Q: Are these the three best receivers you've ever had?A: You don't ever want to get into comparing. I'm very pleased with the guys we have. Certainly I have great confidence in their ability to perform. I think they're looking forward to the challenge of not only beating the Packers, but also proving that they're in the same class as the Packers receivers that everybody acknowledges as a special group. I think the thing that we're probably the most proud of is just the growth that's taken place, particularly with Victor obviously, but also with Jake Ballard, whom I know you're not including, but to me he's an integral part of our passing game as well.
Q: Is it fair that the coordinators get singled out as much as the head coach? Do you have the freedom to do what you want? Should coordinators be held to as high a level as the head coach?A: I would probably phrase it a little differently, but there's a certain autonomy that you have. Obviously Tom sets the framework for us offensively and defensively – 'This is what I would like to have happen' – but there's no question we have autonomy and latitude as to what we're going to do not only in how this thing was originally put together, but how it comes together on a weekly basis and what gets called and everything else. That's on our shoulders – good or bad. We certainly understand that that comes with the position.
Q: How do you handle the heat from the media? Does it bother you?A: No one likes it. Anyone who says they like it is being less than truthful, but I think you know as a coach whether or not you've done a good job in, A, putting together a good plan, B, preparing your guys the way they need to be prepared. You understand the limitations and strengths that your team has. I think that most guys are pretty comfortable knowing that they've done about all that could be done. You live with the consequences. The bottom-line is you try to put your guys in a position where they have a chance to be successful. If you're doing a good job, you know what your guys can do and that coupled with what is the defense doing. I think good coaches – the majority of coaches in this league are very good coaches – they're going to be able to maximize what their guys can do within the framework of what defenses are allowing you. I think most guys can come away saying, 'I know what the public is saying, I know what people are saying, but the reality of it is we did about all that we could do.'
Q: Do you know when the back-shoulder became so predominant?A: Let's say this, we did it in 1989 with the Houston Oilers so we've doing it for a long time. A lot of people have picked up on it since then. Probably Warren Moon threw it about as well as it could be thrown. It's an effective measure, obviously, against people that are playing press-man. It's a great antidote for people that are bringing pressure and you have to get rid of the ball quickly and you have a DB that's up pressed and you turn his back. Then you hopefully have gotten good enough at it that you throw it in a location, a position that really only your receiver can make a play. It's as difficult of a play for a defender as any play that has to be made.
Q: When you ran it with Houston it was taught?A: Oh yeah. We've been doing it, unfortunately 23 years ago. So it's been done for a long time.
Q: When Brandon Jacobs is running the way he did last week…A: You always love the fact that you can do everything. What I always look at is what are people doing to us defensively. Where are they schematically most vulnerable? And then you try to go after that area. Now when you go after that area, whether it's throw or pass, and you're not having success, what do you do next? [The Falcons] were playing us in a certain way that gave us an opportunity to get some runs going. To be quite frank with you, some of the things we thought we could get done early on in the game we couldn't. I realized that fairly quickly and made some adjustments. I thought when we gave those opportunities to the backs after that they made some big plays for us and that really kind of sparked us and got us going.
Q: Is part of your game plan to keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers?A: That's an objective that we always have and the key is how do you get that done? That's the thing. The conventional wisdom, to be honest, was quite superficial and probably doesn't hold much water, you run the ball. What you have to do is hold onto the ball and the only way you hold onto the ball, whether you're running or passing, is to get first downs. That's the key and that's what you have to do. But it's something that is always in the back of our minds. How do we win the game? You have to put up more points than the other team. The obvious way is you outscore them. Do you outscore them in a shootout or do you outscore them by trying to keep the ball away from them and minimizing their output? I think you're certainly conscious of it. Whether or not you can get it done is another matter.
Q: Where are the Packers schematically vulnerable?A: I'd rather not share that with you right now at this point, but I'll say this, they have a lot of playmakers. I know their statistics, where people talk about where they rank, but I look at the other thing – their guys make a lot of big plays and they get a lot of turnovers, particularly interceptions. That's the thing that's scary to me, is that they have some players on that side of the ball that are very willing to take chances and gamble and if they give up a few plays they don't mind because they're looking for an interception. Hopefully we can stay away from those bad plays because when I think you employ that style defensively you also hopefully give us some chances on the offensive side to make some plays.
Q: Travis Beckum had that big play against the Packers. Why have those been so far and few between?A: Well, it was a hell of a play. It just so happened that the free safety on that play ran over to play Hakeem and he got over the top of the safety that was on his side and that's who he caught the ball on so there was nobody else there. They tried to recover and of course he made that serpentine finish to the run and it was just a great run. To give you one example, was the last time they played that personnel group against us. From then on they went to a nickel package and put a nickel in and had two more safeties over the top. So the matchup was completely different. Now again, just to a follow-up to some of the things, you're hoping that gives you some running game possibilities and you can take advantage of that.
Q: How does it affect you game planning that you just saw them and they just saw you?A: I don't know who has the advantage. You would love to say they're going to do exactly the same as they did the last time, but they saw where you were successful and how you approached them and what you tried to get done. Here's where the guesswork comes in, you know they're not going to do the same thing. What is the different thing they're going to do? Usually, to be quite honest, you try to predict it. Usually you're not very effective or successful at predicting it. So you have to see it as the game's going on and make your adjustments then. There are certain things that this is the base, they are basically going to do those things and then how do they tweak it to stop the particular things that we had some success with last time. You can try to guess. I think there are some obvious adjustments they can make so you're trying to predict those things and you're going to call some things in anticipation of that, but my experience has been it doesn't happen quite the way you anticipated and game day is different and you have to be able to make some adjustments on the fly.
Q: Are you convinced that a team can't take both Nicks and Cruz out of a game?A: It's not my nature to be convinced of that stuff. I'm always nervous of how they're going to do it and how our guys are going to respond. Again, I do have great faith in our guys. I think they've proven that they can be very dynamic. They can turn some short gains into touchdowns. Hopefully we'll get a few of those opportunities Sunday. The other guy that comes into the mix that wasn't with us last time is Mario. I think he's proven that he's made and is certainly capable of making some big plays for us. Again, we'll see pretty quickly – 'Here's what they're trying to.' Then you'll know what you want to do. Then those opportunities are going to come, whether it's the run game or whether it's a different receiver than Victor or Hakeem. Maybe it's Jake. Maybe it's the backs. Who knows what it's going to be. Then when those opportunities arise those guys are going to have to make plays for us.
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