JOHN HARBAUGH: SEASON REVIEW PRESS CONFERENCE – 1/17/20
Opening statement: "I just want to thank you guys for being here, like always, and to let you know how much I appreciate – and we appreciate as an organization – you guys and what you do. We know how hard you work and what you put into it, as journalists, and how much you enjoy it. I think we're all fans of the game – aren't we? – and sports, or we wouldn't be doing what we do. You get into coaching or you get into journalism or playing or whatever, because you love it, so we appreciate you guys and feel kind of bad that we weren't able to give you three or four more weeks of good reporting. We apologize for that. That would have been a lot of fun. That's disappointing for you guys, as well, so I just wanted to acknowledge that.
"Fans, man, thank you to our fans! Our fans were unbelievable. Our fans were spectacular. I'll start with the stadium first of all. It was amazing how great the fans were in the stadium. I really appreciate the energy in the city. My wife would go out – I can't say that I felt it as much, or the players felt it as much – but my wife would come home, and she couldn't believe that this store or that place where she stopped to get lunch and how fired up everybody is and what's going on around the city … That's why you coach. That's why you do it – to impact the community and just feel that kind of an energy. I really do wish we could've extended that for another week and then for two more weeks after that and enjoyed that. I really do apologize to the fans for that, because that would've been a lot of fun. That would've been something that Baltimore would have latched on to. I just appreciate the way they were all season, because they were fabulous all season.
"The organization, of course, obviously, everybody in the [Under Armour Performance Center]. We have a great building – marketing, web, accounting, service – all the people that we work around every single day. It's just a joy to be around these people in the building. Scouts obviously did a great job, but let's not forget about the people at the stadium, the people around town and the pop-up stores and those kinds of things. I think our stadium … I get comments from friends that go to the game that tell me all the time how great our people are at the stadium, how the hospitality is second to none and how the service is second to none and how the experience just blows them away. I have a friend of mine who is a big journalist down in Washington, and I won't name him, but he's a big-time guy, NBC guy, and he brings his son down [to our games] all the time because he can't get over how much fun it is. And [Ravens team president] Dick [Cass], to you and your people, it was a great environment.
"Probably, maybe, on top of all of that, to the players and the coaches – it's been a joy to work with this team. I've said that before. And, it only gets better. I had meetings with some guys afterwards, in my office, and that was a joy. This is a high-energy group. This is a group of guys that stick together, that compete, that work, that fight, that overcome adversity, that try to do their very best, every single week, week-in and week-out. We obviously had a lot of success doing that. We're not the perfect team, by any stretch, and we knew that. We knew we had to work and fight for everything that we got this year. And, I think that our players and our coaches did that as well as you can possibly do it this year. I'm proud of them for that. And I appreciate them, and I just want them to know that.
"Just moving forward, I'll kind of lead into the [Divisional Playoff] game a little bit, because I know these are the questions we're going to get: We had a great season, but we had a disappointing end. I felt like we were the best team – I said this after the game – we were the best team we could be this season. All things considered, where we were at, with our team, with our roster, with our youth, with our experience, all the things that we had, with our coaches, we were the best team during the season that we could be. But, we weren't our best in that playoff game, and that was disappointing. That hurts a little bit, to say the least. But I will say that the Titans deserve a little credit for that – and we'll be watching them play this weekend. That's a really good football team. That's a team that went to New England and Baltimore in the playoffs and won. That's a team that beat Kansas City already this year. And they're hot, they're playing their best football when it means the most – we know how that feels. We were there in '12. We know what that's like. So, I'm impressed with those guys and what they did, and I think it's worth mentioning. With that, I'll leave it open to questions, whatever you have."
Now that you've watched the film and are a few days removed from the playoff loss to the Titans, what was your big takeaway on why you guys lost?_ (Jamison Hensley)_"I think it's a great question, but I think it's never really only one thing in football. It's always layered, because it's such a complex game. But, you can boil it down to probably this, if you wanted to step back and say, 'What's the big picture?': They won the critical downs, and we didn't, when it boils right down to it. I have a couple of notes here; we had yards. We moved the ball up and down the field, but we didn't come away with points. That comes back to critical downs in the red zone and converting third and fourth downs and turnovers. And they had like 300 yards [of offense]. Our defense played OK – played OK, yards-wise. I mean, 300 yards is going to be a good day in the NFL – a really good day – our guys played hard, they played tough, but they got points. They made the most of their yards; they made some spectacular plays. And we had a few plays we'd like to have back. In the end, that's what it boiled down to. The critical downs – they made the plays; we didn't. We made the mistakes; they didn't. And those two things combined for the outcome that we had."
I think the No. 1 question from the fans is, did you get away from the run a little bit too much, and how much did you end up overruling [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman, or did you just go along with analytics and what Coach Roman was telling you? (Jerry Coleman) "Well, let's just start with the first thing first. We're calling the gameplan to win, so if you want to point the finger, because that's kind of where you're going, because that's how it sounds a little bit, I'll take it. I'm responsible for everything. So if that's the goal, then it's always on the head coach, and that's where it belongs. I'll take responsibility for our team, 100-percent, what we choose to do. And everything that we do is with one thing in mind: to win the game, to move the ball [and] to score points. So much goes into that game-planning, so much goes into that play-calling and execution. We do our best. We were balanced up until, into the third quarter. We were balanced at halftime, pretty much, we were balanced into the third quarter, no doubt. I think we might have had seven runs and six passes in the third quarter. But then we get stopped, [they] hit the [long] run [by Derrick Henry], [and] now we're down 21-6, and the dynamic changes. We shifted gears at that point in time. We knew we had to score points with maybe a couple of series. And they weren't exactly giving us the ball back right away, either; that's a team that controls the clock. I had to consider how many possessions we were going to have, and the decision was made to open it up and, 'Let's go try to win the game.' And again, we moved it; we just didn't score the way we needed to score. And the other last point there … There were five games this year … We were a running team this year. We set records running. And that was what we stood on, there's no doubt. But, there were five games that we threw the ball more than we ran, and we won four of them. So, there are times that you do what you've got to do to win the game, and throwing the ball is part of that."
After the game, CB Marlon Humphrey used that word "choked" and whether that's fair or not, do you feel like you're going to have to battle that with the team at all as you prepare for next season and sort of that mindset where you have to rebuild confidence? (_Childs Walker) _"No, not at all. I do not see that at all. Our guys are confident guys, and I do not think our guys take too seriously too much of what gets said, especially in the heat of the moment. Frustration, disappointment, I mean, I felt it. We all felt it after the game. You felt it. I am sure a lot of people have said a lot of things. I am sure a lot of people said a lot of things after the game that they might want back. Over the course of our lives we say a lot of things I think that we would [want back]. Maybe we do not always understand the implications of what we are saying. We learn; that is part of what growing is. We all grow. Marlon Humphrey, just to address that, is one of my favorite, absolute favorite, players and people. I love this guy. He is a great player, but not just that – his attitude, his energy, his effort, his work ethic and his coachability [are great]. You talk to Marlon [Humphrey] about a technique, you talk to Marlon [Humphrey] about something, he tries to do it that way. He will ask you tough questions; he wants to know. So, that is what I appreciate about him. We all learn from everything going forward, and he will handle it the right way, and we will move on."
Moving forward, do you look at maybe you have second-year quarterback and offense really in its first year, and you look and say, "Well, we can maybe get better," and then you look toward next year and say, "Well, this was the beginning," and take it another year? _(David Ginsburg) _"That is so true. That is the whole thing. In all honesty, you look back and there is no question. To me, I appreciate those questions, and I am not afraid of those questions at all because it has been a tough week. It has been a rough, emotional week for all of us. I know the fans feel that way. I hope the fans know how we feel about it. It hurts. It's disappointing. It was a gut-shot. It is the same gut-shot that 20 teams had at the end of the regular season. It is the same gut-shot that 11 out of the 12 playoff teams are going to have. There are going to be 11 playoff coaches that are going to have the exact same postmortem press conference that we are having right now. There are going to be two more on Sunday, and there is going to be another one two weeks from Sunday that is going to have this exact same press conference. That is just the way the league works. Everyone runs the race, but only one wins the prize, and that is just the way the National Football League is set up. That's what we love about it. That is what we respect about it. That is what makes it so hard. Going forward, I am excited about our team. Look at what we have [in] all three phases. I know we also have a very good understanding of what it is going to take to get better and to improve, and I am excited about it."
Do you mind addressing what it is going to take to get better? _(David Ginsburg) _"Sure, well, two things: It is going to take scheme, and it is going to take roster improvement. Like I said, our scheme and our roster helped us to be the very best we could be this year, under the circumstances. If you step back and look at the big picture, what we have been able to do as an organization – starting with [president] Dick [Cass] and then [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and his group, and [owner] Steve Bisciotti overseeing and directing us – it has been pretty darn remarkable. We have had some things that we have had to work against, salary cap-wise and roster-wise and things like that. Guys have left in free agency, those kinds of things. I think we have done a remarkable job of building this team to where it is right now. I am really proud of what we have been able to do, on the personnel side and the coaching-scheme side. What we have been able to build with the guys that we have had and get the most out of our players [is impressive]. So, let's take that and move forward. That gives me a lot of confidence where we are going forward. We have a few more resources in front of us right now. We have good draft resources; we have great cap resources that we haven't had in the past. So, we have a chance to build our roster in a way that we haven't been able to maybe in the last large number of years. Then, because we have our quarterback in place, and because we have our defensive and offensive systems in place, it is pretty straightforward where we want to go, roster-wise. Anybody in this room could name those spots. I think most of our fans could name those spots. As a matter of fact, I read some things, and they do name them, and that's good. We see it the same way. We know where we can even get stronger with our roster. With scheme, that is another big part of it. We are not going to be sitting on our hands, schematically. We are not going to be saying 'OK, we have this offense and this defensive system that was hard for people to deal with, and we are good.' We understand that we are going to be studied on both sides of the ball, by every single team in the league, very thoroughly. We will be the first team that they will pull the tape up on and watch. Our job is to stay ahead. Our job is to find the areas where we can come up with new ideas – expand, tweak, challenge people the way they challenged us or the way we anticipate them challenge us going forward. [We need to] have those answers ready, schematically. So, we will be working on that real hard in the offseason."
The decisioning to go for it fourth-*and-1 in the*fourth quarter – did you think about kicking the field goal and making it 14-9? And once you did go for it, QB Lamar Jackson is usually in the Pistol there, and he was under center. What went into that? _(Ken Weinman) _"It was fourth-and-a-foot, basically. I did think about kicking it. I thought really hard about kicking it. But when it got to be inside of a foot, that is when it kicked in that we would go for it. We feel very confident that we can do it. I would rather be fourth-and-a-foot or less under center. It gives us a few more options with the quarterback and the quarterback sneak, which we ended up running a version, one of our quarterback sneak plays. So, we talk a lot about the analytics and that gets a lot of publicity and stuff like that that, and that's all good. The reality is, as a coach, you go for it if you think you're going to get it. I go for it if I feel like we are going to get it. That's really, in the end, that's your choice. I felt really, really confident that we were going to get that first down right there, and so possibly we were able to tie the game up, or at worst, we were going to get a field goal. I think the way the game played out, it kind of proved to be right in the sense of when it was all said and done, we needed points to win that game. I do not feel bad about going for it; it was the right decision. I feel the same way about the one earlier. I'm not really too fired up about punting when you are fourth-and-a-foot either. That is just not something that we kind of believe in, and I felt like we were going to get it. The biggest disappointment was that we didn't get it, and I know we all feel that way."
With QB Lamar Jackson, who is going to be the MVP, when he's rolling, he makes it look so easy. But there are times where there has been adversity, that has been rare, when the team is behind. How have you seen him react to that? Where is there growth for him, and how can you help him through some of that? (Mark Viviano)"That's such a great question. He was in my office for a good while two days ago. I think it was two days ago. Today is Friday, right? Wednesday [he was in my office]. I don't think he'd mind me saying this, but I asked him, basically, 'What do you need to get better?' We talked about a couple different areas, and without getting into them, what they are specifically, he nailed the priority list in the exact same order that Greg [Roman] and I nailed the priority list when we were talking on Monday. So, it's not a secret. The things that he needs to work on, like any young quarterback, he'll say 'Everything.' And it's true. And then you prioritize, what's the order? What's the plan going to be moving forward to work on those things? And he's really smart about that. He's really self-critical. He really understands where he needs to improve in order for us to keep making steps as an offense. It's really interesting to look at Lamar Jackson, because look at the progress he made in the last year. Because the same question, I think you might have asked it last year, how is he going to get better going forward? And he did a good job, right? He's 23 years old. He's younger than Joe Burrow. So, he has a pretty good head start right now. He's along the way. The Manning brothers combined to, they had five losses in their first five playoff games before they won one. [Joe] Montana, [Steve] Young and [Brett] Favre didn't start a playoff game until their third season, [Drew] Brees and [Troy] Aikman, until their fourth season, and [Aaron] Rodgers until his fifth season. Interesting. So, everybody is different, right? But I'm really confident in Lamar and his understanding the things he needs to do to get better, and that he's going to work really hard to keep building himself up as a player."
You mentioned QB Lamar Jackson being so critical, and clearly, his desire [to win] has been noted by his teammates. Is there ever too much? Does he get in his own way, maybe? Some close to him have suggested that. (Mark Viviano) "I don't know who those … I don't think so. No, he's not. He doesn't lack for any confidence. I can tell you that. He understands what it means to take responsibility. And he also has a great sense of urgency to be successful and what it takes to be successful. So, no, Lamar [Jackson] doesn't lack for confidence. He's not doubting himself, if that's the implication that those people are making. I don't see that at all." (Reporter: "Just to be clear, it wasn't lack of confidence but that he is so hard on himself that he might restrict himself from just having the flow of his game that he normally would.")"I'm not really following the logic. I'd have to have a psychologist explain that to me and how that works, as far as sports psychology. But I don't see it."
Going back to Saturday's game, RB Gus Edwards, I think he had 19 or 20 yards on his first carry and then got the ball for only one more carry the rest of the game. Are there any laments about not getting him more involved? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Sure, yes. You want Gus [Edwards] carrying the ball. The game didn't play out the way we wanted it to play out. We didn't play our game. I feel like one of our goals going into the game was to play the Ravens' game. The Ravens' game and the Titans' game is kind of similar. The Titans played that game, because they made certain plays and scored points and made the most of some of their yards, and we didn't because we didn't convert. So, I feel like that's part and parcel, if that makes sense. We just weren't able to do that. And heck yeah, we would like him to get the ball more than that."
This has been a tough week for everybody – fans, coaches, players. You've been at the apex of disappointment before back in 2011, and the next year you came back and won the Super Bowl. You don't have a lot of guys left from that experience, but you went through it. What do you share with your team to help them through the transition and disappointment to continue to where you want to go? (Gerry Sandusky) "I probably can share that. I feel like we've been here before. Every year that you don't win it, you're there. I had someone mention to me, Virginia and the UMBC [game]. I was rooting for UMBC at the time, but those are all things that our guys relate to. Our guys are tough. They're resilient. And to your point, that's exactly right. But you have to go do it. We're going to start from the beginning. When we come back and we have this press conference, when our guys come back, we'll be talking about building the foundation up from the beginning and starting to stack one good day after another – that's what we'll do – and try to build the very best team we can and be the very best team we can be this next season. So, we'll see where it takes us. Are we capable of winning the whole thing next year? Absolutely, without question. Now we have to go do it. And that's what we'll be working to do."
How many times have you gone back and watched the game? Has it just been one time? (Jerry Coleman)"I've had a lot of other things I've been working on this week, but there will be plenty of time for that, I'm sure.?
With the exit interviews, were you able to meet with everyone you wanted to meet with? (Jerry Coleman)"Yes. I meet with guys. I do it differently. It's a good question. I don't do an exit interview with everybody. Guys want to get out. That would take a long time. I kind of learned … I tried that my first couple years, and it's not really that productive, because I feel like I'm doing exit interviews with the guys every day. I talk to them every day. So, I know where everybody is at. Going forward, I'll be calling guys and texting guys. Guys will be stopping into the office, and we'll be having conversations – not football-related, until the time comes, but life and goals and stuff like that."
You were able to stack 12 victories in a row. Was there a mile marker for you, when you thought to yourself, "We have something here."? I thought Seattle, you guys showed me something. _(Kirk McEwen) _"That's a good question. It was really before Seattle. Kevin [Byrne, executive vice president of public and community relations] will tell you. We were practicing really well, and it was Thursday. We were coming off the field to do the TV show, and Kevin said, 'What do you think?' I'm like, 'Man, we've had some really, really good practices.' It was kind of a tense time, too. We were going into the tough part of the schedule. And I told him, I said, and he reminded me – [Kevin Byrne] reminded me of this – I said, I guess, I do remember it, I said, 'We're about to get on a roll here. You watch.' And I guess that turned out to be a little bit true. But you just felt it with the guys, the way they were practicing, that we could be good. So, maybe we saw it coming a little bit."
There are reports that quarterbacks coach James Urban and tight ends Coach Bobby Engram were connected to the Philadelphia Eagles. Have they been formally requested for interviews, or do you have any updates on those guys or other job transactions that might be [happening], permissions and so forth? (Bo Smolka)"Sure, absolutely. We don't have … It looks like our staff is going to stay together. I can tell you that. I'm not saying anything couldn't happen; there are always things brewing for a certain period of time. Both of those guys were requested by the Eagles for jobs. We ended up granting both of their requests and gave the Eagles a chance to talk to those guys and those guys a chance to talk to the Eagles, and both of those guys pulled out just in the last 24 or so hours and said they weren't interested. So, that's where it stands."
Your defense, obviously, the strength of the secondary, you use the blitz more than anyone in the league to create pressure. But in the offseason, looking at the front seven, is that an area where you would really like to beef things up, I guess more specifically at the linebacker position, inside and out? (Luke Jones)"Yes. I really … Those guys, all the players up front did a great job. You can go to Jihad [Ward] and L.J. [Fort], and Matt Judon had his best season. Brandon Williams was dominant, so was Michael Pierce. But all of those guys have different situations and statuses going forward. So, we have to get better just to stay the same, start with that. And then we do want to get better. We want to improve that part of it. That's really something that's going to be a target for us. We're very specific. We had our personnel meeting yesterday with the scouts and the coaches. We talked about every specific guy, and we talked about every need. We'll be going down to Florida in about two weeks or so, and the first thing we'll do is start with the roster. We want to build a great roster. That's the point of everything that we do. The front seven, specific positions and skillsets within the front seven, are going to be really critical."
One of the guys, I don't know if you spoke to him before he left, G Marshal Yanda. Did you speak to him, and what's your impression about if he is going to retire? (Jamison Hensley) "I talked to him after the game, that's it. Marshal [Yanda] made it pretty clear that he's going to think about things going forward. What a year. And one of the things about being at the level that he's at and the stage of the career that he's at, when you're a Hall of Fame-type of guy and you're a lineman, it's really important to finish strong in your career, to play Hall of Fame football at the end, because that's when everybody is watching. And he's doing that. So, I'm all for him playing Hall of Fame football for another year if he so chooses, and I did tell him that. I let him know that, and we had a good hug and stuff. But he'll do what's right for his family, and whatever he does, we'll respect it. I just couldn't say enough good things, great things, about Marshal Yanda and his family."
Going back to Saturday, the last drive before the first half [ended], you got it with 2:32 [remaining]. It was a play to WR Willie Snead for five yards and then not another play was able to be run before the two-minute warning. (Pete Gilbert) "Right, well, it was pretty tight to the two-minute warning. If I remember right – and I haven't looked at the timing on it – but if I remember right, the play, we were going to go to the line there with a try-to-draw-them-offsides situation. Because as I recall it, there were about 22-23 seconds on the two-minute clock. It got down to about 18 by the time we got the play in to Lamar [Jackson] – 17, 16, 15 and even lower than that, and I don't think Lamar felt like he could get out of the huddle and get the play called and get up to line and make it credible. It was too tight to make it a credible try-to-draw-them-offsides moment, and he stayed in the huddle at that point. So, that was kind of an in-real-time-type of situation, but we were trying to get something done there. We just weren't able to get up there and get it done."
We saw TE Nick Boyle and WR Seth Roberts miss most of the second half. Are they alright? And are there any kind of lingering injury things that are going to get cleaned up this offseason? (Jonas Shaffer)"This is another, obviously, great question, and this time I'm going to answer that question for you. (laughter) We had our best year, injury-wise, just to kind of lead in with that. I have to give a lot of credit to [head certified athletic trainer] Ron Medlin and to [head strength & conditioning coach] Steve Saunders and to [director of sports nutrition] Sarah Snyder and everybody involved there. We were great. I'd like to find a way to try to replicate that next year. With that, this is the best offseason we've ever had, by far – the fewest offseason injuries to recuperate from, the fewest surgeries, even though we have a couple things pending that second opinions are going to weigh in on for potential surgeries. We'll see, but it's the best, by far, that we've had. To those two guys, Nick [Boyle] would be a minor sprain. He would be iffy for this week if we were playing, but knowing Nick, I think he'd play. And then Seth [Roberts], he would probably be out a little bit. He had an ankle sprain, as well. I don't know. I can't say for sure, but he had a pretty good ankle sprain. That's why he wasn't able to come back. But those are things that those guys won't have a problem with."
Do you like where CB Tavon Young is in his recovery from neck surgery? (Jonas Shaffer) "Tavon [Young], what I was told yesterday, was Tavon will be back for the first day of the offseason program and be rolling."
You mentioned OLB Matthew Judon had his best season. We know how guys get paid at that position. Given that, how much do you want him back? And how hard do you think that will be? (Childs Walker) "Very much and pretty hard, (laughter) but we're going to try. Haven't we signed eight of our guys already this year, if you do the count? So, there's no question that that's a priority for us, and that's something that's really important to us. So, we're going to try to get as many of these guys re-signed as we can. Matt [Judon] is probably right at the top of the list, for sure. There are a lot of things that can go into that, as we all know – the business part of it that agents and general managers that they deal with back and forth and all that. So, I'll stay out of that. Probably Matt will stay out of that, too, and we'll let everybody do their jobs. But, our goal will be to have Matt back. That's what we'll try to do. And you can go through all the other guys, too, if you want to talk about them. 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] is another guy. Who else? [Michael] Pierce, we'll do our best with that one. It just depends what the market ends up saying. Once you get past the season and guys get to this point, usually, it becomes everybody wants to know ... The player wants to know what the market is going to be. So, we'll see what the market is and see what we can do."
Two consecutive division championships and they both led to playoff losses at home right away. I know they're separate events and separate teams. Are there any links that you can see that you would look at and say, "This is something we need to overcome going forward."? (Mark Viviano)"Yes, the biggest thing as a coach that you're going to look at – and I know it's going to be a broad statement, but then you have to dig in and try to figure it out – is we didn't play well. That's the biggest thing. If we had got into these games and played really well and played our kind of football, not turned the ball over and played winning football, then you could kind of say, 'OK, well, that's just football.' When we don't play the way we've played leading into those games, that's one you have to look at and try to figure that out."
You probably knew if you didn't win the rust question was going to come up again and again. When you look at the film and you see some of the things that maybe didn't happen during the regular season – sure, you had penalties and a lot of drops, that lack of conversions, stuff like that – can you attribute that to rust at all? (Jerry Coleman)"You could. It's hard to know what the cause of that is. We didn't play well, but whether it's rust and what that means exactly is kind of a cliché, in all honesty. So, you look at the history, and I did that. I went back and looked at the history, and the history is about 50-50. Teams have held their guys out and won and then won the Super Bowl. Teams have held their guys out and lost. It's gone both ways. We had held our guys out in 2012, and we won, and we won the Super Bowl. I probably was leaning on that, in all honesty. Going forward after this, I might go the other way. Right now, if I had to do it today, and it's next year and we're in this situation, if God willing we're in the same situation, I'll probably go the other way, in all honesty. Now, when that comes up and you're blasting me for risking our guys, (laughter) I won't second-guess it then either. So, that's the tough thing about it, but the disappointment is that we didn't play our best football. That's the thing that really sticks to us. We're way better than what we played in both those games, and we're going to have to grow from that."
It seems to me that you controlled the line of scrimmage all year long both ways, and in both of those games [2018 Wild Card and 2019 Divisional Playoff] you didn't for some reason. To me, up front is where you lost both of those games. When you look back at the film, is there any explanation? (Stan White) "Oh yes, there are lots of explanations. As you know, as a coach, they're different from both games, and they're specific to plays. But generally speaking, I agree with you 100-percent. That was one of the big differences."
Obviously, the season didn't go the way you wanted it to. But after Week 4, the defense wasn't playing well, and then you bring in a bunch of guys that, other than CB Marcus Peters, essentially came off the street. And they improved this defense so much. Do you allow yourself to say, "Wow, that was pretty special what we did, and it doesn't happen very often."? (Ken Weinman) "Definitely, definitely. That's kind of what I was trying to say in the sense of that we were the best team we could be. That's kind of the point. I'm really proud of the players, and I'm really proud of the coaches and proud of the culture, proud of the attitude, the work ethic, all those things that allow you to do that. Our scouts did a great job. I mean, who's out there is who's out there, but those guys were fits. Jihad Ward, I don't think you mentioned him there. This guy is a great fit in our defense. We liked him coming out of the draft. I remember our scouts liked him and our coaches liked him. I liked him. And then all of a sudden from a turn of events, he's sitting there staring you in the face, and then you're like, 'Well, is he going to work for us?' Man, he came up aces."
With the Pro Bowl, you're going down with at least 12 guys. [Are you] looking forward to that? You get to spend some more time with the guys and maybe have some fun? (Todd Karpovich)"Oh yes, 13 [players]. Orlando [Brown Jr. was added]. What is it?" (Reporter: "Marcus Peters dropped out.")"Oh, did he? OK, I didn't even know that. Thanks, so back to 12. (laughter) I'll miss Marcus. I was looking forward to spending time with him, but all the other guys – it'll be great. It'll be fun, yes. It'll be fun, and it'll be a chance for us to kind of maybe heal up a little bit in a great environment. I don't know how many of these guys really like roller coasters, but I know for me and my family, we will be at the roller coasters at Universal [Studios] a lot. So, if you're looking for us, you'll find us over there, probably, in Harry Potter."
How many guys have you had to maybe try to recruit to come down that were maybe on the fence about going to the Pro Bowl? But now, the coaching staff is going – like QB Lamar Jackson for instance. (Jerry Coleman)"No, none of them; I haven't tried to recruit anybody. I mean, I don't care. To be honest with you, I'd like to say – Roger [Goodell] is going to be mad at me – I just want the guys that want to be there, that are healthy enough to be there. But Lamar [Jackson] wants to go. He's fired up. I did know that. He told me he couldn't wait. He didn't have anything planned. He had no arrangements made. He didn't know anything. He didn't know what day he had to be there yet, but he's excited. And then the other guys, too ... You get to see a lot of the other players around the league. That's kind of a neat thing and to get to know them. I got to be good friends with Peyton Manning riding the bus over to practice and back every day with my daughter when she was [little] and his kids, and we still talk and text and stuff. So, that's kind of the neat thing about it."
You mentioned the fewest surgeries this offseason. Do you know the guys that are going to have surgery for this offseason? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't. I know who could, but I'd rather wait and see until they do. We won't be afraid to announce that when it happens. I don't think it's going to be anybody, really, but there's an outside chance. So, I don't want to say 'none' until we know it's none."
I think when QB Lamar Jackson took over in his rookie year, you guys ran the ball about 60 percent of the time. This year the run-pass split was about 55-45. I know you and Greg Roman don't have a crystal ball, but do you expect to become a more balanced team next year? Or is that too far in advance to say? (Jonas Shaffer) "That's a good question, and I'm going to give you a firm, 'I don't know yet.' Is that OK? Because what we did was pretty darn good, and if we can play that way in games, we're going to want to. Who carries it, how many times they carry it, how much Lamar [Jackson] carries it – all those kind of things [are up in the air]. Sometimes we drop back and throw, and he's carrying it a lot because that's how people play him. So, it's hard to predict that. It's a great question. We're going to try to be as unpredictable as we can."
Along those lines, with the receiving development, we saw what Marquise [Brown] can do. Hayden Hurst took another step forward, and another year for Miles Boykin. What did you see from those guys and what do they need to do to improve? (Jonas Shaffer) _"Great question, too. I feel like all of those things are true, and those guys can definitely get better. Hayden made huge strides; he was another guy that came up [to my office] and we talked for a long time, and he's another guy that nailed it. He's going to be working really hard to keep expanding himself as a football player. He wants more, and he's going to get more. Mark [Andrews], same thing. I mean, he's going to the Pro Bowl, and yet, he can get much better. He's going into his third year. Marquise, who was really not 100-percent most of the year – and that was pretty obvious, right? – and he had a great game in his last game, and he's a huge piece of what we're doing and fits this offense so well. It won't be just those guys. There are other guys, too, whether we can bring some guys back or not. And then the draft, I know it's a great year for wide receivers, I've been told, in the draft. Maybe it's a free agent, maybe it's a trade. Who knows what it could be? We have a really good feel for the type of receivers we want to bring in. Without letting the cat out of the bag too much, we want a certain type of guy, and we want a certain type of other guy that would fit us. And we'll be looking hard for those guys. _(laughter)You know what I mean?" (laughter)
Last offseason, you even acknowledged certain wide receivers might not have been all that excited about joining this offense with what its reputation was. Now, having the season you've had, with QB Lamar Jackson leading the NFL in touchdown passes, do you anticipate that not being nearly as much of an issue? (Luke Jones) _"Yes, I do. _(laughter)And if you remember, last year I kind of said it in a way like, 'They're going to find out.' And yes, I absolutely believe that players are going to be very excited to be here and to be a part of this offense."
After the Pro Bowl, I think pretty much everyone expects QB Lamar Jackson to win the MVP the night before the Super Bowl. You're certainly a candidate, as well, for Coach of the Year. I know you'd rather be playing the next day, but will there be some gratification in that night? Will that be a nice celebration of what you guys did? (Child Walker) _"I already heard from my wife and my daughter; they want to go. So, we'll be there. Yes, it will be fun. We went one other time, and Ingrid was just dying to meet Joe Buck. She's like, 'Joe Buck, he seems like a good guy.' _(laughter)Joe Buck – I like Joe Buck, too. But she just wanted to meet Joe Buck so bad, and he was really nice. So, to your point, it's a great night, and it's a huge night for the NFL and stuff like that. Awards are great – we're always proud of our guys when they win them, Pro Bowl and all those kinds of things – but to me, in the end, you've got to remember they're team awards. I was with Andy Reid as an assistant coach for a long time, and he won Coach of the Year a few times. And I can tell you, as an assistant coach, I can tell you how I felt, when Andy got the Coach of the Year, I felt like the Coach of the Year. I felt like as an assistant coach, I did my part, and wewere the Coach of the Year. And that's how I look at it with our players and our coaches. I feel like they're the Coach of the Year. I think our coaches are the Coach of the Year, if that happens, or for the couple of times that it did happen. That's how I look at it, and you're proud of that. Then same thing with Lamar: You have the MVP, and you look at it and say, 'We're all the MVP, in a sense, because we're a team.' It's a team sport, and I know Lamar looks at it that way, too. So, it's a cool thing, yes."
Last year, after the playoff loss, people said that the Chargers showed the blueprint for how to stop this team, and then you guys went on to finish 14-2. And Greg Roman said, "Well, we learned from that loss, and you adjust after that." Did the Titans show a way to stop this offense, or was it just a bad day? To what extent will that game help adjust what you do? _(Bo Smolka) _"They didn't do anything that we hadn't seen before this year or in previous games, or years or whatever. It wasn't like they re-invented football. Give them credit, they executed very well, and that's it. So, I think a lot will be made of that like it was last year, and I'll probably answer the question the same way without trying to get annoyed. It's football. It's Xs and Os, and if we're really good at what we do, then we're going to score points and win games. And if we're not good at what we do, we won't. The same thing goes for our opponents. But, we'll be studying that. I mentioned that earlier: We're going to look at scheme really hard, and we'll be trying to do things and create things with our scheme and with our personnel, putting a couple players in the right spots that can make certain types of plays, that can do certain things against certain things that we're seeing that can rend those things null and void, to neutralize what they're doing. You have to have players in certain spots, certain skillsets to do it, and then you need the scheme to do it. So, we'll be looking at all that stuff really hard, absolutely. But if you think anybody has the answer in football, just wait until the next week and you'll find out. How many times has that been proven? We proved a lot of that this year."
John, a lot of your pending free agents are in that front seven there. What do you see as the key to building a strong front seven when you already have so many pieces in the secondary? (Aaron Kasinitz) _"The nice thing is you can focus on it just a little bit. That's a good thing. We're going to be looking at that hard. We don't have a lot of work to do in the secondary – not to say we would pass up a really good player. Certainly, I want to re-sign Jimmy Smith. He's the one free agent, I think, in the back end. Is there anybody else?" _(Reporter: "Brandon Carr.")Brandon Carr is under contract. So, those are guys … We want both those guys back. We're not going to try to weaken ourselves in the secondary, but we can focus on the front seven. That's the thing, and we know with our scheme and the way that we get attacked, we know the kind of player that we want. So, it'll narrow the focus even more, both in free agency and the draft, and we'll try to get two or three guys, maybe four."