Q: How much does it impact the rest of your defense when you get pressure with the front four?
A: That’s where our energy comes from, that’s where our confidence comes from, that’s where our swagger comes from. Those guys, unlike most teams that you associate with, they set the tone for us, they are the catalysts for what we do and how we do it. So, it sets the whole mindset for our defensive football team.
Q: Do you keep an eye out for what the weather will be like?
A: Not for this game. It doesn’t matter.
Q: Why does it not matter?
A: Because it’s the championship game. It doesn’t matter. You fight all year to get here. It can snow, it can hail, it can rain, it can do whatever it wants to do. We’re going to be there and we’re going to be ready to play.
Q: Won’t the 49ers try to change their offensive game plan in bad weather?
A: Doesn’t matter.
Q: Do they run out of the same formations with Frank Gore as with Kendall Hunter?
A: I think their offense is geared around Frank. I think what they do and how they do it is geared around Frank. I think he was dinged up last time we played them. I don’t expect a whole lot of change, because they do what they do and they’re good at what they do.
Q: How unusual is it for a defense to feed off of the front four?
A: On our team, on the New York Giants, we have about three or four defensive ends, and then the two tackles that really set the tone in the middle for you. But you have three or four defensive ends who can change the complexion of the ballgame on any given play. A lot of teams I’ve been associated with in the past, you have one, possibly two. If you had two, you felt like you were great up front. If you have three or four, at any point in time, one of those guys can make a game-changing play like Osi did last week. That’s why it’s very unusual.
Q: Do the defensive linemen compete with each other?
A: In everything. You don’t want to be in that meeting room. They compete in every single thing.
Q: What have you been able to do defensively to limit production out of the tight end position?
A: I think it’s a function of our front, I think it’s a function of the guys in the back row, as well as the linebackers doing a great job communicating, anticipating and knowing where those guys are because they are so good, as far as tight ends. And some of it is luck. Vernon is a handful. He’s as fast as a wide receiver. We have faced really elite tight ends, I think, this season. You go through the New England guys, you go Jermichael, all the way through, Gonzalez. We are battle-tested as far as that’s concerned. We just have to be on top of our game on Sunday in order to defend another guy like that.
Q: How much has the tight end position evolved over the years?
A: When I first came in, there were only maybe less than a half dozen that could impact a game like that. You play against a Shannon Sharpe or someone like that. But now, it’s every week. What they’ve done is there is one, sometimes two, to defend. I think they have two tight ends who are really good. They’ve opened up a new era as far the offense is concerned because they can spread the field and do a lot of things that receivers do, plus they’re good blockers.
Q: How valuable is a guy like Jacquian Williams in defending tight ends?
A: Very valuable in the sense that you feel like you can match up and keep a linebacker on the field instead of putting another defensive back on the field and that helps.
Q: How important is it to be physical at the line of scrimmage with athletic tight ends?
A: That’s the key. Can we smack them in the mouth and be physical with them and they’ll be physical with us. When it’s all said and done, who wins the physical battle?
Q: A lot of people are saying that towards the end of the season you’re now able to call the plays you want to. What is different?
A: We had a lot of interchangeable parts and I think I spoke throughout the season that we were not able to play together as a front, as a secondary, and as a linebacking corps. So over the last four or five weeks we’ve been able to play together. I think I answered the question during the course of the season that our coverage is based on feel and knowing where people are and trust. We’ve been able to feel and trust each other now because we’ve played together as a unit. Defensive line, linebackers, and secondary. The parts have all come together and now I don’t have to substitute a guy in and substitute guy in and change the coverage and say this guy has a weakness so I have to do something different. We’ve come together and we’ve been able to play together, so everyone is a lot more comfortable in their roles.
Q: Was there ever a concern that players would stop buying in?
A: No, we never stopped communicating with each other. We knew we could get it together and we would get it together. It was just a matter of when. Obviously there was frustration. This is the era of instant gratification, so we wanted it to happen right now. But we just kept talking to each other, we kept communicating with each other, we kept believing in each other. I never saw any doubt.
Q: Did you actually see a benefit between your first and second year despite all the change on defense?
A: I’m seeing the benefit now. I didn’t think I was seeing it early because of the lockout and injuries and trying to put new players into the system and them learning the system. But I see it now, bringing a Chase Blackburn back, who understood our system, who had knowledge of our system, and can go in and within in a matter of weeks get caught up to speed. So, yes, now I do see the benefits.
Q: Has the fact that the defense came together so late hurt your chances at a head coaching position?
A: I’m just trying to keep the job I have. I’m happy not to see my name in print sometimes, so I don’t know. I’ve been focusing on the job at hand and that hasn’t been a concern for me.
Q: Do you feel like you are able to listen to suggestions from players?
A: Because we are able to communicate and we talk to each other, yes. I think because I know the players a lot better, definitely. I think that as a coordinator, and as a leader, you’re most effective when you’re listening, not talking.