You mentioned the rotation at guard yesterday, what is it that really Cesar Ruiz has to keep improving on as he goes through his rookie season?
“I just think the added reps, I think, also a credit to Nick (Easton) in the way he has played and battled. I think Cesar’s (Ruiz) powerful. I think, man, he can anchor, he has strong hands. You know, he’s playing guard for the first time. And so, some of the run schemes, but man, I’m excited we have him. And I think he’s having a good rookie year. I do. And he’s going to play, he’ll play in this game. Part of it is just the plan going in, we’ve had depth there, fortunately, where guys have had to step up and play, whether it’s been an inside position or an outside position. But I think overall, my gist of the volume of work and reps at guard as opposed to center where he played in college.”
How important is it to have guys, I guess, the caliber of P Rob (Patrick Robinson) and P.J. Williams, guys who have started and are able to come in and add that depth for you?
“Yeah, look, last week it was, you know, one injury and then a second one later in the week. And all of a sudden now, you know, you’re getting ready to play a team like Atlanta with their skill at receiver. It’s a throwing league. And if you just watch the formations everybody’s in, there’s a lot of one back three-receiver sets. So, that’s going to require at times more defensive backs.”
I’m curious, I feel like I could give you any quarterback with all due respect to the quarterbacks you have and you would win. What’s your process when you have a new quarterback? We saw it last year with Teddy (Bridgewater). We’re seeing it right now with Taysom (Hill). What goes through your mind as a play caller, when you get a quarterback and you have to basically supplement the offense around that specific skill set?
“I think this, I think you have to have gathered the right amount of information prior to that moment. In other words, training camp, take Teddy (Bridgewater) was last year, it was the training camp, it was the in-season work. And you kind of have an idea of maybe, alright, here’s some of the things that he does well. And then, what do we need to do well around him? For him to be successful? Well, I said this in Seattle, that first week Drew (Brees) was hurt. I said, look, it’s not, Teddy (Bridgewater) doesn’t have to come out here and like this thing on fire, right. But the rest of us, every one of us has got to be on point. It’ll take care of itself. And then all of a sudden, the confidence began and you saw that play out with him. And I would say in a similar fashion, different style, what are the things that make Taysom (Hill) comfortable when he’s back there. And that first game, there’s always a lot of pressure on the player, his first start. So three weeks ago, home versus Atlanta, there is that moment where I’m starting an NFL game, and then it begins to calm, if you will. And what are the things that we can do to calm it down for him? And what are the things that we feel like he does well? And I thought, look, the second game was a little bit of an aberration relative to, we’re playing Denver, and the plan completely changed with their situation. But, I thought in this third game, you saw him on third down, you saw him in the red zone. There were some really encouraging impressive snaps that you want to continue to build on. But, it still gets back to, hey, what are the things that he does really well, and let’s try to do those things.”
In your opinion, what’s the hardest part about, just like, maintaining this here in and here out success that you have had in the last four years?
“I mean, each year is different and so, I think it’s challenging to win in our league. I think it’s hard to be successful in our league. And we use the term uncommon, there’s times where a game looks like, man if we’re not careful. This is a game that (can catch teams), but the uncommon teams respond in a manner that aren’t normal. And that’s what we’re striving for. And that’s what we’re pushing for. And we’re still searching for that, that shangri-la game we haven’t (hit it), you are chasing it. So, what is difficult about that over a period of time, it can be tiring, draining, exhausting all of those things. And yet, there’s nothing better than winning. And you want to try to put yourself in the best position to not only have success now, but to have success in the postseason and have a chance to play for a championship.”
Do you think the kind of continuity you’ve had, whether it’s staff or roster even, plays a part in that?
“I think a lot plays a part in that. I think not one specific, I think talented players play a lot in that, our draft in ’17. And then, this past year. And then, having the right people in the building, in every aspect of the job, the strength coach, the people in the cafeteria, the people downstairs with equipment, the players, the scouting department. Having that in concert and having people that are passionate about their jobs, and enjoy coming to work, I think then you begin to move in the right direction. I know that that’s what we are striving for.”
What kind of goes into the play calling process? Is it percentages? Is it feel, because things are happening pretty fast in a game? What kind of goes into that process during the game?
“Good question, I think feel, I think you hope to, on Wednesday night, on Thursday night on, you hope to, during the week, narrow down those thoughts. For instance, we work all Tuesday. And when the players arrive Wednesday, they arrive for their first and second down game plan, you know, the running game, play action, the drop back, first and second down. And then we practice that. And those go on certain areas of the call sheet. And then, Wednesday night, last night, we work just on third down, third and two to three, four to six, seven to ten, 11 plus. And we go through the run and pass stop thoughts and those down and distances. And then you begin to take shape. So, it’s not like when you’re staring at a call sheet you’re just looking at, let me select something out of 110 plays, it’ll actually be narrowed down to five if it’s third down in four to six. And so, you’re hoping to do and make some of those decisions during the week. And then, arrive at them on game day. And then to your point, it’s fast, there’s the plays over the 25 seconds, the clocks rolling, here we go. I think you have to force yourself while your teams at the line of scrimmage to be looking down at your next play. And if you get caught watching the play, you’re going to be behind in the call. And so, if it’s second and eight and we’re breaking the huddle, I’m looking at a third and eight. I’m not looking at third and eight, because I’m thinking negatively, but I’m just looking at alright, what am I thinking third and eight here? And if we gain six yards quickly, I go to third and 2. But, I think it’s important that you’re moving to the next call while your team is getting ready to run that play. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.”
What’s been key for Taysom (Hill) to be so effective on third down this year?
“Look, he’s had two games, right? Hopefully we keep those numbers up, but our team has been that way on third down. So I think that overall, statistically speaking, I thought last week was impressive. I thought it was a good step for him and seeing him function on third down, a few third and long’s actually, and so that was encouraging.”
If I could ask a question about sustained success, much has been talked about how you motivate your team and having a pulse of your team. Is that something you do maybe just by gut? I know teams use sports psychologists and things like that, do you confer with somebody or how you motivate them and what you do is just you having the pulse of your team and then kind of going on gut instinct?
“I think, look, I think for me it’s gut. I mean, I have a great staff and periodically, I mean, I hope they’re not ever afraid to give me suggestions, and I encourage it, but I’m not relying on an outside person. I enjoy being around them. One of the great things about our jobs as coaches is we get to stay young, hang young, listen to the music that’s in and feel young. I think that’s pretty cool. I think, just from a sports standpoint, that’s something that I don’t (dismiss), I mean, listen, I think it’s important to experience different programs. And I was lucky enough to be under some really good coaches and good mentors. But I do feel like some of those things are just instincts on how a team’s behaving and how a team’s moving in a certain direction. I think that’s one of the good things about the job.”
Not to present a hypothetical, but if you were facing your defense on a Sunday, what would concern you, given the way they’re playing especially over this past five, six games?
“Well, look, I think it’s the same thing that concerns us this weekend with the Eagles defense, they rush the passer well. And so their sack production, Philadelphia’s that is, is second in the NFL, and first in the league and depending on the category, but they are one of the top two or three defensive lines that and they get pressure with a four-man rush. Anytime the quarterback has to be hurried, that concerns me and that would concern me the same way playing our own defense. When the quarterback is used to two and a half, three seconds, and he’s now operating at two to one and a half, the decision making becomes more challenging and the timing and everything else.”
Demario Davis is the team nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, just how special has he been to have in your locker room with all the stuff that he’s done off the field as well as the work that he’s put in on the field?
“Yeah, look, he’s an impressive individual. I feel like we’ve got a lot of guys that would have been great candidates for that. And yet, man, he’s fun to be around, he’s passionate, he’s caring, he’s understanding. I think he’s a very good leader. I think he endears himself to his teammates. And I think he’s a tremendous parent and father and husband and all of those things. It’s nice to see someone maybe flourish in a uniquely different way. In free agency, you look at a person, you watch the film, you make some calls, you maybe have a chance to talk with him. And you get an idea of the player and then maybe he comes on a visit, maybe not. And then you have a vision for how he’s going to help your team and then, periodically, all of a sudden, you get a lot more maybe than you were expecting and that’s happened with him.”