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Old 10-13-2004, 03:54 PM  
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Q and A Vermil 10/13

Q&A with Dick Vermeil
Oct 13, 2004, 3:48:18 PM


Q: How difficult was it to keep your team focused after your 0-3 start?

VERMEIL: “When your expectations are high, it doesn’t help. But I have a real quality group of kids here and most of them have been together now for three years and they know what we believe in, what we do and how we do it, and they even know more so why we do it. I think that Monday night was more of a reflection of how they handle adversity than anything else. I was very pleased with it. There’s no guarantee they’re going to do it again, but they did battle through it and played more like they expected to play.”

Q: Do you think the 0-3 start was any kind of hangover from last season?

VERMEIL: “First off, a lot of it starts with how you play. One team in the last several years started in Denver and won. So, our odds weren’t real good if we just looked at history, but we thought we could up there and win and we didn’t. We didn’t play as well as we should have, and they played well. They’re a good football team. Then the next week we lost to a Super Bowl team in the final seconds of the game. Then we outplay the Texans and beat them soundly and lose the game, which we’ve all coached in those kinds of games. Then finally we did more things right than wrong and won. I think so many times as I studied the league, a lot of success is determined by who you play, like your team, my team and Indianapolis are the only three teams I think started out the season playing three out of four playoff teams. It’s usually a little tougher to do. That’s why I respect what Jacksonville has done. They’ve won three football games and two of them were last year’s playoff teams. It’s hard to beat playoff teams if they remain playing well. Super Bowl teams in the past don’t beat the playoff teams at a 50% rate. But regardless of what’s said or what I say, we didn’t come out of training camp as good a football team as we should have.”

Q: You’ve scored in each opening drive this season, what’s happened after that?

VERMEIL: “I think that’s a matter of definition. I think that’s a matter of being specific and everybody knowing what they’re doing and getting it done, plus we’re talented enough to do that. Two years in a row we’ve lead the league in scoring. Where did it go all of a sudden? First we didn’t come out in training camp as well and we played better defenses and we couldn’t get started real well. We were breaking down. This will be the first week we’ve had all our wide receivers healthy since the third day of training camp. I’m looking forward to that. I think more it’s Al Saunders doing a great job with the offensive staff of being specific. When you’re only thinking about 10 to 12 plays, 14 plays, you can be very specific and the definition of purpose is there and they execute better.”

Q: As good as Tony Gonzalez is, can your offense be what you expect it to be and how good it can be with him leading you in receiving, or do you want your receivers to step up?

VERMEIL: “I’d like our receivers to do more, but everybody asked that. Last year we lead the league in scoring and everyone says ‘Oh my gosh, they don’t have great receivers.’ We have five guys catch 50 balls or more, and that’s the first time in the history of this organization. We just as soon not define exactly who we have to throw the ball to all the time. Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes represent the number one inside package in the National Football League. Those two guys together got more balls, made more yards and scored more touchdowns than any pair in the National Football League. If they’re going to touch the ball that many times, someone can’t, especially if you’re going to run the ball. Now, if you’re going to throw the ball 50 times a game, maybe you can highlight a receiver and get him 80 catches or something. I don’t believe in that.”

Q: How is the Gunther Cunningham defense coming along?

VERMEIL: “I think it’s coming along good. We’ve improved tremendously over the last two weeks. We’re getting better. We’ve cut our stats. At least statistically, we look a lot better. I think Baltimore thinks we’re a lot better. I think other teams that we’ve played have seen and can recognize it. We just have to prove it through a 16-game schedule.”

Q: Were you concerned after the Denver game that the defensive improvement wasn’t going to come?

VERMEIL: “Head coaches live in a consistent state of concern. I’m always concerned, but I know our first two games we gave up 30 points. We’ve given up two touchdowns the last two. The first two we gave up five. We have 16 fewer first downs the last two games. 134 yards fewer a game the last two games, from 187 yards rushing the first two to 78 the next two. So, we are better. Even if we’re playing the old ladies from the poor, I think it shows that we’re going in the right direction.”

Q: What did you think of the Jaguars’ decision to move Marcus Stroud to defensive end last week?

VERMEIL: “He’s a very talented guy and talented people have to be flexible enough to play where ever they can help the football team win more specifically in each ballgame. I don’t question what other coaches do. We’ve moved John Browning from tackle to defensive end. He played extremely well against Baltimore because we wanted a bigger stronger man in front of the biggest tackle in football in Jonathon Ogden, and he played well. He played his role and did super job.”

Q: Where do you expect to see Marcus Stroud this week?

VERMEIL: “I don’t know. I have no clue. I’ll find out Sunday.”

Q: Does it make it tough to prepare?

VERMEIL: “Not really. I don’t think so. We do what we do regardless of what our opponents do. We try to attack the schemes and all that kind of stuff. But I think we have a pretty good offensive line. We’ve played against some good football players. Maybe not two defensive tackles equivalent to those two guys inside, but I know if they’re both inside our two guards have to do a good job. They’re still going line up somebody in there that looks pretty good. I was impressed with (Willie) Blade. I thought he did a good job last week.”

Q: What do you think of Byron Leftwich’s maturation?

VERMEIL: “Impressive. Tremendous poise. He never looks to be in a state of panic even in pressure, even when someone’s around him, even when they’re banging on him. He’s oblivious to what’s going on around in the rush. He has great focus down field. I think he’s doing a good job. He’s already over 80 in quarterback efficiency rating. That’s tough to do.”

Q: Do you think Leftwich looks more comfortable in the shot gun?

VERMEIL: “I don’t know. I think there are a lot of quarterbacks that do. I know he came out of college living back there. The shot gun serves a specific reason and a specific purpose and they use it well.”

Q: With your experience in the league, it still must be hard to start 0-3.

VERMEIL: “I’ve never gone 0-3 the first three games of the season, but I’ve lost three in a row before and I’ve lost eight in a row before with the Rams. I know what it is to lose. I’ve always believed if you’re in a leadership position, you’d better handle the losing better than you handle the winning because if you don’t, your squad won’t.”

Q: Is that tough to do?

VERMEIL: “Yeah, but just like I said, if the boss as the leader doesn’t handle the adversity properly, the football team will not either. I promise you, if I didn’t handle the losing properly the first three weeks, we would have never gone into Baltimore and beat Baltimore on Monday night there. It’s tough to do. I have an approach to handling adversity and handling losing. No one has ever given me a job that was guaranteed winning the first year. Every job I’ve taken they were losing when I took over. The first two were the worst situations in all of pro football. I have a process of how you go through it, how you handle it, what you have to do and what you shouldn’t do. I’ve made a ton of mistakes and hopefully I haven’t made many here.”

Q: Do you think it’s tougher to go 0-3 after you have been in the playoffs the previous year?

VERMEIL: “Sure it is, no question but at the end of the season, where you lose three games in a row, as long as you have character people on your football team, it doesn’t matter where you lost three in a row.”

Q: What is your process? How have you learned to cope with losses?

VERMEIL: “First you don’t allow doubt to creep into your process. I’ve coached two other NFL football teams and both of them went to the Super Bowl. Both of them were the losingest organizations in football when we took them over. One of them didn’t have a first, second or third-round draft choice for their first years and they were already losing. So, what we keep doing is surround ourselves with good people and keep working and don’t blame anybody. We don’t point the finger. We all assume the responsibly and want to be held accountable. That’s our quarterback, that’s our head coach, that’s our middle linebacker – we’re all held accountable and we don’t blame anybody and we don’t go in and point things out and single out guys as the reason we lost. We just keep coaching and correcting what we’re doing wrong and try to get better.”

Q: Is coaching tougher now in the free agency era than it was 20 years ago?

VERMEIL: “I don’t think it is. When I was rebuilding the Eagles in 1976-78, we didn’t have access to getting a good player off somebody’s roster. We didn’t even have the first, second or third-round draft choices, as I just told you. So, it’s sort of nice to be able to do that. If you lose one of your guys, you lose one of your guys. What we try to do is build an environment where guys don’t want to leave. If you really want him and you have the money for him, they don’t want to leave, and that’s worked out pretty good for us this year. We lost an offensive right tackle. We couldn’t afford to give him the money that he was given. I’m happy he went. I’m happy he got that kind of money, and you go on from there.”

Q: Do you have a timetable of how long you’d like to keep coaching?

VERMEIL: “Yes, definitely. I’ll finish this year and go one more. That’s what I told Carl (Peterson) when I resigned after my three-year contract. I wouldn’t have stayed last year if we weren’t successful.”

Q: Does coaching get any easier?

VERMEIL: “I am now able to keep things in better perspective. I’m better able to understand why people do things and why they respond the way they do. I don’t overreact like I use to. I’m not quite as intense as I use to be. Sometimes that’s a positive. Sometimes that’s a negative. But I think I do a lot better job of defining the problems, understanding why they exist and then attacking them properly, but normally attacking them positively.”

Q: Were you less intense in the second Super Bowl trip than you were in the first?

VERMEIL: “No question.”

Q: Being older and dealing with younger people, does that not become harder because you know how to do it better?

VERMEIL: “I think it’s easier for me. We take time to understand each of our players first and a football player second. Our philosophy is we don’t coach football players, we coach people who play football for a living. We approach it that way. We do everything we can both on and off the field to help them be what they have the ability to be. If we are successful, then they help us all get better. If we’re not, then we end up with a different player playing that position and the guy goes on and plays for somebody else or he’s out of the league.”

Q: Do you still enjoy coaching?

VERMEIL: “Oh yeah. When you’ve been in a leadership role most of your life, you enjoy the responsibility. You enjoy the pressures. You know how to handle it. You know how to use pressure as an ally, not an enemy and you teach other people to do the same thing, or try to help them do the same thing. You build things one step at a time. As cliché as it might sound, that’s it. We like to believe that our 12th person is our team character. We don’t need our homefield advantage. Our advantage is our people we line up to play with. That’s how we approach things.”

Q: When you retire from coaching, do you think you’ll miss it?

VERMEIL: “Yes, I will. I’ll be 69 when I retire, and I will miss it. I think if you talk to Marv Levy right now, he’ll tell you he misses it. If you talk to Chuck Knox, he would tell you he misses it. If you talk to Bud Grant, he may not. But I think most people that who been in a responsible leadership position miss it. When I left the Rams and recognized after the World Championship that I made a mistake, one of the reasons is I didn’t feel that anybody needed my help. No one needed any of my skills that I developed and I felt sort of insignificant. It wasn’t a good feeling and I recognized I made a mistake.”

Q: Is the game still fun for you?

VERMEIL: “Yup. The kids today are great kids. They really are. We in the media business – I was in it for 14 years – you always told the stories of the guys who had problems and exemplified the guy that got the DUI or had the drug charge or had the contract holdout. But I think the National Football League today is represented by a super, super young man that it’s just really exciting to be around. I know I really enjoy it. In fact, if I don’t enjoy him, I don’t keep him.”

Q: What do you think of the players getting paid more now than in the past?

VERMEIL: “They pay me more now too, so that’s just the way it is. I personally have not seen a contract really negatively influence a player’s performance either because he got too much or didn’t get enough.”

Q: Is it easier to handle a big contract at age 68 than 23?

VERMEIL: “No question. But you know in the National Football League now, we have a full staff that if these kids will take advantage of it, they will help them with everything they do both on and off the field.”
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