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Titans Defensive Changes Press Conference

Posted Feb 7, 2013


(opening statement)

Kind of building off what we did with the offense, we kind of did the same thing obviously on defense.  We’re very busy when the season ends.  I think the next day we got together, myself and Ruston Webster with Coach (Jerry) Gray and have similar conversations on what went well on defense and obviously what didn’t go so well and what we are going to do about it and hear his plan on both sides of the ball, which took a lot of time to talk about.  From why it happened, from the things that went well, we were the Top 10 in sacks, we did Top 10 in interceptions, but why we gave up all the points, and why we struggled in the red zone.  We had those kinds of conversations and talked about scheme and talked about philosophy and personnel and coaching staff.  It was a long, long discussion and a good one I thought.  I think you need to have those honest discussions and we should probably have more of them.  When the meeting ended for me, I basically told Jerry that we needed time to think, need some time to get away from it and get some separation and think about the best way to go forward.  What were the changes?  Did we need to make changes to the defensive staff by upgrading it?  Do we need to blow the thing up and start over?  We needed to digest what we talked about and I told him to do the same and we would get together in a week or so, and that is what we did.

During that time for me again, like on offense and like other teams are doing, you are trying to think what your possibilities are.  It is easy to say you should be doing this or doing that, and like I said you are never going to let someone go or make changes unless it makes sense and we have someone that is definitely going to make it better.  Again the urgency is that we can’t take a step back, we can’t afford to have it in any phase – offense, defense and special teams.  The thinking is we have to come out guns blazing and ready to play some football in September.  No one wants to hear I hired a new coaching staff; they are not going to want to hear that.  I looked at all the different availability and the possibilities of people that maybe can make a difference.  Was there someone out there that was maybe better than what we had?  Who was available and who wasn’t?  You do all your research.  For me again, obviously it came to me that no, I felt the best way to do it was to improve the staff we have.

I called Jerry and I said listen, why don’t we get together.  We met in my office and we had a nice honest talk again about being on the same page and the things we felt needed to be changed.  Maybe it was some philosophy stuff, maybe it was some coaching staff stuff and a lot of topics I thought we were on the same wavelength.  And a lot of this is on me.  I’m sitting here talking about adjusting coaches, but I have to do a better job also.  This all starts with me.  I need to coach my coaches better too, meaning my coordinators.  Again when I’m speaking with Jerry and I’m saying stuff needs to be adjusted, well that is me too.  I need to be on top of this also and try to adjust as we go through this.  I thought we had some good ideas on what to do.  We talked about how we could improve the staff.  Last year on defense, we brought in two defensive back coaches, Steve Brown and Brett Maxie, we brought in Keith Millard.  We made three changes last year.  As a coach seeing it, it takes a while for coaches to gel, to come together.  I’ve never said that in a press conference before, and I won’t sit here and make excuses for having new coaches and we are doing this and we are adjusting.  I know I made a decision to make those coaching changes.  I think they were good coaching changes.  The thinking was what else needs to be done to the staff.

The obvious answer is we made a change at linebacker and moved Chet Parlavecchio to the linebacker spot.  The reasoning behind that is we think he is a great fit.  And a lot of stuff about bringing in coaches is not just about the players they are going to coach; I think it is great for Coach Gray.  I think he is great in that room to challenge Jerry in ways that he needs to be challenged or second guessed or talked to about.  That is what you need in rooms.  You need banter back and forth to make your staff stronger.  I think he brings that.  I know he can probably play linebacker right now or he probably looks like he can.  This guy I have been around a long time.  He brings more passion to the game than anyone I have been around.  He has made a great impact on our special teams players and they respond to him in a big way.  I have seen guys respond to him over the years from high school, college and pro level in a way that I haven’t seen other guys have an effect on players.  I think he will come in and make these guys; again fundamentally … he has some of the most fundamental linebacker talk that I have ever been around.  He knows more about linebackers, coaching and playing the position, then anyone I have heard talk about the position and he loves it.  You will be able to tell that by talking to him.  I think he will take this young group and make them the best, baddest linebackers in the league.  Going in I think he will bring a lot to the table that way.  Jerry and I are really excited thinking that is a great move for us as a staff to include him in there and that is why we did that.  It will be exciting to watch that with Akeem (Ayers) and Zach Brown and (Colin) McCarthy and how they respond.  I think you are going to see a totally different type of player and a different style of play.  You want to talk about identity and demeanor; you are going to see what you need to see from the way they are going to be coached.  I think that is exciting.

The other coaching addition, Gregg Williams, I have added as senior defensive assistant.  What I will do is talk about Gregg is I will kind of backtrack on how the dialogue even got started and how the thinking came forward even talking with Gregg.  When I finished talking with Jerry and I was taking the time to think of options and brainstorming how to put a staff together and what pieces are missing and who to go with and what makes us a stronger staff, I thought of Gregg.  That thought normally went out of my mind because of all the stuff that had happened in New Orleans, but the fact that I have known Gregg for 20 years … In 1990 or 1989 whenever it was, when Jack Pardee came over to the Oilers and Coach Williams came with him as a quality control coach, I watched him work his butt off as far as both sides of the ball and doing quality control work and running the scout teams during those couple of years.  I saw him move up to special teams coach and run that as good as anyone I have seen run it.  I saw him get promoted to linebackers.  Then I started coaching and I joined that side of the ball and I started coaching, so I was working with him.  I watched him being promoted to coordinator when we moved here to Nashville.  I saw how the players played for him.  I saw how they bought into the way he did things and the enthusiasm to make players better than they probably should be and we had a lot of success.  When you know a guy that well, you are going to give some second thoughts of looking into it.  So why thinking was, how would Gregg fit into this? 

First I need to find out what the league’s position on what is going on because really I hadn’t paid attention to a lot of the stuff that was going on and all the details and everything that had gone on.  I made a phone call to New York and this was during that time between when Jerry and I talking for the second time.  I called Commissioner (Roger) Goodell and I talked to him about Gregg’s situation and he was very open about it.  We talked on the phone for a long time and he took me through all the details from start to finish on what they feel happened and how they handled it.  I asked a lot of questions and I felt I had a better understanding of everything.  The main thing at the end was how did he feel going forward?  I think he felt because of the way Gregg handled himself during the last year and how honest he was with them over the past 12 months and how he accepted responsibility for the mistakes he made during that time in New Orleans, he felt that he was going to reinstate him.  I asked him about a timetable and I was thinking when and does this fit.  He asked me if we were interested and I said well we could be.  This was my first step looking into it.  That is when the idea kind of grew a little bit.  OK it is worth going forward.  He told me it was OK to call Gregg and start talking to him if I wanted to.  So I did.  When I was talking to other coaches, I talked to Gregg.  He and I hadn’t talked in about a year, probably longer than that, probably since I saw him at the Combine.  I talked to him and kind of got his perspective on what had been going on and how he was doing and how he was holding up.  I know it had been a long year and that kind of thing.  Again his talk to me was very similar the commissioner as far as hearing his point of view on what happened and all the details with that.  I felt good about the talks with him, so I said the next step was to sit and talk with Gregg face-to-face and to get Ruston involved in this, so I talked to him about the possibility and see if this made any sense.  I thought let’s get together, so Gregg came to Nashville and we met the three of us for pretty much a full day and talked about a lot of topics.  We covered a lot of things, from obviously football to everything that went on in New Orleans when he was there as a defensive coordinator.  I think what came out of it was, I thought he was being very honest at what happened and I think he was being very humble by what he went through.  I think he took responsibility for what he did wrong and the mistakes he made.  I knew that he wanted to move forward.  He was hoping for a second chance to move forward.  We had a conversation and we felt that Ruston and I did that we would discuss this and kind of see where this was going to go.  I thought it was a good meeting for us to have and definitely encouraged us that this idea makes sense. 

That is kind of what got us going.  I decided at that time to talk with Coach Gray because I’m now feeling this thing could work.  So Jerry and I are talking about the staff and we added Chet to the staff and I’m thinking, you know what, here is another idea.  What do you think of this?  I brought Gregg up and his immediate response was he was excited about it.  They had a great relationship.  They have been together for 10 plus years.  Gregg coached him for a year and was on the staff when he was here.  They obviously had worked together when they were coordinators, when Gregg was the coordinator and Jerry was the defensive backs coach here when we went to the Super Bowl.  Obviously, they went to Buffalo together as head coach and coordinator.  They have been in Washington together.  These guys had a great history together and they know how to work well together.  I wanted to talk to Jerry and I had talked to Gregg about how this could co-exist.  I’m not going to fire anybody.  I think I’m just going to strengthen the staff.  I think I can bring someone in if I think it makes sense that is going to make us a much better football team and that is why I was doing it.  I thought that Jerry had some good ideas about how to go forward with it.  He was all in on it and thought it was a good idea.  That is how we got to that step.

The last step was obviously talking with Mr. Adams.  We talked to Mr. Adams about our thinking as we do with all decisions like this.  We went through the same type of dialogue I’m going through with you and he was happy with what we were talking about and thought it would be helping our team.  He remembered Gregg obviously the years when we had success here and he said we need to do whatever we think is best for the football team.  That is how we got to where we are today.  I called the commissioner then and he met with Gregg last week for their final get-together to make sure they were comfortable with how this thing was going to go forward.  We started talking about a contract with Gregg for a one-year contract to be a part of our staff and again the title, and I know people get into titles, is senior assistant/defensive coach which is similar to the title that Dave McGinnis had when he was here.  They are going to work together.  This is Gregg’s first day here.  We think he can help our staff in a lot of ways, not just with Jerry and the game-planning.  There are a lot of ways and that will be developed going forward into the offseason over the next three or four months.  With this move to me we strengthen our staff in a big way and strengthen this team.  I think we will see it as it unfolds.  Referring back to Gregg again I just feel like when this all came down we went through all these steps, and I just thought it was the right thing to do.  I have known Gregg for a long time and I feel like this is where he grew up in the coaching world with the Oilers/Titans.  What better place for him to come back to for his second opportunity after making some mistakes to re-charge his career going forward.  I know how much he loves the game and how much he wants to be a part of it.  We felt this was a great opportunity for us and for him to grow together and kind of get through this thing together.  Like I said, he came in here and he knows a lot of the people that are here, which I think is helpful.  Again he knows we are going to do things the right way and he knows how we do things.  I think he knows changes have to be made maybe the way he has done things in the past, but I think we are on the same page.  I think we are excited about the opportunity and I know our staff is.  That is kind of how we got to where we stand today.  That is our feeling towards it.  I think we strengthen our staff in a big way, offense, defense and special teams.  Time will tell with all of that and obviously we are going to be excited.  What I thought I would do now is let Gregg speak and say a few words here.  The biggest thing guys is we kind of want to look forward on this thing and we are not going to keep going back and go back and talk about what happened in the past.  That stuff is all behind us.  We are looking forward.  I will let Gregg take the podium here and then we will open it up for questions.


(opening statement)

I’m not usually a ‘statement guy,’ but I want to make sure I say things correctly and include everybody.  Be patient with me.

I met with the commissioner (Roger Goodell) last week, and we had a good talk.  I thank him for my reinstatement back in the league.  I’d like to thank Mr. Bud Adams, Ruston Webster, Mike Munchak, Jerry Gray, as well as the entire Titans organization for providing me this opportunity to come back to where I began my NFL career.  I’m thankful and grateful and will immediately begin to work tirelessly to fulfill the commitments to this organization and the Nashville community to help the Tennessee Titans football team be successful. 

I take full responsibility and apologize for my previous actions, and I’ve used this year to reorganize my life and put focus on positive energy and positive ways to inspire, coach and motivate in this profession.  I’m here to put my focus and my energies into working tirelessly on behalf of the Titans and making as much of a positive impact in every way possible as I can for them.  I’m grateful for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward with excitement to getting started.

I’m a big ‘quote guy,’ and I’ve used those for quotes for life with I don’t know how many players and coaches that I’ve had a chance to work with in over 30 years that I’ve coached in all levels of football.  This one came to me this morning, and I’d like to end with this thought from Robert H. Schuller, one that I’ve used before:

“It takes but one positive thought, when given a chance to survive and thrive, to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.”

I’m excited about being back here with this organization.  I’m excited about being back here in this community.  I can’t wait to get started.  It was a great rebirth walking in here this morning.  I arrived back in Nashville last night a little bit before midnight.  I got in early (this morning), and it was like Old Home Week.  It was a lot of guys on this staff that I’ve coached, that I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to coach.  There’s a lot of guys on this staff I’ve coached with before here.  There’s a couple of guys on this staff I’ve coached other places with, and now they’re back here also. 

Again, I’m excited to be back in the organization and ready to get to work. 

(on what the last year was like for him and what went through his mind)

Well, you learn an awful lot about yourself in the most difficult sorts of circumstances, some of the most stressful circumstances. You learn a lot about your family and friends, too. One of the things that I’ve always chosen to do is take any type of a situation and turn it into an opportunity to improve. One of the things that I really did this year was focus on as many self-improvement things as I could. It was a great study year. It was a great year to lose a lot of weight and get back healthy. It was a great year to travel. I’ve spoken all over the country. The media was unaware of all the different places I’ve been, really halfway around the world, some of the places I’ve been. I visited Thailand, worked with some impoverished villages, a lot of orphanages over there. I’m a sucker for kids. As you know, my foundation that helps the kids back over there in Missouri in the little hometown I grew up in, and then I spoke to as many Pop Warner to junior high to high school to college football programs across the country, and I did that in a way that was trying not to focus any attention on me but on the game and would like to feel like, from a professional growth way, it was a good year that way. Anytime you’re as passionate and love something as much as I do this, you appreciate it even more when you come back.

(on if he was worried if he would have another chance in the NFL and what kind of changes will he have to make in his coaching style)

I think that every day is an interview in life, and what you have to do is you’ve got to go about doing what’s best and be able to adapt and improvise to the situation at hand. I think I’ll be effective. I always will. I’m a people person. I think, dealing with people, I’ve always been good at dealing with difficult people. This opportunity here, in the National Football League, you have to adapt and improvise every year. You have to adapt and improvise every week and you have to adapt and improvise to every injury you have where another guy has to step up and take the opportunity. This is another opportunity for me. I’ve got to step up and take an opportunity that’s similar to lots of different people and lots of different positions in the National Football League, so I feel good about that.

(on if he was worried if he would have another chance)

I felt confident that, you know, I needed to do the right things the way that our commissioner told me about doing the right things. I trusted in that vision, and I’m thankful that it came about.

(on what message he’ll deliver to players to build trust with them)

One of the things that I’ve done is I really haven’t read anything that any of you guys have written. I haven’t watched anything. I spent my time going and doing as many things as I can, and all I can tell you is every day is an interview, and each person you meet, you start building relationships with, trust comes from how you’re dealing with them. In the National Football League, the players that you deal with, the most important thing they want is ‘Can you help me get better? Can you help me keep my job one more day? Can you help me win games? Can you help me make more money?’ I think all those things will come about. I’m not afraid to garner trust. I’m not afraid to start new and do anything I have to do.

(on if there are any concerns with how the Titans defense will be officiated next season)

I would say this, as you guys have studied, although I did listen to the Commissioner’s speech last week. When you listen to things like that, you understand at every level of football, this is being looked at from Pop Warner to junior high to high school to college to our level, so I don’t think there’s any big spotlight, no. Also, from a penalized standpoint, you look at those types of situations that deter or detriment your team, we’re not looking to do those types of things. I don’t think there will be any bigger spotlight. That’s my opinion.

(on how the defensive staff will work together and who will have the final say)

I’ll let Jerry and Munch talk about this, but one of the things is we’re all on the same page. I wasn’t willing to do this unless I know (Munchak) the way I know him and I know (Gray) the way I know him. The four W’s of life are very important to me on what I do from now on in the rest of my career, and that’s ‘What am I doing? Where is it at? Who’s it with? And (is there) the ability to win?’ And the ‘Who is it with?’ is very important to me. I’ve had the opportunity to coach Jerry Gray when he was a hard-headed player. I’ve had the opportunity to coach side-by-side with him when he was a hard-headed coach. I’ve had the opportunity to keep track of the coaches in the National Football League and scout them, and Jerry Gray has been at the top of my list in the folder that I carry in my briefcase with me every day that ranks position coaches, trainers, strength coaches, equipment men, all that kind of stuff in the National Football League. We’ve worked side-by-side; we’ve worked in every capacity. He understands that I value his opinion, and guess what, through years of trust; he kind of values my opinion. It took a while. If you can get a player to listen to you when you’re a coach, it’s pretty much easy to listen to you because you’re on the same common ground, so the fact that I’m having a chance to work with these guys, who I know, when I talked about ‘Who’s it with?’ that’s very important if you’re going to try to do something special. I’m excited about working with Jerry and with Munch, but really working with Jerry on the defensive side of the ball.

(on why things didn’t work out in St. Louis)

Well, the thing with that is, number one, this is my first day back. I haven’t talked to anybody. Part of the deal is you’re not supposed to talk to anybody. That’s not for me to know. I haven’t talked with anybody in that organization. I’m just happy with the opportunity that Munch, or whatever took place, is the fact that I can be here. I haven’t talked about it. This is my first day back in the NFL.

(on how the defense will work together)

In those times that Jerry and I have worked together in all these past years, he’s had a valued opinion that I’ve listened to at every level. He had a valued opinion when I was his position coach when he played. I listened to him, and you know what, I learned and he taught me a lot about being a better position coach when he was at the end of his career still playing. I learned a lot coaching him, and then, when we coached side-by-side together, we’ve grown a lot together. The fact that I valued his opinion when he played, and I valued his opinion when we coached together, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he and I will be able to share opinions and we’ll both value them.

(on who will call plays during the game)

Sometimes, if you haven’t ever done it before you put this magical spell or feeling on how to call a game, what to call in a game, all that stuff. One of the things that I’ve tried to do, and have done and hopefully, maybe have taught him also is you basically call a game three times before you ever call a game. You go through your weekly progression and you’re calling the game every single day on how you practice, how you script, how you do everything. When it comes to game day, there is an open line of communication. I can’t tell you how many times when everybody thought I was making the call, Jerry made the call. Jerry made the call a lot of times when I’m the coordinator at the Redskins, and I’d turn and said, ‘Here it comes, third-and-6, what do you want to see? Boom.’ The discussion happened before we got to the play, so there will be those types of open lines of communication. The things that, what we, I hope, we want you to be hearing about the receptiveness that we can be open and honest with each other. It’s not a thing where you get upset because you didn’t use my idea. We’re not going to be that way, OK? There’s way too much, I think, pressure put on the exact call. You’ve got to execute the call, and we’ve got to fit the calls to the players we’re coaching here. I’m looking forward to learning more about the players here, to tell you the truth.

(on how effective he thought the Saints defense was in his final year and how much time he spent looking at X’s and O’s during his absence from the game)

Every year there’s, again, an adaptability you have to have. I’ve been real fortunate in my coaching career, and I think one of the networks did that thing where I’ve gone to several different organizations and been able to start over with a new staff, with a new group of guys and a totally different style of defense than I’ve had at the previous place and been able to put together pretty formidable squads. You’ve got to be able to do that year-by-year, and what group of guys that you have, you’re going to into the season with the final 53 and how those injuries happen, we adapted and we improvised as well as possible there. We probably didn’t get, the think we didn’t do a very good job of, as I look back, is (get) some key takeaways in some situations, but I felt good about that whole experience and that kind of stuff. This past year, and I was talking to the scouts this morning when I had a chance to see them, is that it was a pretty neat thing about being able not to be so focused on your own team or focused on your own situation but to be able to look at the league league-wide. I was able to look at all different styles of offense, defense and special teams, all different styles of coaching decisions, all different styles, and how about this? I got a chance to go to all 13 Virginia Tech games, where my (youngest) son is playing. All that kind of stuff is, it’s a good growth year in that respect. Again, I’m looking forward to finding out how these guys can play here and help them and listening and doing the best thing we can to put the best product on the field we can.

(on if he thinks helmet-to-helmet hits have decreased league-wide from the emphasis on them)

I don’t know the numbers. I couldn’t answer that question. Again, what I’ve tried to do, is that, I’ve not talked to anybody and not seen anything, so this is my first day back in the light.

(on if he will be a different coach)

Sure, I mean, I think we always have to change. I’ll need to change from some things verbiage-wise, some things tact-wise, some things that way, and I’m looking and excited about doing that. The bottom line is still getting the players to perform, and what I’ve been able to do, I guess, and had the opportunity to do at a lot of different places is, ‘How do you make an average guy good, a good guy great, and if you have a chance to coach a great guy, he’s got to be great on your watch.’ This is still a production business, and you have to get them to do that and people have to understand how to do that, but I think, I feel like I’m looking forward to some of the newer ways that you need to do things.

(on if he will be able to change perception about him and why)

Yes, I do.  Because I’ve got a very positive outlook on things.  I understand and respect the game an awful lot.  The past is the past.  What I’m talking about doing right now is creating a resume from this day forward.

(on if building his resume is done with the intention of being a coordinator or head coach again)

I’ll say this.  I’m looking to be the best coach I can in the National Football League.  There’s a lot of things I could do in life but maybe not cherish as much as coach in the National Football League.  If you ask what I miss the most?  I miss the competition on Sundays.  I miss the competition on Monday nights.  I’m a competition addict.  I enjoy that aspect of competing.  I’m not going to apologize for that, the aspect of competing in that way.  But I’ve got to make sure it’s done in the right way.  Those are the things I’m anxious to get started about doing.

(on the strengths and weaknesses of the Titans defense)

Again, to be truthful, I was here this morning and had a chance to look at the coaches in the coaches meeting this morning, and they probably said, ‘Whoa!’  Because I got the chance to speak this morning on certain things, and they said, ‘You can tell you’ve had a year off.  You can’t wait to talk.’  No, I haven’t had the chance to look at one snap of film.

(on Blaine Bishop and Marcus Robertson not being with the Titans anymore)

You know, I’m kind of sad that Blaine’s not here.  You guys remember the little tiffs that he and I used to go through.  I’m anxious to get a chance to talk to him and see him again, too.  Those are the fun things.  You miss the camaraderie.  You miss the sacrifice.  You miss the blood, sweat and tears and the preparation that goes in ball with getting a chance to go out and play.  Everybody sees the product on Sundays, but you miss all those other things, too.  I’m anxious to get back involved with that, the team camaraderie that you have.

(on anticipating players will be skeptical of him)

No.  Players are players.  I said it differently back earlier in the press conference, they want to know, can you help me win?  Can you help me be better?  Can you help me stay one more day?  Can you help me make more money?  That’s what they want to know, and they want to do the best they can do.  I believe that 99 percent of the people I come in contact with are pleasers.  What they really want to do is they want to please you and get a chance to play for a coach that tells them how to do it.  I can’t wait to get started to try and help.

(on what his first message to the players will be)

I haven’t thought about it yet, to be honest.  Like I said, I got here a little bit before midnight last night, and Jerry’s had me working hard today.

(on if he will be as aggressive in the way he coaches defense)

Yes, and again, those are what people get when I get a chance to help.  It’s been my thought process as a player, as a coach, in all the years I’ve been doing this, that I’d rather be aggressive than passive.  Sometimes the fastest approach to getting the job done is being more aggressive.  And that can be style of defense, scheme of defense, attitude of defense.  Great defenses are two-thirds of your team because they’re a huge part of your special teams, too.  It’s got to carry over into that aspect of the team.  I feel like that will always be a huge tenet of the National Football League. 

(on if aggressiveness across the NFL has dissipated because defenses don’t want to get beat over the top)

It’s two-fold.  Getting beat over the top is not the defensive back’s fault; it’s the pressure’s fault.  I look at that, and I’ve always smiled at that, at people’s recollection or understanding of that corner that’s out there covering the best athlete in the National Football League that’s playing at the wide receiver position, and you don’t look at the rusher.  All of those things work hand in hand.  I do believe that there’s a blend, and as you watch where I’ve gone, we’ve blended to the talent level.  A while ago, Jerry was talking about the sub-defensive perspective.  It’s going to be good for Jerry and I to sit down and talk.  Since he and I last coached (together), there’s been a huge evolution of style of defense that I’ve coached since the last time he and I coached, especially of the adaptability of the sub packages once you’re going to your fifth and sixth defensive back on the field, how you adapt, all of those kinds of things.  Maybe I’ve got some help there, that he has probably wanted to know just what exactly was I doing.  We weren’t working side-by-side, but now we are.  There is an open line of communication there.  The answer to your question is a mix of aggressiveness, a mix of bend-but-don’t-break.  That’s always been a part of what I’m about anyway.  You have to adapt to the situation with what is needed to be effective during that time of the game.  Maybe it is bend-but-don’t break.  Maybe it is pressure.  But we’ve got to do what is best for the players here.

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