DallasHead Coach Jason Garrett
Q: So what's new down there?
A: We're just banging away. Just another Wednesday.
Q: We're told that your top priority is to change the culture. How do you change that in a limited amount of time?
A: What we're going to do is come in and outline expectations for our football team, players and coaches alike, and then go implement those things.
Q: Why did you decide to go full pads today?
A: It'll be how we do things going forward. We feel that it's important to practice in pads on Wednesdays.
Q: What'd you see from that?
A: What did we see from practice today? I thought we practiced well.
Q: Do you sense a new spark or different attitude right now?
A: I know we have to get to work. We have to put what's happened so far this season behind us and get going forward. It's important to have a great Wednesday in the NFL. The Giants will present a great challenge for us on Sunday afternoon. They're an awfully good football team in all three areas. What the players and coaches need to know is that we need to get to work to get ready for this challenge that we have coming ahead.
Q: Do you think that you have some leaders in that locker room?
A: I think we have leaders in our locker room. We have veteran players who have established themselves with their performance and with their approach. I think any good organization has a number of different leaders in a lot of different levels.
Q: Identify them and how they've helped you the past couple days:
A: I think the guys you can probably imagine. You already mentioned Jason Witten, guys like Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Marc Colombo, Andre Gurode, a number of these guys, Marion Barber. I hate anyone in particular but veteran players who are established and understand the way we want to go about doing things, or guys who are leaders on our football team and will continue to be that.
Q: How much time are you still able to spend with the offense as the offensive coordinator, and how do you balance that?
A: There are a number of head coaches around the league who are very much involved with either the offensive or defensive side of the ball. You manage it the same way they do. There are some responsibilities that I have now as the head coach that will take away from some of the things I've been doing each and every week as solely the offensive coordinator. We have a very experienced and confident offensive staff, and in some of those areas where I can't be directly involved, they can handle some of those things.
Q: Has the whole situation set in for you yet?
A: We are certainly disappointed about how our season started. What we're doing now is going forward and there isn't a lot of time to think about different scenarios. We have to get ready for the Giants on Sunday. Like I said before, they will present a great challenge all across our football team, so we need to have great Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays to get ready for that challenge on Sunday.
Q: Realistically, how much can you tweek since you just saw the Giants a few weeks ago?
A: What we're going to do is we're going to continue to do the things that we think are good for us. We're going to continue to try and address the things that haven't been good and correct those things. We did see the Giants just a couple weeks ago, and any time you're playing a division opponent, it's an opponent that you study throughout the offseason and you have a history with them. I know there have been some coaching changes there, but we feel like we know their team just because we have worked hard trying to get to know their team. I'm sure they feel the same way about us. Having said all that, again, it'll present a great challenge for us going forward on Sunday afternoon.
Q: What do you remember about your time with the Giants?
A: I had a great experience. I was there for four years. The first year I was there was 2000, and we went to the Super Bowl and it was the year we lost to the Ravens. We had a great year and I had a great experience over the course of my four years. It's an outstanding organization. I think everyone who has ever been around it can understand that it starts at the top with the Maras and the Tisches, and it works all the way down through. They have done an outstanding job there for 75 years, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of that organization for four of those. I have great memories from that time.
Q: Does New Jersey/New York feel like home to you?
A: I have spent a lot of great times in New Jersey: on the Jersey Shore, at Princeton, certainly up at the Meadowlands. I have a lot of fondness for the area and the people in that area. In many ways, it is like home. I try to see my parents every summer. My wife and I go and visit them in Monmouth Beach, so I spent a lot of great times there and I have a great fondness for the area and the people.
Q: What Springsteen song would relate to what you're trying to do down there?
A: I think that's probably too difficult for me to answer right now. Bruce has been with me for a long, long time. He always provides inspiration, and anybody who is a fan knows exactly what I'm talking about. I'm a big fan and will be a lifelong fan of that guy. He has made my life a heck of a lot better, I know that.
Q: Do you feel like your whole life has prepared you to get to this moment?
A: I grew up in football, and my dad was a football coach. I was fortunate to play in high school and college, and in the NFL. I have been coaching here for the last few years. It's something that I love and I have a great passion for the game and for team and all of those things. To have the opportunity to do this is really special.
Q: Is this the way you thought you'd get your first start as an NFL head coach?
A: I don't think anybody would've predicted this scenario happening this way. It's unfortunate. I'm such a fan of Wade Phillips as a person and as a coach, and his track record as a coach speaks for itself. Having the opportunity to work for him for three and a half years is something I'll never forget. I consider him a lifelong friend and mentor, and it's been a great experience for me. I don't think anyone would have predicted this type of a scenario. The fact is that this is what's happened, and we need to go forward and accept the challenges ahead. That starts with the Giants on Sunday.
Q: What do you need to do to make this job permanent?
A: We need to focus on being great today. It's something that the coaches and players hear from me a lot. We need to have a great Wednesday, and after we have a great Wednesday, let's try to have a Thursday, and put good days together and focus on the process and not so much on the results. If we do things the right way, hopefully the habits will develop and the results that we all desire will come.
Q: Do you see Dallas as a place where you could become the permanent guy?
A: I'm focused on today. I'm focused on today and trying to get this team as prepared as it can be for Sunday when we face the Giants and that's really what my focus is.
Q: What is the challenge ahead of you to change the culture?
A: What you need to do is to outline expectations in all areas, and then hold people accountable to those expectations. We started that process today, and we will continue to do that on a daily basis.
Q: What do you need to do schematically to improve?
A: We need to get better each and every day. It starts in practice. You need to be able to take Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday practices to the game field on Sunday. You need to work hard on the practice field and in the meeting room to get yourself prepared individually as a unit and as a football team to accept the challenges. The Giants will present a challenge. We are not looking back, we're looking forward. We're trying to stack good days together and get ourselves ready to play an important football game.
Q: Have you actually told your players that jobs are going to be won and lost this week?
A: What we tell our players is that competition is important for any football team and we're going to play the best guys, evaluate them based on what we see and not where anybody came from. It doesn't matter if you were drafted, if you were a free agent, if you were a Pro Bowl player. We're going to evaluate based on what we see.
Q: Do you hope that the Cowboys will be more of a threat this weekend because of the coaching upheaval?
A: We're focused on what we can do each and every day to get ourselves ready to play. That's really our challenge. We had a good start today with our practice, and hopefully we can come back tomorrow and have another good day and keep building all day.
Q: You seem very tense. Is that due to the kind of pressure you've stepped into?
A: I don't feel tense at all. I'm excited about the opportunity that we have, I really am. We have a good group of players and coaches down here and we're working hard to do things the right way and get the Cowboys going again. That's what our focus is. I'm very passionate and enthusiastic about playing and coaching football, I feel very fortunate for the job that I have, and we're excited about the opportunity and the challenges ahead.
DallasCowboys TE Jason Witten
Q: What are you seeing in the Giants defensively?
A: It's unique because you're playing them so quickly back to back. They've only had one game since they played us last and it's very similar to what we saw last time. Obviously they create pressure with the guys up front – Tuck and Osi – and do a lot of different things on the back end. I think the addition of Rolle has really given them some strength and they're playing really well. If you look at that game last week against Seattle, they were doing a lot of things well and we've got to be able to slow those guys down.
Q: They've had a lot of success with three safeties. That's kind of a different look.
A: It is. It is because really Rolle comes down and is playing almost like a linebacker and they do a good job matching the personnel so they're not in odd looks and he does a good job in the run game as well, not just with coverage. That three safety package has been huge for them. It was good against us the last time and we expect that coming in and we've just got to handle that.
Q: Do you think other teams will start to do that, too?
A: Well, I'm sure…it's unique though because it's easy to say, Hey, we're going to bring an extra safety in here and cover if you've got a good tight end or a slot receiver that you can do those things, but at the other end of that, it's, Hey, can they hold up in the run game? That's where the Giants have had success more so than probably other teams. Their safeties have done a good job of still being able to come up and fit and that's given them – Phillips does a good job at that and Grant as well – so their ability to handle the run game with the three safeties has allowed them – obviously it's going to help you in any passing situations, but the success they've had stopping the run, too, has made it tough to deal with.
Q: Do you sense a difference in the building today?
A: No question. I think that you come in on Monday, obviously disappointed in the loss there in Green Bay and every week we felt like it was going to be the week that we could turn it around and obviously that has not been the case. Jerry had a very direct message to the team and he laid out a guideline of where we're going and how we're going to get there and we need to be a part of that. Obviously you see that with Wade. Over the last three and a half years we've had a lot of success and I think the players feel a little disappointed, like they let him down, but at the same time with Jason, I think we know what his leadership is and we know what his mindset is and our mentality is get back to work. We have eight games left, one game at a time. Sunday is going to be here quick. Nobody is feeling sorry for ourselves and obviously the Giants aren't going to be either, so we need to rally it back and play good football.
Q: Was there anything different in practice? We heard you were in full pads.
A: We were in full pads. I think we had a good meeting this morning and the message was clear with where we were going and how the leadership was going to be played out and I think that without going into it too much, it was just a clear layout for what we're going to do and how we're going to do it and it doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It's just the mentality that we're going to take. There was a spark there and we did go full pads and had an intense practice and our mentality is, let's stack good days up and that'll carry over to Sunday hopefully. We know what a tough challenge it's going to be going into the Meadowlands.
Q: Do you think that guys are getting the message?
A: Well, there has to be. I think that's why you lay it out. When you just talk about it, that's one thing, but we've got to go execute that and that's what happens now. Our actions have to speak louder than our words and that's the mentality that we have to have and that was the way we discussed it. You're right, we haven't gone and done those things in the last few weeks and so none of that is going to be acceptable – we're going to fight, we're going to play hard and we believe we can get it turned around, but it's got to go happen now. You can't just be talking in the media and a lip service. It's got to be actions and offensively, you look at that defense and it's going to be a tough challenge.
Q: Can you give me an example of Jason's leadership quality?
A: Well, he's been obviously the offensive coordinator for the last four years here, so I've had a great relationship with him from that standpoint. He's very organized, very detailed. Like I said, he laid out a game plan and was clear with where we were going, so I think that any time you just put it out there like that and set the guidelines, a team has to be all in. That's our mentality. We're 1-7 and there is no mistaking that and we're going to play hard together, there's no finger pointing, we're going to practice hard together and be good teammates and go about it the right way. Jason's mentality has been just let's lay the guidelines, obviously this isn't what any of us had intended, but this is where we're at and we've got to move forward with this.
Q: It looked like you guys quit a little bit in Green Bay. Do you think you can turn it around and play now?
A: That's what has been the tough part about it. You always feel like this is the week that you're going to switch it and for us it snowballed on you until where it's not happening. Obviously losing Tony in the last Giants game hurt you and different things like that come up, but not turning the ball over, playing winning football, all of those things. That's what we really have to take actions on. We can't turn the ball over to the Giants up there or we're not going to give ourselves a chance. Handling those situations and just the mentality of us going up there and our mindset can't change. Nobody is feeling sorry for us and we have to go execute these things we're talking about. The leadership is in place. The message was clear. We're all in, so now it's let's work our tails off to go execute on Sunday.
Q: Was there anything else today that was a marked difference?
A: No. I think that there wasn't anything…I mean the mentality was the same. Obviously a lot of our system was being done the same way. There was a tempo, there was just a clear message going forward with how we're going to do things, so I just think to allude to where we're at and to point that out and to make it a clean slate and say here's where we're going – I think that allowed guys to understand where we are because you can get caught up in being 1-7 and going up against the Giants and all of those things went to your head. We've got to eliminate that. Here's what our thought process is. Here's what we're going to do, so now let's go do it. It doesn't mean it's going to be easy. That's not the case. We've still got a lot of things that have to happen for us to win. We know that, but we feel like we can still do good things as a team. Our expectations are high although we're 1-7 and we know we've got a tough challenge on Sunday because we know they're a good football team and they're probably playing as good as anybody in the league right now.
Q: Is Jason Garrett more of a butt kicker than Wade Phillips?
A: I don't know. I think it's too early to see that. I think there are different philosophies to different things. You really didn't get into any of that. Wade believed in our players and actions took place. What happened happened and I think that for us as players, there's a little bit of an understanding that we had something to do with that. We didn't perform at the level that we needed to and got ourselves into this situation. There's accountability there, but I feel like Jason did lay it out there clearly of what we're going to do moving forward and it was said – this is not the ideal situation that we wanted to be in, but this is how we're going to handle things moving forward. Just trying to make the best out of the situation and move forward.