You are happy with the performances and the success but it is so overshadowed by the fact that we did not win enough games to get in the playoffs. I think they showed great strides in a lot of the areas that were of concern. Early they looked to have great promise to them, so that is very, very encouraging. But, right now, it is all tainted by not being in the playoffs. It just hurts. I thought we would go and we’re not. Now we’ve got a chance to finish up with a nice win. That’s my goal, just to finish up feeling good. We won the ninth game and we go into the offseason with at least that satisfaction. It’s not what we wanted. It’s certainly not the goals that we had set, but it’s a lot better. You are a competitor no matter what you do. That’s when I’m playing cards or shooting horse or whatever, you want to win. When you don’t, it hurts. This is certainly far more important than that, so I would love to see us go out and play well, finish up the right way. But, most important of all, come out with a ‘W.’
Q. I am sure one of your main concerns last offseason was how to get these receivers and passing game to where it needs to be. Do you think it is going to be the reverse this year, how can we get the running game back to where it needs to be?
A. Yeah, no question. Not that we are where we need to be with the passing game; we can still be a lot better. There are some things, as I have said every week, they do some spectacular things. But, right now from a coaching standpoint there is a lot of room for improvement in a lot of different areas. The good thing was there was steady improvement. As long as we don’t fall back and we go basically from where we left off this year, you feel good about it. Hey, we are headed in the right direction and we should continue to get better. If we do, we will have a chance to be pretty special. But, the running game did fall off and that was really disappointing. In particular it was not as good with our base stuff. In the past that was what we started with and we built off of that. This year, we didn’t. Our running game didn’t really kick in until the passing game got going. Once they started to defend the pass, then we were able to run the ball more effectively. Not that there is anything wrong with that approach, but that has not been what we have been able to do. That has not been our approach. So, for us to have to do that is disappointing. You would love to see us get back to where we feel as good about the running game as we have in the past.
Q. Do you have ideas about why it fell off?
A. Yeah, again, the problem is not just one thing. It’s a couple of different things. We’ll look to address those in the offseason.
Q. We know about (Brandon) Jacobs’ issues and now needing knee surgery. How much did that hamper him and your ability to use him the way you wanted to?
A. It didn’t affect me at all. I keep hearing you guys say, ‘well, he did things different.’ Nothing is different, he ran the same way, we’ve asked him to do the same things. Now early on in the year on third down we tried to get him some more carries in that area. Did it affect him? I’m sure it did. I’m sure it affected his ability. How much? I have no idea. It’s just like Ahmad (Bradshaw). Ahmad played tremendous but he is battling two bad legs, two bad feet, and he comes through. There is no question, anybody who is playing at this point in time is hurt and banged up. The measure of that injury, I don’t know. Now we find out he is going to get operated on and what have you. So, it’s obviously been bothering him. He doesn’t complain about it. He’s a tough guy. He has gone out and played. He has tried to do whatever he could.
Q. What do you think Ahmad was missing? A little explosion, power?
A. That is a good question. I think both. I think it affects everything. I think it certainly affects his ability. He is such a dynamic, powerful guy for his size. I think it certainly affected his power to a degree and certainly his quickness to a degree. You could tell what games where it was really affecting his play and what games it didn’t. When it didn’t affect his play, he’s special. He is a special runner. He can do things that not many guys can do. But, then you see the games where he was struggling. It hurts.
Q. It seemed like he kind of slowed down in the middle and then sort of picked up again at the end?
A. Yeah, last couple games he has been outstanding.
Q. Have you said anything to Bill Sheridan about the pressures of the business?
A. Nothing as of late. Just jokingly, ‘so, you wanted to be a coordinator, huh?’ It’s not fun when things are going wrong. Sometimes there is very little you can do to arrest the downward, the difficulty of the downward spiral. You just keep fighting. I think he’s been exemplary in his ability to maintain, be true himself, and maintain tremendous drive and a positive outlook. It is not easy to do that. I think he has been a great example for all of us. I have been encouraged by his strength.
Q. Do you feel, in general, good about heading into next season with what you are left with at the end of the year?
A. It is hard. I think in a month I will have a better, more accurate appraisal. Right now you are so influenced by the fact that you didn’t finish up going to the playoffs. Everything kind of gets tainted and maybe sours the way you look at things. But, again, some of the individual things, I think some of the receivers show great promise. I feel good about that. If we can get the running backs healthy, I feel good about that. There are some spots that we’ve got to add to, no question. We are going to have to augment what we’ve got. The nucleus is there to be very good. There are a lot of young players that we depended upon and you would like to say young players will just get better. I don’t know that that always happens, but, you would like to say they are going to get better. If they do, we should get better. We should get better. Maybe most importantly of all, be more consistent. I don’t think you have quite the ups and downs. Sometimes we have been very spectacular and done some terrific things. Sometimes we go out and we’re just not playing as well as we should have. That is probably typical of young players. You wish it wasn’t that way, but it probably is that way. So, you would like to say ‘hey, we’ll be more consistent with our play.’ Some of these young players we asked to play, played vital roles. There are some mistakes that are made and you shake your head. It is part of the growing. You just can’t speed it up. You coach it, you work your rear end off and you get better. But, it is a process. I remember taking classes, developmental psychology. You can’t teach calculus when they are doing addition and subtraction. You want to. But, you have to realize where you are at. Let’s take them to the next step and once they get that done, then we go to the next step. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but the thing that was great is that there work ethics were great. Their intentions are very good. They want to get better. It is such a positive thing. Our guys work hard. They work hard. You do see some ability. Those are all very encouraging signs.
Q. The offensive line. They have played together for a number of years. Is it time to maybe shake things up a little bit with the running game?
A. Again, I think that will be examined very carefully at the end of the year. We will make that assessment. How much were some of the injuries? Was it a one time thing or is it a reflection of the advance of age? You never know. You are always just kind of doing the best guess, estimation. But, I’m sure that will come into the discussion.
Q. I would imagine breaking up that line, if it was felt needed, would be difficult to do?
A. Hard. They get upset at me when I say this but I have the greatest amount of respect for guys who are overachievers. That is what they are. They are a bunch of terrific guys. As a group, they are better than they are individually. Again, they are good players, but they play very well together. They have tremendous pride. They have great work ethic and it’s important. They are fun to be around because they have all the right values. They are great examples to the young players. They are terrific.
Q. Do you think the young guys on the offensive line who got the experience this year can take it to the next level?
A. I’m hopeful, but it still has to be done. That is where some of those inconsistencies come into play. There is no question that their futures are very bright if they’ll make the growth that they need to make. They are not there yet. That sometimes becomes very painful.
Q. It is hard to commit to them?
A. Right, because you don’t know. You are guessing. You’ve got to make an educated guess. You see and you say okay, they have matured enough. They have enough of a grasp of what you are doing. There is enough talent. They have enough of the psychological factors that you are looking for. Then you make the change. If you’re wrong, they’ll be here, because you are not replacing them, you are living with it. So, it is a tough call. Management will make that call. I’m sure they will ask us to make our suggestions or our thoughts on it. But that’s what they get paid the big money to do.
Q. But, a second-year guy at left tackle?
A. It’s hard, it’s hard. Again, I think William (Beatty) is going to be a terrific player down the road. He has shown some really good plays where you just say, ‘hey, he’s got everything we are looking for.’ He’s got the foot speed that you just can’t teach. He looks like he has some of the determination that you like to have. Sometimes you will see him in a position and you will think, I have never seen a guy in that position. How did you get there? I feel good about him. I think he is going to be a good player down the road. The toughest thing is do you make that call now? That’s probably why they are making it, not me.