Initial comments …
“It’s been a busy day. After the football game yesterday and looking at the offense, some of the positives were the line of scrimmage and the run game to begin the game. We did some good things, and we have to keep building on that all the way through. We had a couple of looks where we may have been just a tad off, but the back has to fit it up in there. I thought Joe (Mixon) did a nice job throughout most of the day. We have to be stouter in pass protection — we gave up three of the plays that we have to do better in protection. We need to stay on the field to give us more opportunities. We had the false start penalty on fourth-and-one, which set us back, and we had to punt the football. Defensively, we have to do a better job of doing our jobs. That means execution, tackling, playing fast and being in the right spots. With the move I made today (releasing defensive coordinator Teryl Austin of his duties), it’s very unfortunate. Teryl has worked very hard here, but I just felt like we had to rock their world and shake things up. It’s important where we are. We have to get this done, and it’s our chance to do it right now.”
You’ve had to fire coordinators and assistants before. How hard is it to look at someone and do that? You work with them day-in and day-out, and you obviously become friends with them …
“Generally, your relationship goes way beyond this. It’s very difficult. The easiest thing to do is to change somebody, and the hardest thing to do is to try to help that person get better. I’ve tried very hard to be a resource, but it wasn’t fitting right.”
With injuries, there is a trickle-down effect. With the removal of a coordinator, your responsibilities change and everyone else has to do a little more because you’re a man down. How do you divide those responsibilities up?
“We’ll be fine.”
Was there a tipping point, and did you consider this at all during the bye week?
“With the way things went on yesterday and so forth, and the sideline and so forth, it’s just what I had to do.”
By ‘sideline,’ do you mean their demeanor and how they were acting?
“Yeah, and with the way we played.”
Are you the defensive coordinator at this point?
So what changes with you being the defensive coordinator?
How do you approach it, versus how Teryl approached it?
“There’s going to be change.”
How much can you change schematically midstream?
“We don’t have to change schematically. We just have to change the things we’re doing and make sure our players have a great understanding. We’re not overhauling anything, but ultimately I’m responsible for everything that goes on in this building. I felt like I’d be letting you, the fans, everyone down if we continued down that road. That’s the hard thing.”
Ultimately, what was the problem? People talk a lot about the communications. Were they just not understanding it?
“Again, this is done and we’re not going to rehash it.”
You had a pretty successful run with the system you were using last year. Would it be easier to go back to what you were using last year, or do you have to build on what you have?
“The system hasn’t changed a great deal. We have to install with our players better, we have to get them to understand how to do their jobs better. No matter who’s in the game, we have to do a better job of executing. That’s the important part. It’s unfortunate that Teryl has been a casualty of this. It’s not all his fault — it’s my fault. Any time something wrong happens around this building, it’s my fault, and I accept that.”
There was never a midseason coordinator change around here in 49 years, and now it’s happened two straight years. Has something changed around here as to why it’s happening now?
“I have to make sure our players have every opportunity to win.”
Was there reluctance to do that in the past, or is that just how the circumstances have been?
“It’s hard for me to judge things in the past. That’s not my concern. It’s about today.”
Do you think there’s enough talent defensively to turn this around?
“Yes, I think we will turn it around.”
What makes you so sure, after how the defense has played recently, that things will be different?
“Because there are details we need to do consistently.”
Do you think that your message to the players today was pretty well-received?
“Be careful what they wish for.”
Do you feel like your own job is on the line if you can’t get this turned around?
“My job is on the line every day (laughs), but that’s not a concern of mine. My job for this organization is to get the team to be world champions. That’s my job. One goal. The only way we can get there is to get into the playoffs, and the best way to get into the playoffs is to win the division and to go from there. Those are our goals, and I have sole responsibility for that to the organization.”
How do you coach the defense and the team?
“I’ve got a plan. You’ll just have to watch and see.”
Do you need somebody to come in and help with those extra responsibilities?
“You’ll just have to watch and see.”
Would that person be named Hue Jackson?
“Watch and see (laughs).”
You said you wanted to ‘rock the players’ world’ and get their attention. What else are you thinking of doing?
“We were ten minutes late getting in here, right?”
Does that mean you were addressing them?
After addressing the team, do you think the players have bought in?
“As I told the entire building, we had to make a change. Everybody in this building is responsible for that change. We were all part of it. The first thing you do is change coaches and the next thing you do is change players. Ultimately, people look at them as well. We have the opportunity to right our ship, play better on defense, be supportive of the offense and do our jobs on defense, and that’s to get the ball back for the offense without the other team scoring and as quick as possible. That’s the goal of the defense, and we have to get back to doing that.”
Was there any consideration to making this coaching change during the bye week?
“I’m not going to discuss ‘he said, she said,’”
Does your relationship with the players change now as the defensive coordinator?
“I have a bigger role now that I didn’t have, and that’s being a play caller. I hadn’t had that, and that’s huge. They all have to raise their level, and it’s important the offense raises their level and special teams raises their level. There’s going to be an adjustment.”
Do you think you’ll be rusty as a play caller?
"I’ve got to get it right. I don’t have a chance to be rusty.”
You’ve had success before in the defensive coordinator role. Is calling plays like riding a bike, where it’s a natural thing once you get into it?
“I don’t have a chance to be rusty. We have to be good right now.”
Was there any thought before the season of taking over both the head coaching and defensive coordinator roles?
“A lot of things happen when you’re on defense. I had my back turned yesterday to the offense a couple times, trying to bring the defense together. Things happen. It could be whether or not we made a catch, and if we made a first down or not. If I’ve got my back turned, I have to make the decision if we’re going for it. Are we in four-down territory? I have to let Bill (offensive coordinator Bill Lazor) know and the quarterback know that they have three downs here. Those kind of things. If I have my backed turned by making corrections or whatever, I can’t do that. I’m going to try to minimize that as much as possible. I feel strongly that I have to make the correction to coach the defense right now.”
You said you were spending more time with the defense yesterday. Is that different than a normal game?
“It’s a little different. I hadn’t had to do that a lot.”
Why did you do that in yesterday’s game?
“I felt the need, that I needed to.”
Do you need to change the setup of what coaches are in the coaching booth?
"No, but their responsibilities just have to grow. But I’m comfortable with that.”
Did everything feel a little ‘off’ to you yesterday on the sideline?
“It wasn’t ‘off.’ The guys want to help. ‘Give me something.’ You (Dave Lapham) were a player. They want to help. ‘Help me through this.’ That’s the thing, I have to be the rock. That’s why I have to hide my feelings on the sideline and not choke anybody out or anything (laughs).”
Is game-planning the defense different from calling the game?
“Yeah, it’s different.”
It’s a different game from when you last were a defensive coordinator though, right?
“We still have 11 (players on the field).”
Do you have to keep the players from pointing fingers at each other when things go badly?
Did you see a lot of that yesterday?
“No, I didn’t, which was the good thing. I addressed it last night in the locker room afterwards. There’s one time to do that — we’re squarely there, and if they want to point at somebody, point at me. That’s what I tell them. And we’ve just been through that, with each and every one of them. Everyone in that (meeting) room had their plays they could have done a nicer job on.”
It’s not unprecedented for an NFL Head Coach to call offensive plays, but on defense …
“It’s different (on defense), because on offense most of the decisions are made. Most of the things happen on offense. You don’t decide whether the offense is going for it on fourth down when you’re calling the offense, you already did. But the defense doesn’t decide whether the offense is going for it on fourth down and so forth. That’s why you see fewer on defense.”
How many successful cases can you remember of an NFL head coach also severing as defensive coordinator?
“I don’t know. I haven’t determined that. But this one has to be successful. (Vikings head coach) Mike Zimmer has done well with it, and Rex (former Jets and Bills coach Rex Ryan) did it for a while. So, some people that I know. Those are the hard points, and those are things I always talk to those guys about.”
Have you called Zimmer to ask how it handles those responsibilities?
“He was asleep (laughs). He was traveling back from hunting.”
Is that a conversation you’re going to have?
“Yeah. Obviously we’ve talked about it before and have spent time talking about it.”
Offensively, they seem to be really great at the beginning of the game when you guys are still in your initial play-calling script. Do you see any downside to the offense when the script is done?
“We didn’t get through the script in six or seven plays. The game started out like an NFL football game. The Saints scored on a 15-play drive, and we came back and answered on an eight play drive. That’s NFL football. Sometimes the other team scores. But from that point on, we have to stay in rhythm and we have to play. Now we understand the speed of the game and speed of the things they’re doing. We have to get in rhythm and be able to get off the field by getting them to third down and win the downs, or take the ball away. We’ve got to do that. Offensively, we have to stay on the field by having positive plays, making first downs and continuing to drive the football like we did. That has nothing to do with on-script or off-script. The script is longer than six or seven plays.”
Were guys trying to do too much yesterday?
“We just have to execute it. We can’t worry about ‘what ifs’, we have to just ‘do.’ ‘Do mine.’”
So they just can’t overthink it?
“Just have to ‘do mine.’”