“Hope you guys had a Merry Christmas because I didn’t. It was miserable. With that being said we have another game to play against the Atlanta Falcons. Hopefully it has some meaning. For those guys, they have a chance, depending on what happens in the game … we got flexed. Obviously not on the terms we wanted to but hopefully we have a chance to play for some meaning here. (Atlanta) has a chance to be a three-seed or a six-seed. So hopefully we can play spoiler at some point. And get these guys to play faster. We are just not transitioning over what we do in practice well enough. And we have to do that a little bit better. Guys get in a game and whatever happens, they want to make a play and then instinct happens and you start to make up stuff. Those things can't happen to you as a football team. You have to just trust in what you practice all week and what is going to happen and work. Every once in a while it works when you guess and you make a play. Then every once in a while the play doesn't work. You have to eliminate those things on both sides of the football.”
How much of the struggles is undisciplined players or how much is it players not being able to make the play?
“It is a combination of both. When you talk about the game (Saturday). I think what you are referring to in not being able to make the plays, is some of the missed tackles (and) that was very evident. We missed a bunch of tackles as far as whether a guy in his gap, wide-open defender on him on a man, and you miss that play. That’s just things you have to do. Dig down deep inside and make... we did everything to work on those deals. We did everything to put guys in position to make those plays and you have to go make them. The other part about it is guys getting frustrated in some cases wanting to make a play and jumping outside the box. When you lose that much those type of things creep in.
"Last year when you are winning and you are at the point of possibly making the playoffs, guys are saying, ‘Hey man lets just not mess it up lets go out here and play within the system, believe in each other, do what we have to do and keep winning.’ Right now when you lose a couple games in a row, you get guys – some of your better players – taking chances they don’t have to take in situations you don’t have to take chances in. And when you miss them they are huge, they are big and they hurt your football team.”
So mistakes aren’t limited to just young football players?
“No this is what happens when teams lose whether you are talking about basketball, whether you are talking about football, whether you are talking about hockey. Put in a basketball reference; you are the best player on a basketball team and your team is losing. Then you are trying to figure out a way to make your team win. And then you go out there and chuck up 80 shots because you feel like you trust yourself more than you trust anybody else. But it doesn’t work that way either. It has to be a collective team effort and right now we have guys trying to make plays outside the box when you don’t have to and you are missing the ones you are supposed to make.”
How surprised are you how this season has gone?
“You cant be surprised when you don’t play fast hard smart and consistent. I base it on that the whole time. We haven’t played smart all year. I’d be surprised if we were here with the same amount of turnovers as last year. I’d be surprised if we did a nice job (this year) like we did in penalties last year. Then I’d be surprised. I’ve said all along we are not a finished product. But you don’t have to be a finished product in order to win. And we proved that last year. You have to go out there and play fast – hard – smart – and consistent. And what we have struggled with all year has been smart and consistent. And that is what has hurt us the most.”
Why should you be retained?
"It’s not even about me. It’s about us collectively. We get together and we believe in each other and we build this program through young players, we build this program around Josh Freeman, and we have a chance to be better. Last year the same team won 10 games, through a little bit of smoke and mirrors so to speak, but that’s not the point. You have a chance to get better this offseason, you got a chance to come out here and get an offseason, get these guys together and get them to out there and play fast, play smart and consistent and go win. You don’t win 10 games by accident. You win 10 games because you followed the formula – fast, hard, smart and consistent. You didn’t turn the football over, you went out there and competed in every single game you had a chance to win. Even when we won 10 games, we barely won those 10 games. That’s the point. That just lets you know you have a chance to get better in the offseason. You had a chance to get better through the draft, through free agency and go out there and compete for a championship, period."
Do you think you should you be retained?
"I think I answered this questions a few weeks ago. I will never fire myself. We go out and you don’t go from being a coach of the year candidate to being the worst coach in the league to getting fired within a year. It’s about us. It’s a little bit of everything. I believe in my guys. I believe in the system, I believe in the program, in what we do and in everybody in this building, so it’s a buying in factor. And either you’re buying in or you [aren’t]. We wanted to build this thing young and develop a team that goes out and wins and wins consistently."
We can’t imagine you would have wanted this team:
"We made a collective agreement to go young when we took over this program. That’s something we wanted to do. In order to upgrade at certain positions, sometimes you have to get worse before you get better. And going out and getting a young middle linebacker was something that we decided to do and we did it. Whether or not at the beginning we were both on the same page or all three of us including the Glazers were on the same page doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we decided to do it and we went out and did it.
"We still have a chance to be better than we were last year (next) year. We can be. I believe that. We’ve upgraded some positions, we’ve gotten better at some positions, we got guys to play faster, we’ll get guy to have a chance to be in the fire for a year. And then you come out next year and you just have to get better. This offseason, you get a chance to work on some of the fine details of some of the stuff we may have missed last year or may have missed form being in the offseason. This year we’ll have a chance to have an offseason, to be with them, to clean up some things. This year we’ll have some great examples of how to lose game and how to win games. Because we’ve got the last two games to look at."
On being in so many non-competitive games:
"Bingo, you got me. I can’t even talk my way around this one. That is the most frustrating thing for me at this point. But it happens because people go outside of the box and try to make plays that are just not there in order to get their football team or basketball team or hockey team to win. You got to go play within the system and make the play that technique and opportunity allow you to make. And once you do those things, it’s just like the year before. But until you do those things again, until you realize that, until you settle down and stop pushing the panic button so to speak and jumping outside your zone and outside your gap or try to do something bigger than what it really is, leap a man in open grass. And all those things are a part of it.
"You don’t want to put the finger at any one thing. Kellen didn’t jump over that guy with the intention to fumble, he tried to make a play outside of his realm, outside of the box in order to get his football team to win. And I’m not going to bash him for that, it’s a teachable moment, for even a guy like Kellen Winslow. You can’t go outside the box and do those things. Because you could be great and we could be great, but in order for us to do it all together we have to be on the same page."
Are those guys trying to do everything at once?
"There’s no question. There’s no doubt. Kellen Winslow is a prime example of, I’m going to win this game despite everything around me for Raheem. No doubt in my mind that he was thinking that when he jumped over that guy. It was not a selfish act. There was nothing about that that was selfish. He was trying to score. There’s no doubt it my mind.
"They’ve been like that. The idea that I lost them and all that garbage talk, there’s no doubt in my mind that stuff is not even close because of our 61 men in that room when we meet in the team meeting when I can actually call guys out and tell them what to do and not to do. I’ll never do that in front of you guys because that’s not my style but I understand and they have to understand that too."
Is the benching going to be more of your coaching style, benching guys immediately for their mistakes?
"It wasn’t immediately for mistakes. It’s kinda going back to what we talked about again, going out of your realm. When you go out and you prepare all week and you get your opens together and you talk about what you want to do and you get your look, you get the quarterback to do exactly what he’s supposed to do and you get your line doing what they’re supposed to do and you drop the ball on the first play, that’s a lack of concentration. That’s not being locked in on the first play of the game for yourself (or) your football team and you don’t deserve to play those next couple of snaps, so I’m going to take you out of there.
"The same thing when you’re an old player and you jump the man that’s not in your zone and you kinda get outside of your box in order to make a play – whether it’s for me or your teammates or it’s for yourself – it still can’t happen. Those things won’t be accepted or tolerated so you have to put the next man in and let them think about it.
"I’m going to go back to those guys because those are my guys. There’s no doubt about it. Hand selected. Tanard Jackson. Raheem Morris. Hand selected. LeGarrette Blount. Raheem Morris. You can point the finger at me for hand selecting the wrong guys or the right guys.
I’ll just tell those guys at the end of the season, like the old man liked to tell us, Joe Gardi, rest in peace, 'you got a chance to go home and get better.' I’m going to give you a C and the C tells them you don’t play very well, you’re not a good player. You got a chance to go out in this offseason and prove me wrong. Come back and be ready to do the right thing and be the best player you can be."
Sounds like that’s the message for this week, go out and play the right way and if you mess it up, it’s on me?
"Guys, I’ve got no problem standing in front of you guys and tell you when I mess something up. It’s easy. I do it often, sometimes when it’s not all me. But when we do something out of the box and outside of the realm, it’s hard to do that. We want to get everybody to do the right thing, let’s do that this last week. "
If you could go back, what would you do differently?
You’re trying to trick me to get off our philosophy. For me, I can’t think about it because that puts me in a mentally weak state. It’s like going home listening to your parents tell you what you should do with the football team. Your mom knows what to do: throw the ball deep to Mike Williams. I know your mom told you that. My mom has. It’s like going home and just listening to that. It’s got to be elevator music to you."
But not what the outside people think, but what you think?
"You do all that stuff. That’s why you go back and get tape when you were doing it the right way. You go get the Atlanta game, you go get the New Orleans Saints game and you show them: this is us. I don’t know what we’re doing today but this is us and I don’t know where that went. It can’t be one or two players that make a big difference like that. It’s got to be a collective development. If that guy is not as good as the guy we lost, then it’s got to be people around him that makes him better. That’s got to be the nature of the beast."