. We all wished he had rushed for 1,500 yards this year, believe me. Another 500 would have been nice. I think he had 1,500 totals yards with run and pass completions, which is still a productive season for a back and again he didn’t miss a game, played every game that we had. There were a lot of pluses there, but just not the numbers. Again we have been saying this all year; it is not just about him. We just talked earlier about the offensive line, you can talk about the fullback, you can talk about the tight end, you can talk about the play-calling. For whatever reason, things just didn’t fall the way that they usually do.
(on what Chris Johnson can do to better himself this offseason and attending the offseason program)
I think every player being here is a benefit. I hope that when we do get started, which is not until April or May, that Chris along with everyone else will be here too. The only way to get better is to have everybody here. That is what we hope happens when we start working that he is here. Obviously, it is going to help having everyone here. To what degree there is no way of measuring that, but I think it is a teammate thing; you get closer as a team, when teams are making changes you want everyone here. We are hoping that this year we can do that.
(on if Chris Johnson is a step slower if he can regain that lost step)
I don’t know. I don’t think he had a 1,000 yards because he lost a step. Is that why he wasn’t at 1,500? I don’t think that is where it goes. I just think the fact that we just talked about all the factors that went into it. I’m saying that he is a step slower because I would think any back would be. I don’t know if he is or not. I can’t tell that. I think that is why people ask the question because they can’t tell either. They are just assuming and trying to find an answer to why Chris Johnson didn’t have 1,500 yards. There is not one answer; there are a lot of answers. There is a lot that we are assuming. I don’t necessarily know that he has slowed down, but I would assume that from getting hit like that and playing that long, I know I would be slower. I don’t think that is why our running game wasn’t as effective. Our running game still should have been better; it should have been more consistent than it was. We know that and we have been saying that for 16 weeks. Well maybe we didn’t have to answer it the first week, but after the first week we have been answering that question. We know that will be an area that will be talked about until it changes next year.
We hope so, we think he is going to be a great football player if we can keep him healthy. He has done a great job handling a really tough situation for him mentally after being hurt a lot last year and then the knee injury that took him out the whole season this year. The good thing is that he has been positive and been here every day. He has been part of the team and he has been at all the home games. He has been doing all the rehab and as they say he is ahead of schedule because he has been working hard. He has handled it well. I’m sure he was depressed for a while and I’m sure he hides some of that because it would be hard not to be. We were depressed and it was hard to lose him. We thought he was one of our better players on our football team and we thought the way he started out the box what a huge season he was going to have for us. We have to assume that he will be back, healthy and ready to go for training camp and then cross our fingers and hope that he can make it the whole season.
(on his offseason discipline plans for the players and how that might change compared to last year with the lockout)
It is the same as it was even then. It depends on what happens and what the circumstances are and really what they do. Of all the charges brought against Kenny (Britt), I don’t know that anything ever stuck. I don’t know if he has been punished for anything legally or not, other than put himself in bad situations and assume he is making bad judgment calls. He knows that if he gets into any kind of trouble both the consequences from us and the league. He has already had that visit from the league, so he has been told that I’m sure and he has been told that by us. Just because we hear a Kenny Britt story, I hope we don’t, but if we did then it is not going to be until we sit down with him and see exactly what happened, then we’ll determine what needs to be done.
(on Chris Johnson unequivocally being on the roster even with a large salary number next year)
That is not my decision if it is unequivocally, but I would assume that he is going to be on our roster, yes.
(on the potential interest from Penn State now that the season is over)
I think we scared them off (laughter). I’m just kidding. I would think that they are moving on. They are going to make their decision and do what they need to do, which is great for them and I’m excited to see how it all works out. Again like I said, I was flattered that people thought that I would be the right fit for Penn State. You go to school there and know Coach (Joe) Paterno all those years, you never think that you have the opportunity to be the successor. I think it was flattering that people thought that I could fit that role and fit a need they had but like I said it never came to that. I happy with what I’m doing, this is a great situation for me in Nashville and a lot of that was just speculation.
(on whether he would want a say in whether a player like Chris Johnson is cut)
I will have input but I’m saying … there is no need to make a story about that. He is going to be on our roster. It is just like saying do you want to cut Jake Locker? I don’t think we are going to cut Jake Locker and I think that CJ is going to be on our football team next year. I don’t even think that is a dialogue or a discussion, but if you are asking me if that is going to happen, well if they came to me about Jake Locker, I would say, ‘no I hope we aren’t going to cut him.’ That kind of conversation to me is the same. We are not planning on cutting CJ, just like we are not planning on cutting a lot of other players. I don’t know all the contract stuff. I don’t know all the windows. I didn’t write the contract, so I don’t know what is in his contract, but I’m saying that I don’t envision us cutting CJ.
(on a lot of the potential free agents wanting to return)
I told all of them in the meeting tonight that I want to talk to the guys that are available. I think it is good that they know what our plans are for them, so it doesn’t become what you heard before, well we haven’t talked to the Titans, we are not sure what our situation is. I hope that they want to be back here. I hope it is because they think that we are headed in the right direction and that we have something special happening here and that even though we didn’t get as far as we hoped to get, I think they feel it, I think they see it. I know business comes into this matter as we talked earlier. Just like you can’t have 80 guys on your football team, there has to be a cut somewhere, but I hope it works out that we get as many of these guys back as we can. I think they feel that way and I know what changes that is obviously business and someone being able to pay much more than we can and that kind of thing or family decisions. I think it is exciting to know that I think most of them truly want to be here and if they can play anywhere, they would rather be here as much as anywhere else.
(on talking to some potential free agents more than others)
It was a general statement for all of our free agents and the point would be that at some point I’m hoping that I can talk to all of them. Like I said, no one can go anywhere until March 13 when free agency starts. I’m hoping that at least I will have an opportunity to talk to them and express like you were saying either we are moving forward in a different direction or you fit into our plans or we hope that we can sign you. I could want to sign every one of them and obviously financially and cap wise we are not going to be able to do it depending on what their demands are. That is why I can’t step out and say we are going to sign every one of you guys because business-wise tells me we can’t do that. I want an opportunity to speak with them all, so I know where they stand, they know where we stand and the business decision is made with everyone on the same page.
(on his excitement regarding the rookie class)
I hope everyone’s excited about that draft class. We’ve been bragging on them since camp started, especially the defensive side. Yesterday we had all three (rookie) defensive linemen suited up, played quite a bit with
(on his confidence in rookie quarterback Jake Locker)
For me it did. Usually a guy can’t get better when he doesn’t play since August. I mean, Jake’s last time he played was against the Saints (in the preseason), and then all of a sudden he plays in two tough games, Atlanta and the (regular season) Saint game and played better than I think we thought he’d come in and do. Just because he hadn’t played in so long, we didn’t know what to expect, and the fact I think that he has gotten better is a testament to Chris Palmer and Dowell Loggains and Matt (Hasselbeck). You know, Matt working with him and the practice work he got. That’s what I think made the people of Nashville, the Titans fans, so excited about the backup quarterback. I don’t think people really know him yet, and they got flashes of seeing some great stuff by a young quarterback that’s going to be very good for a long time. So I think that’s exciting. That position is such a key position as you watch the league turn. The numbers quarterbacks are putting up, especially the top three or four guys in the league, and realizing that we’ve got a couple of them on our team.
(on the prospect of getting
I think he had some good games early. I think, like I said before, Chris Palmer saw that right away when he watched tape, and so I think he was someone we were trying to use as much as we could early. There may be some games that got away from us or got away from him or coverage took things away from him. But I think what you saw in him was his confidence growing. I think that’s really all a young player needs. Again, I mentioned Matt (Hasselbeck) earlier having a part in that, and I think Cookie himself just realized that he could … He blocked better this year, ran better routes this year. All of that is improving, and I think he’s just got to continue to improve that just like (Lavelle) Hawkins did, just like
(on if he is disappointed the defense was not better against the run)
I think again, there’s an area we were a little inconsistent in. We let some runs pop out. We all know the Indy game a couple weeks ago, we let an 80-yard run come out; it was (originally) a five-yard loss. Yesterday we had a run for a three-yard loss, and they ended up getting a 60-yard run. I think some of those breakdowns, the Pittsburgh game … I think we gave up too many big runs because of breakdowns. The Pittsburgh game I think it was a 70-yard run. We blitzed the wrong way. We had a formation called wrong, or a blitz called the wrong way. We had some plays that hurt the yards. The bottom line though is that we did well, we talked about all year, is we didn’t allow teams to score points. I think we’re in the top five, six, eighth in least points allowed, which, the bottom line in this league is that. The stats, you can make those look good and bad. To me, the bottom line is, when you’re not giving up points, you’re going to win football games. When you give up the eighth-least amount of points in a season, that’s a big reason why you have nine wins. It’s a little easier to out-score the other team when you’re only giving up that amount of points. So the yards, just like when teams give up a lot of passing yards, you go, ‘Well, it’s because you’re way ahead.’ But is the secondary bad, or is it the games you get caught up in. So I think the thing we looked at most is points. We’re not giving up points. Yeah, you’d like your numbers to be number one in all categories, but ultimately I think the goal is not let the other team score and you win, right? So that’s the bottom line on the number-one stat on the defense.
(on how he feels like he held up in his first season as head coach)
I’m not going to miss you guys too much. This is my last press conference. No, I will. I was just kidding. Of course I’ll miss my press conference. It’s gone fast. I say five months, but it seems like it went real quick. It seemed like every week was a new challenge for me. So it wasn’t like, ‘Man, it’s the same, old thing.’ Every week was different. I used to deal with 10 guys; now I’m dealing with 70-something guys plus coaches. So I may end up doing a hundred people, and of those hundred people, everyone has something going on every day. Between babies being born and things with football and things with administrative issues, it seemed like my day was filled with football plus a lot of other things. So it made it very interesting that way, and I think it made time fly as far as that went. I learned a lot along the way. I hope I got better at certain things along the way. I’ll be a better head coach next year because I’ll work at it and find out areas where I can improve this team through our work in the offseason, through the draft, through free agency, to put a better team out there. So I think it’s exciting. It’s a job that’s going to be different every year. I’m looking forward to the next stage, which unfortunately, unlike the players, you don’t have a big offseason. The next thing is the Senior Bowl is coming up. You know, you start looking at college guys. Coaching changes are happening all around the league, and you wonder if that’s going to affect your staff, and on and on. We’re starting to evaluate tape so we can figure out who we keep as our free agents. So it just keeps on going. But it’s fun because getting one year under my belt, I know now what I’m into. I know what’s required of me, and so now it’s just a matter of getting better at it.
(on how much involvement he wants to have in personnel decisions)
I am involved. As far as the draft goes, myself and all the coaches are heavily involved in the draft as far as who we’re taking, who we’re not taking. Free agency is the same way. We’re watching all the tape, making all the same decisions, and it’s basically us deciding on … When we pick a guy, it’s usually because consensus is that’s what we want, from the draft to free agency. What you may be referring to is, during the week, if they’re bringing in eight free agents (to find out) who the best running back is out there on the streets … Our coaches will be out there also. But when it comes to our players on our team, our draft, I’m obviously heavily involved in that.
(on if he anticipates defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer being back)
Yes, I am. And we’ll grade each other. We’ll have some good talks here in the next couple days with me and Jerry, on both sides of the ball, and get a feel for what they liked, what they didn’t like. Even grading me. They’ll be critiquing what I can adjust, if it’s practice times, practice schedules … So they’ll critique me just like I’ll critique them over the next week or so. And I’ll do the same thing with the coaching staff. I think everyone always wants to know where they stand, no matter what job you do. I think you want your boss to call you in and say, ‘You know what? You did a great job here, here and here, but maybe we can tweak this and this.’ I think that’s what we’re going to try to do over the next week or so, 10 days, as coaches, talk to each other about what we could do better, what we could change. Because if you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to change. I could complain all day about a certain coach, but if I don’t go tell him about it, chances are he’s not going to change what he’s doing. Those are the discussions you hope are very productive and that we can all take criticism and try to figure out a better way to do things in certain areas that maybe we need to improve upon. And there’s other areas we’re doing very good. So I think we’re happy with certain things and other areas we’ll figure out what’s best for the team.
(on how much the team will be hurt from a leadership standpoint if
I don’t know. There’s no doubt he’s a big part of our team. He’s been our Man of the Year here in the community for the last two years. He’s been voted captain, so that’s someone that these guys look up to quite a bit. But again, hopefully that’s going to work out. As far as that impact, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see if that even comes about next year.
(on if they did any X-rays on Matt Hasselbeck’s wrist)
He said he was sore. I’m sure they’ll check it. Today is the check-out physicals. These guys record everything that’s bothering them so there’s a record of anything in case something becomes a problem a week from now or two days from now. I don’t know that … I’m sure if he’s a concern he’ll have it X-rayed, but not to my knowledge do I think he’s overly concerned other than being bruised.
(on any surgeries that are upcoming)
All of those decisions are going now. You want all the players … They’re doing MRIs now. You want the guys, if they need surgery, to get it done. If you want to get second opinions, go do that, but don’t wait. I mean, if I’m a player, you want to get healthy. You don’t want to waste your whole offseason and wait until February or March and decide maybe I ought to have my knee scoped or my shoulder scoped. I think the emphasis is on, ‘You know what? Do I have everything checked out?’ That’s what we’re doing now. A bunch of guys are scheduled for MRIs just to make sure there’s no issues with anybody. Then they have the option if they want to get a second opinion if there’s anything. I don’t think we have any of those kinds of problems this year. Then if a guy needs a surgery, go ahead and do it now so they’re healthy and it’s not affecting their career or the offseason routine for them.