Opening statement:"I appreciate you guys coming out. Obviously, it's not the best meeting of the year. I talked to the team yesterday, and one of the things we talked about – and the reality of it is – there's one team that has a positive ending in the sense that they enjoy their last day together, and they enjoy their last press conference. We're not that team this year. That's the most disappointing thing, because that's what everybody works for. That's your goal when it starts. That's what you want to accomplish. You want to be the best, and we didn't accomplish that this year. I also think, and I told the team this, just like in life when you have endings and changes – that's what life is. Life is change, and football is certainly constant change. The National Football League is an acceleration of life, and things happen very quickly. It's very competitive. Young guys have to understand that there's a new wave of players coming in looking to compete. All of those things are true, and yet, it's still a beginning. It's a starting point. It's a jumping off point of where we're going, going forward. It's not black and white. Success and failure does not begin and end with only one team successful and 31 teams aren't. I think there's relativity to all of that. There are a lot of things this year that I'm very proud of and very pleased with, and the guys are very proud of and very pleased with, and yet, so many things that we need to improve upon, get better at and move forward on. When you go through a season like we went through, the good and the not good, those things become clear. They're very clear, I think, in all of our minds, about what we need to do to get better. That's what we're going to go to work on – 100 percent committed to, again, being the very best we can be. That's the way we've been every single year. It will be a fight. It will be a challenge. It will be difficult. It won't be easy to add and improve in the ways we need to do it. We have to be creative and smart and find ways to do it. It has to do with improving the players we have, improving the schemes that we have and always evolving those and getting talent when we need it in certain spots that are going to make us a better football team. That's the thing that we're looking to do. I'm excited about that and just can't really wait to get started. We already have gotten started.
"Last couple points here: When you talk about that improvement and you talk about this league – it's really something I've come to understand and come to learn – it really is a game of inches. Football really is a game of inches. I go back to one of my favorite scenes from any movie, 'Any Given Sunday' – the Al Pacino talk, the 'game of inches' talk – and how true that really is. That's what makes it so dramatic and so exciting. I think that's what makes it so compelling. That's why you like writing about it. That's what makes it fun to cover. That's why fans love to watch it. That's what makes it so tough, but also so great. That's what we're in right now. We have to find those inches. We have to find those plays – those two or three inches, those two or three plays that make the difference in close games. We were in 14 close games this year; I'd guess we split them. If we're in 14 close games next year, we need to do better than split them. But you know what? We don't need to be in 14 close games. We've been that way for the last, really, four years. We've been in a lot of close games. We were in a lot of close games in the Super Bowl year, and we won most of those. If you go back and look at that season, I want to say there were 10, off the top of my head, games that were decided near the end by three points, four points, five points. We found a way to win most of those games. Even more than that, we have to build a football team that is not in so many close games. We have to be able to score enough points where we're winning by 10, 14, 21, 24 points. Then, if we're in four, five or six close games, if we win three or four or five of those, now you're looking at the kind of season that you really want to have. That's what we're shooting for. That's what we're working for. That's where we have to go."
Every offseason, coaches are inquired about coaches that might get hired elsewhere. Are you or the front office here looking to engender any change in the staff? (Joe Platania) "We're going to try to improve everywhere, including the coaching. We will stay intact. I'm excited about going forward with our coordinators – all three of those guys. I'm looking forward to that, so there's not going to be a change there. As far as other coaching positions, guys have opportunities. Guys have goals and ambitions and stuff like that. If you go through the ranks of different guys, everybody is in a different place. There's always going to be change on your staff. We're going to look to try to bring in some infusion of ideas, talent and coaching ability that can make us better."
Obviously, you are endorsing Marty Mornhinweg as your offensive coordinator, but are you looking for a change in philosophy toward the run? (David Ginsburg) "Yes. Marty believes in running the football, and I believe in running the football. We have not run the football well enough or enough, really, for the last two years. That has to change. I think it goes hand in hand [with] being good at it and doing it a lot more than we do it. I think the numbers this year are a little bit deceiving in the sense that we were in two-minute offense a lot this year. We were in two-minute at the end of the half more than usual, two-minute at the end of the game more than almost any team in the league, and we also jumped into our two-minute tempo a lot during games that weren't two-minute situations, and those are going to [produce] more passes. We were also second in the league in two-minute. We were good at it, and it helped us. I think it jump-started us a lot of times with our offense when we got bogged down, when we weren't moving the football. That's part of it, but that having been said, and I think understanding that's good to understand it, but we have to run the ball a lot better. We have to run it more, better. We need to be physical in terms of how we play the game. We need to be a field position football team. Not just that, we need more big plays. We need more big plays out of the run game and the pass game. We need to hit a run and have it go. We need to hit a pass and have it go. We need to have shorter drives and therefore score more points. We did a pretty good job of moving the ball. We're good at getting first downs. We're good at extending drives. If it hadn't been for penalties, most of them warranted, then we would have been even better at moving the ball, and you'd have seen more drives and more points. That's something that has to be addressed and will be addressed. That has to improve. Big plays help you. You look at the teams that are in the playoffs, most of those teams make lightning-bolt-type plays. We have to be able to do that as well – that's run and pass."
That being said, are RB Kenneth Dixon and RB Terrance West two guys you think could carry that load going forward?* (Todd Karpovich)*"Yes, don't you think? I think those two guys really proved themselves. To me, Terrance West and Kenny Dixon made a name for themselves at running back. You see the run that Kenny Dixon made on the goal line? When the backside inside 'backer, who – in goal line defense you can't account for them all – he comes running through there and hits them at the one-yard line, bounces back and scores. The number of broken tackles that he had, how hard and physical he plays [is impressive]. Terrance West [is a] downhill, lower-his-pads runner. Both guys are good out of the backfield. I like those two guys. We need another back. What type of back that is? I think we're talking about it. We have a pretty good idea of the type of back we want to add. That could be a guy here. It could be 'Buck' [Javorius] Allen, who played really well early in the season, and him taking the next step as far as developing himself. You didn't see it, but he practiced really well the last half of the season. Those two guys and another one is what we need."
Is it fair to assume that the coordinator decision is top to bottom, unanimous with the owner and GM and yourself?* (Peter Schmuck)*"Everybody always asks that question. I think it's fun to write about, but I'm making those decisions. That's a responsibility that Ozzie [Newsome] and Steve Bisciotti have given me that responsibility. That's my job to do that. That's my decision to make, whether we keep a coach or we don't keep a coach. But we do that in conversation. I talk to Ozzie every day, multiple times a day, Steve, multiple times a week, at least. That's an ongoing conversation that we always have. It's personnel, it's scheme, to an extent. It's coaching staff. They challenge me every way you can be challenged to think things through. Believe me – and I hope fans understand that – those decisions are taken very seriously. We're not just sitting there saying, 'It's easier to keep everybody.' Actually, it's easier to do the opposite. Everybody is happy for a little while, but being pleased because something was done in January or February is different than being pleased with what you build in September, October and through the season. That's what I'm thinking about, is what it is going to take in every single area for us to go out there and play the kind of football that we want to play – that we need to play. I lay awake at night thinking about it. I think about it driving to work and driving home, what the best way to do it is and who the best people to do it are. That's the conclusion that I came to. I have the support of everybody in the organization in that sense, because we talk about it. You could go a different way. You could justify or argue or make a case for any kind of direction, but in the end, I have to balance all of that out and say my heart, my gut and my head says this is the best way to go. That's what we've decided to do."
John, what do you think happened to the defense in the last four games of the season? (Stan Charles) "We didn't play nearly as well the last four as we did the first 12. I have a couple ideas. I think I know exactly what happened in terms of how we just got loosened up a little bit, in terms of our run defense and our inability to get off the field at the end of games. I think 'finish' is a good, general way to say it. We didn't finish games as well toward the end, and we didn't finish the season. What we didn't do at the end was we didn't make the plays that we made early in the season on the back end. We weren't able to break up passes in critical situations. We weren't able to get the critical interceptions that put an end to a drives and therefore win you the game. We have to be able to do that. We have to be able to do that with guys making plays. We have to cover people at the end. In order to also do that, you can't be playing split safety all the time to protect your back end, which opens up your run defense, because it widens your front out, because you have to protect the edges of your front a little more. As well as our inside guys played – our tackles and our linebackers; and they played excellent football all year – at some point in time, when you expand your front enough, there are going to be cracks in there that get run through. I think in a real general sense, that's basically what happened. We have to shore up a couple of positions. We'll look at scheme. We came a long way with our defense in the last two years. I think we built one of the best defenses in the National Football League. Certainly, it showed through the first 12 weeks of the season and, really, the last eight weeks of last season. We revamped our defense dramatically over the offseason last year. I'm really proud of what we did. I think Dean [Pees] did a great job with it. Our coaches did a great job [and] our players. We added a couple key pieces, and we were the best defense in the league for 12 weeks, statistically. We were toward the bottom the last four weeks. That's exactly the question we have to look at. We've looked at it really specifically, so that's a general overview of it – what it is going to take to be the best defense in the league for 16 weeks-plus."
There's so much made on offense about the changes over the years. How much does continuity factor into your decision, not wanting to usher in a new system with more wrinkles and verbiage? (Jeff Zrebiec)"That's got to be a part of it, but it's not the deciding factor. You're going to put the best thing in place that you possibly can. I think guys can handle change. It's not something that guys can't deal with. The offense is going to change no matter – all three phases are going to change to some degree anyway – because you're going to evolve and grow. When we structurally went to Gary Kubiak, that was the big change. We went to the West Coast offense. Terminology and structure and philosophy, that's the basic offense that we're still in. When Jim Caldwell … Obviously, we made a change with Cam [Cameron]. I've said before and I'll say it again, I think Cam did a great job for four years and really helped us tremendously, but at that time, it was time for a change. We had to make it, and Jim came in and we won the Super Bowl. The next year we lost some players. I think we went 8-8 in '13, but Jim got the head coaching job with the Lions. We weren't going to make a change after that. We were going to continue down that same road. There was an opportunity, and the opportunity in my mind was to get to the West Coast offense, which is something I kind of wanted to do, because I think it's the best offense for Joe [Flacco] and for the way we want to play football. That's the direction we went. Gary became available. We went with Gary. Gary became a head coach. Then you look around and say, 'What's the best opportunity for a West Coast coach to come in here and do it?' We hired Marc. I love Marc Trestman; he's a good man. It just didn't work out for whatever reasons. Certainly, it's not one person. It's all of our responsibilities, as I said. Marty was here, and Marty is a part of that system, but Marty has been coaching this offense since the late '80s. He started in the San Francisco system and through the [Mike] Holmgren system. That's a system I'm familiar with. It's the basic system they're running in Kansas City right now, and it's a good system for us. I'm excited about where we're going, because I believe that we're going to be physical. I believe that we're going to run good, solid concepts that Joe [Flacco] can execute efficiently. I believe, within that system, there's room for a lot of creativity. That's what we have to chase."
You just mentioned your familiarity with Marty Mornhinweg. When he was available two years ago, you hired him as your quarterback coach. What did you see over these final 11 games that says he's the right guy now, as opposed to two years ago? (Luke Jones) "Circumstances and where guys are at … You make a decision. It wasn't that I didn't think he could do it two years ago. He could have easily been the hire two years ago, but Marc was available, and we had a really good interview, and I felt good about it at the time. I see your point. It's a great point, but I watch Marty every single day. I watch him coach. Marty doesn't need validation from me. I don't need to stand up here and say, 'Marty Mornhinweg is a good football coach.' He's proven that. I think when you watch him coach every single day and you talk to the players about the direction that we are going and how he teaches the game, what he emphasizes and the way he builds the offense, our players believe in him and they believe we're on the right track. That's part of it as well, but more than that, I believe in it. I believe in where we're going with it."
What did you like about what improved in Marty Mornhinweg's 11 games as opposed to Marc Trestman? (Luke Jones)"I don't want to make comparisons. I don't want to look back and make a bunch of comparisons, because I say that always makes somebody less, and that's not the point. These guys we're talking about are all great football coaches at this level. They're all great football coaches. What I'm excited about with Marty is the fact that I feel like we zero in on concepts and we work to get good at them. To me, that's what makes … I don't care what sport you're in or what you're doing, you have to get good at things. Kickoff returner, we have to pick our kickoff returns and we have to get our guys executing them. [If] we're going to run a defensive pressure package, we have to get good at it. It might be a good idea on paper, but we have to execute and get good at it. I really believe that's what Marty believes and that's the direction we're going right now. I'm looking forward to a whole offseason to get good at what we do. I think if we're good at what we do, we're going to go out there and play well."
As you have expressed your confidence in your coordinator going forward, in the same vein, have you sought or gotten similar confidence from Steve Bisciotti about your position going forward? Is that necessary? (Mark Viviano) "I don't worry about that. I talk to Steve every single day, and we have a great relationship. The truth is that we're going to be friends for the rest of our lives. What we're trying to do right now, together, is we're trying to accomplish something together. We're trying to reach for the stars. This is a really highly-competitive endeavor. This is world-class sports at the highest level. It's tough, man. It's competitive. We're fighting every single day – all of us together, including Steve Biscotti – to be great at what we do. You don't expose yourself out there … When you take something like that on, you're exposing yourself to everything that goes with it. I get that. I don't need validation every single day. I get validation by the fact that we go to work every single day. If it's good enough in the end, we'll all be happy and excited. If it's not good enough in the end, we'll do whatever we do going forward in life. I've never been worried about holding on or keeping a job. What I've always been concerned with is doing a job to the best of my ability. That's what I'm going to do every single day. To me, I think that's what you guys do, too. You do your best."
John, from a fans' perspective, you talk about validation, but they pay for tickets and the PSLs. They are crying for change at the top. What are your thoughts on that? (Bill West) "The fans want to be great. The fans want to have fun. They want your team to be winning. They invest a lot. They invest time, money, emotion. It's a family-type thing. I've always said, I think one of the greatest things about what we do is the fact that memories are built around what we do, and we want to build the greatest memories we can build. I love our fans, and I hope I can do a good enough job where they love what we're doing, too."
In retrospect, you really got a lot of help out of the 2016 draft, didn't you? (Bruce Cunningham) "Yes, yes – very excited about this year's draft. I feel like every single one of those guys is going to be a good player. A number of those guys have proven it already. We can name each one of those guys, but Tavon [Young] comes right to mind. Here's a fourth-round pick that played the way he did at corner, which is a very tough position. Can you imagine not having him this year? I feel really good about this draft class, yes."
You've said many times that your team can block out outside noise, but you are human. There's noise inside you, too, and you have had two-straight years that I'm sure you're not satisfied with. Does the internal pressure build in you as you go forward to 2017? (Peter Schmuck) "I see the point. I think it's a great way of … I understand it, but you can't look at it like that. I look at it like I want to be successful. It's no different than my first year as a volunteer coach at Western Michigan or my first year as a special teams coordinator at Philadelphia or my first year as a secondary coach at Indiana. You're motivated to do your best and to put your players in positions to be successful and to win. You're motivated by that. We live … That's what we live and die for. Every second, whether driving in, driving home, lying awake, whatever we do, it's all I think about. That's all you have time to think about. If you start thinking about all the other stuff, the ramifications of it, you're not thinking about what you need to think about. Like I said, I'm not worried about the future. I have faith. I trust what God has in store. I believe in that. I'm excited to see what's in store. I can't wait to see what the plan is for us – as a team, as an organization and personally, for my family. I can't wait to see what the next year holds. I can't wait to see what the next 10 years hold. I'm looking forward to it. I don't walk through life scared. I'm not afraid. It [The Bible] says to be strong and courageous, man. That's what I try to do every single day."
Are there other things that you feel like you guys have to do maybe to help out QB Joe Flacco going forward? You mentioned there might be some changes, and you are always looking to add some stuff to the staff and some creative ideas. How do you think that will manifest in terms of helping out Flacco? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, I think that is a great point. That is really job No. 1 right now. It does start with Joe. It starts with your quarterback. We need our quarterback to be playing at a level that changes the game in positive ways for us and makes a big difference. There are ways for Joe to play better, and he and I talked about that at length yesterday. This guy is a motivated guy. I know sometimes that people feel like his demeanor or whatever – they criticize that. I understand all that, and that is OK. Joe is tough. Joe is mentally tough. But it matters to Joe. Joe is very highly-motivated to play at the highest level. What can he do to make himself a better player, and what can we all do to make our quarterback play at the highest level? That goes to, yes, we are going to look at coaches and coaching and schemes and ways to build. We talk a lot about the coordinators – which is a great conversation to have – but it is not a one-man show. It is a staff. I want to put a great staff together, including the guys that we have, who have done a great job, so we can be creative, and we can be the kind of offense that can do all the things we need to do – run and pass and score a bunch of points."
So you would possibly hire a quarterbacks coach? That could be something? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Sure, that is an opening we have right now – not limiting it to that or anything else. You look for people. I am looking for real creative good people that are good coaches. I have guys in mind that I have known or guys that I have heard about. We will be talking to guys over the next week, and we will put together the best staff that we possibly can. So yes, that is on the agenda."
One player you did not have at the end of the season was CB Jimmy Smith. It seemed like when Jimmy was not available, the defense was dramatically impacted. Is that a priority to change? Do you want more corner depth or secondary depth? He is a good player, but it seemed like you were so dependent on him to be on the field. (Cliff Brown)"It goes back to your point. All of us and the fans who really watch us closely, the fans that care a lot, we all kind of know what we need. I do not think it is any mystery about where we need to improve personnel-wise. That is a key spot. We need Jimmy Smith out there playing for us, and he needs to do whatever he needs to do to stay healthy. He will have his first healthy offseason this year once he heals from his high-ankle sprain. He and I have talked about the level of training that needs to go into this offseason. To put him at that level, that is where he needs to be, and healthy through the season. But we need to add more corners – there is no question about it – corners that can play at the highest level. If we can do that, it is going to dramatically impact our defense."
The offensive line – probably since the Super Bowl – there have been some issues there. There have been injuries, personnel turnover. Do you feel that is moving in the right direction with Juan Castillo still coaching that group? (Luke Jones)"I feel like even during the Super Bowl, we had offensive line issues, if you recall – and before that. You always have offensive line issues. That is the toughest thing. Those are the guys that make or break you – upfront. If you look around the league, that is everybody's biggest challenge. [It is] to put together the kind of offensive line that can win for you. If you look at the really good teams in this league, they have done it. Look at the Cowboys. I feel like that is priority one. We need to build a great offensive line, and yes, the pieces are in place. We have two young guys at left guard and left tackle, who I think are about as good as you are going to get out of two rookies. But they can't rest on their laurels on having a good rookie year. A good rookie year is a lot different than being a dominant player in this league. Those two guys need to go to work over the next three or four months when they are away from us. They need to transform themselves into veteran pro football players quickly. Then across the board, Marshal [Yanda] is there and Jeremy [Zuttah] and right tackle with Rick [Wagner] and his contract situation. Those are things that have to be addressed in the next couple of months. We have a very good offensive line coach. If you watch him coach – which you guys do – I think it would be hard to watch him coach those guys and not think he does a very good job. But the other part of that is that we have to run the ball better, and we have to keep Joe cleaner. Every offensive line in the league feels like they want to keep their quarterback clean. I want to be great up front, and that is what we are shooting for. It is a long answer."
Last offseason, QB Joe Flacco, OLB Terrell Suggs and OLB Elvis Dumervil missed a chunk of that offseason work. Are there any players right now that you could foresee missing the spring workouts or going into training camp? (Jamison Hensley)"Maybe [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] can help me with that. I'm going to throw a name out, like Marshal [Yanda], who is going to set his shoulder checked out. We will see whether he needs surgery or not. Marshal has had that surgery before, and I have no doubt Marshal will come back if he has it. I don't know where that stands, if he is going to have it. [Terrell] Suggs will have the bicep [issue], which is a quick healer. I know he told me that he plans on spending a lot of time here. Is there anybody else?" *(Reporter: "I could not really think of anybody; I was wondering if there was anybody we were missing.") *"I think the big-picture answer is that we are probably in the best shape that that we have been in a long time. When you look at the IR [Injured Reserve] group, there were four or five key players that ended up on IR. But most of the IR guys were young guys anyway. I feel like our roster is pretty solid. I am going to say very solid, very deep in some ways. We have a good foundation, and we have targeted needs. That is what we have to work on."
Did ILB C.J. Mosley check out fine? Is it just a calf strain like he said? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, it is a calf strain. It would be about a three-week injury if we were in-season."
How do you evaluate the pass rush? You guys have some young pass rushers there, but is that an area where you feel like you need to add more youth or what? (Ryan Mink)"Sure, the pass rush, to me, is something that always needs to improve. We have some 'older' guys that have been around for a while in our two top guys. Those guys are still playing at a very high level, but you have to bring in young guys. Za'Darius Smith had a really good year the first year and did not have quite as good of a year this year. He and I talk about that a lot. We have to get him back on track. He had five quarterbacks in his grasp in the first five games. Those really should have all been sacks, and what a different year he would have had if he would have finished those sacks. Then, Matt Judon is a young guy. He is a young, smart player. He needs to continue to grow and grow up and become what I think he is capable of becoming. I really believe he is capable of playing as a premier-type of a guy. But we have to get there. It is one thing to have high hopes; it is another thing to get there. The answer is 'yes.' We are looking for another pass rusher, certainly."
Is part of what the team has gone through the last four years sort of a result of how the salary cap hit you with the quarterback making the big money? Is it harder to fit in the pieces to be that team that could win 11 or 12 games? (Stan Charles)"Yes, there is no question about it. I think if you look at the successful teams, it is one of two types of situations: You have the young quarterback that is performing at a high level or a reasonably high level who is making his rookie contract, and you have a team around them that is using up the rest of the salary cap. Or, you have the quarterback that carries the team – so to speak – that guy. I don't want to … Maybe not carries the team; let me rephrase that. [It is] that quarterback that is 'that guy' – that legendary type of guy – the Tom Bradys of the world – they build a great team around him; I don't want to insinuate that they have not done that – but those types of quarterbacks who make the top dollar are that kind of a guy. It does come back to what we are all saying. We have a quarterback, and he is in that level of compensation, so we need to get him playing at that level. Joe is absolutely … He is coming off a knee injury, and [next year] he is going to be that much further along because he is going to have an offseason of training this year. Putting the group around him and putting the scheme around him that puts him into that place – that is where we are at. That is what we have to get done, because we are paying our quarterback. That is your point, right? That is exactly it."
So it is about being creative and smart as an organization? (Stan Charles)"Yes, we have to find ways to … Because we do not have the salary cap room that you have if you don't have that type of situation. We have to make tough decisions also."
You are about to become the longest-tenured coach in the history of this franchise? Do you take a lot of pride in that? (Bruce Cunningham)"No. I take pride … I will tell you what I take pride in. I take pride in the relationships that I have just been blessed with in every direction in this organization – to Steve [Bisciotti] and Ozzie [Newsome] and [assistant general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and that part of the building and [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] and [president] Dick [Cass], to the training room and the equipment room and the weight room, to the players. I cannot believe how blessed I have been to be here. I just cannot believe that this is a path I have been able to walk, personally. What I really want to do is just have everyone around us feel that way about their relationship with the Ravens – those who are in the organization and those who are our dearest fans. I want them to feel that way about us. I want them to be proud that they are fans of the Ravens – for what the Ravens stand for, and what we are all about. Though, we do not win the Super Bowl every year and we certainly have to win more games than we have won the last four years, I want them to feel like, 'You know what? I am proud to be a Ravens fan.' That is what I take pride in; that's it. It is my job to get us back to where they can brag to their friends about how we are beating everybody up. That is my job."
You mentioned on a question earlier about how you guys love having a young and growing roster. Obviously, the high salary cap guys are over 30 years old for the most part. Is that where you might have to see some changes where you guys would prefer not to, but just to be more financially flexible and young, you may have to cut a good number of guys at the top end of the roster? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That is a good question for next Tuesday [at the annual season review press conference]. I will probably defer that to Ozzie [Newsome] and to Steve [Bisciotti]. But everything is on the table. Absolutely, everything has to be on the table, in terms of how we can improve. The financial part of it is a big piece of it."
What did you like out of T Ronnie Stanley and the improvement he made during the later parts of the season? (Jamison Hensley)"I feel like Ronnie is a guy that is very coachable, and he is very smart. Plus, he is talented. He really struggled in the middle of the year after he got hurt, because he was away from it. He just could not practice. He is a guy that does not have a lot of reps under his belt. So what he gained through training camp, he lost when he got hurt. He came back, and he will tell you, he did not play well – especially the first week back. After that, he got a little better every week until about three or four weeks later when he was playing at a high level for a rookie. I feel like he is the kind of guy that is going to improve dramatically from one day to the next, from one year to the next, and become I believe, a premier left tackle in this league. That is our job to get him there. Because I just think he is smart, he is tough, he is willing to work hard, and he listens."
As you speak today, and we have seen you over the years, your enthusiasm is clearly one of your calling cards. It was a rare occasion that after the Cincinnati game, you had questions about the emotional level of your players. Do you take that personally, or is that just a one-off situation because of the circumstances? (Mark Viviano)"Yes, thanks. I hope that was not misconstrued. I go back and watch the tape, and our guys played their hearts out. The effort level was at a high level. We ran to the ball on defense. The offensive linemen were finishing blocks, the backs ran exceptionally hard. We did not play well; we were not sharp. I did not mean to imply that our guys didn't give everything they had. I just did not think our sharpness was there, our edge was not there. I think part of that, in reality, had to do with the Pittsburgh game. We were coming off a tough game, and to me, if you are a championship team and you play a game like that one week, you have to come back, and you have to execute the next week well enough to win. We did not do that, and that is what I was talking about. I did not mean to say our guys were not ready to play. We had one of our best weeks of practice. That is not an easy thing, from a human standpoint, when you get knocked out of the playoffs, because we put a lot into that. That was our goal, and that was obviously a really heart-wrenching loss. I was proud of the effort in that game. I thought our guys were ready to play. I just did not feel like we had our edge; we did not have our sharpness. I felt like some of that was the fact that we were in a real tough battle the week before. That is all I was trying to say."
Now that you have decided to keep Marty Mornhinweg, are you going to be more involved in the play-calling throughout the game? The decision-making, even in the Cincinnati game, you had first down on the two-yard line, and you didn't run; you threw an interception. In the Eagles game … Are you going to be more involved in that? (Bill West)"I think that is a great question. I do not see myself being involved in specific play-calling, play to play. I have thought a lot about that and what a head coach's role can be. Actually, I have watched [Kansas City head coach] Andy Reid do it. Andy Reid was a play-caller for a number of years. But when Andy has turned the play-calling over, he did not call the plays. You cannot step into a play-caller's rhythm and say, 'Ok, call this play or that play.' You can give him direction. I think that is what I was speaking about after the Philadelphia game. I want our play-callers to be aggressive. I want to blitz. I almost always want to blitz. That is pretty much what I am telling Dean [Pees] most of the time. (laughter) Except, there are times where I say, 'Dean, cover.' That is where you go. I know what the calls are. I know what the options are, but I think you cannot take a play-caller off of his [game]. 'Oh, I want that play,' when he is in a rhythm. But you can give direction before a series. I try to give guys direction for the series and sometimes when we get in the series like, 'Hey, I am thinking about going for it here on fourth down if we are inside a five- [yard range].' That affects his play-calling. In other words, 'You can run the ball here on third down if you want,' those kind of things. If I have a specific play call, I usually do that on defense more than I do on offense. If I have a specific offensive play call, I generally would do that more between series rather than do it … Because that is not my expertise. Of course, [special teams coordinator/associate head coach] Jerry Rosburg, he takes the brunt, because I am always on Jerry and what we should be doing on special teams. But we have the best special teams coach in the country, so it is not too often that he needs advice. I think the main thing for the head coach is the direction of the game. In that situation, I did not tell Marty to run the ball in that situation. I felt like, 'Hey, I like the play call. I like the aggressive play call.' I like the play-action, because I thought they would be playing run defense right there. When he called it, I felt good about it. Now what we have to do is execute it. It is time now to execute the play and to make the most of it. We are not going to be trying to throw interceptions on first down in the low red [zone]. That is not something that is ever acceptable. That is where we have to get better at everything we do. To me, more than anything, the play-calling is going to take care of itself. I think we have an excellent play-caller, by the way. I think he is very aggressive, and I think he is very creative. But by being better, it is going to make the play-calling look a lot better."
With WR Steve Smith Sr. retiring, there is a void there for the No. 1 wide receiver. Do you see anything from WR Breshad Perriman that suggests he will fill that void? (Ed Lee) "I do. Breshad is going to be a different receiver than Steve. He is a different type of guy. That is pretty obvious when you watch him. But No. 1, No. 2, that depends on how guys develop. To be a top-notch No.1 receiver … How many of them are there in this league, 10 at the most, who we would all say, 'These are no-brainer No. 1 receivers.'? It might not even be that many, right? Guys have to become great players to be a true No. 1. You do not have to have a true No. 1 to have a great passing attack. But I sure hope that Breshad Perriman becomes a true No. 1. To me, there are signs that is possible. But he has a ways to go; he has a lot of work to do to get it done. You see the radius and you see the speed, and I think you see that here is a guy who has a chance. Now, he has to refine his route-running, he has to refine his hands, his catching and just become an all-around really good receiver. This is his first year of practicing. He did not even have training camp. To me, there is a lot of upside there."
Based on what you just said and with WR Steve Smith Sr. retiring and WR Kamar Aiken to be a free agent, do you feel realistically speaking, you need another receiver – a veteran receiver, a possession, intermediate guy to come in here? (Luke Jones)"I do not want to say exactly whether he is a veteran or a rookie, because you never know how you are going to be able to find that guy. But yes, we need that guy – that type of guy you are talking about. I hate to label it 'possession,' because I like for the guy to be fast, have great body control and great athleticism. But sometimes you say you don't think that that is what that means. We need a certain type of receiver, and I think we are targeting that kind of guy."
Do you have any concerns that the weight of QB Joe Flacco's contract affects his play in maybe his decision-making? He might think, "I have to throw a touchdown here, because that is who I am supposed to be." Maybe it might not be the best decision, going back to the Philadelphia game or the Bengals game last week? (Pete Gilbert)"I sure hope not. I would be surprised if that was the case. I have not heard that theory, but it is interesting. I do not think so, and I would not expect that to be the case. I think you go out there and you play the game to the best of your ability."
You guys have lost your last six games on the road. I know it is tough to win everywhere, but do you just think when the team gets better, that will get better? Or is there something specific that you can do to help become a better road team? (Cliff Brown) "I think when we get better, we will get better on the road. We were good on the road for a while when we had really good teams. It is harder to win on the road, so you are going to lose more close games on the road. That is really what we have done. Three of the last four games were against top teams in the league on the road. We were in close games against those guys. The game that was not close was the Cincinnati game, and they are not in the playoffs. We have to make those plays. We have to get those stops in the fourth quarter, especially when we have the lead. We have to extend the lead, and we have to score touchdowns in the red zone. If we are good enough to do those things – you do them on the road or at home – we are going to win most of those games."
How hard is it to evaluate a coach or a head coach or even a player like QB Joe Flacco to say, "You just do not have it anymore, maybe it is not there anymore?" (Bill West)"I am not following your question." (Reporter: "*When you get to your tenure and stuff is not working out that works in your mind about how you play the game, how you do plays and stuff like that … When do you say you have had enough? Like a player with Steve Smith Sr. retiring, as a coach stepping down?") *"As a player, it is pretty clear, usually. You watch what we all watch. As a coach, it is going to come down to success and failure. That is it. That is for others to evaluate. Success and failure – that is what this sports world is built on."