Head Coach Brian Daboll
Q: After a loss, usually it's 'go back to work'. In this case, your team stood toe-to-toe with the Minnesota Vikings, the second-best team in the NFC. Is there something you can take away from that in terms of extra confidence, perhaps, in knowing that you were able to stand toe-to-toe? (Do you) use it as a litmus test, so to speak?
A: I'd say we try to do the same thing each week. We go back and look at some of the things we did well – some of the things we can improve on – and get ready for this week, try to be as consistent as we can with it. I don't think you're ever happy or satisfied after a loss in really any shape or form. But you have to go back, review it, correct the things you need to correct and get ready for next week.
Q: I'd like to ask you about (wide receiver) Isaiah Hodgins. A lot of people talk about how he had familiarity with the system that you're currently running. But the other aspect of it is you have to build chemistry between a receiver and a quarterback, and Isaiah seems to have done that really quickly with Daniel (Jones). What do you attribute that to?
A: I think he's smart, tough, dependable. He works extremely hard. In between periods, he's usually throwing there with Daniel on a variety of routes, or they're talking about things that we've installed and make sure that he sees it through the eyes of a quarterback. So, he's done a good job for us since he's been here.
Q: What do you think of your fans this year, and what would it mean to win a big game this weekend in front of them?
A: They've been outstanding. I'm very thankful for all the support that our organization gets, the following. We work extremely hard each week to put a good product on the field, and one of the reasons is for our fanbase. So, to play at home in late December in an important game, it's important to us. I know it's important to them. And we'll do everything we can do to be ready to go.
Q: Any more news on (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari), or any other things crop up in the last few days?
A: No. I'd say normal bumps and bruises. I think Azeez has gotten treatment the last couple days. We'll see where he's at tomorrow, the next day, all the way through Friday. And we'll see if he's able to go. But we really haven't done anything these last couple of days. So, we'll see.
Q: Did you get to talk to him after the game? It seemed like he held out some hope that this wasn't going to be that bad.
A: I think he's improved from where he was. And we'll go here these next couple days and see where he's at.
Q: It's always the biggest game because it's the next game. But obviously, this game right in front of you is a chance to be in the playoffs, regardless of what else happens anywhere else. Do you make that point to them this week that this is a playoff game, more or less?
A: No, it's our next game. I think everybody knows what you just said. But what we can control is, again, the same stuff we try to control each week – making sure we're prepared, ready to go and go out there and put our best foot forward.
Q: You get to watch the team that you have to play this week (the Indianapolis Colts) tonight. They're going to start (Colts quarterback) Nick Foles. How close are you going to watch that game? How strange is it that you might have to play Fowles, who really hasn't played really all season and hasn't played the last two seasons?
A: Certainly, we'll watch that game. We'll watch it on television. We'll watch it when we get the coaches' tape in. Again, your job as a coach and a player is to prepare for whoever you're going to face. So, that's what we'll have to do.
Q: (Safety Xavier) McKinney and (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) – any chance they're limited in practice, back on the field this week, trending towards playing? Or same as where they've been?
A: X (Xavier McKinney) – I don't have enough to give to you. I think Adoree's making progress in the right direction. Again, where that is, I think we'll see by the end of the week. But definitely, he's making progress.
Q: See by the end of the week, so, there's a chance that he plays?
A: Yeah, see by the end of the week.
Q: (Running back) Saquon's (Barkley) fourth quarter runs the last couple games, I felt like you made a point after the Washington game to say he ran like a power back, which oftentimes critics of him say he doesn't. And then he certainly did on that fourth quarter touchdown run against Minnesota. What have you seen from him, specifically in the fourth quarter, with maybe kicking it into another gear and lowering his shoulder?
A: Saquon's done a good job for us all year. He runs hard. I think he makes good decisions with the ball and where to run it, and he's a talented player. So, he's one of our better players. So, good players have to play well, particularly in the fourth quarter of close games.
Q: Like you said, everybody knows it that it's a 'win and in' kind of game. You've been in enough of those in your career with other places. You really don't approach it any differently? You really kind of ignore the elephant in the room with the guys? I know that's your public message, but with the guys, you really just keep it 'biggest game, next game,'? You don't' have to address the elephant in the room that there's a little more meaning, control your own destiny this game, where you didn't have that against Washington or Minnesota?
A: I think we just try to control our own destiny each week by trying to win a game. The goal is always to try to go 1-0, and that'll be no different this week.
Q: I'm going to try to crack this nut a little more about the playoffs. You've been around so many different teams that at this point of the season, they've been out of it, playing for pride as they say. (You've been around) teams that have clinched, teams that are in your situation where there's a chance whether you win or whether you need help – that kind of thing. Have you noticed that this time of year is a different motivator, often for teams that are out of it? Maybe the coach has to (say), 'Let's finish strong.' You know what I'm saying?
A: I know what you're saying. Again, as a professional, we all have a job to do. You take a lot of pride in your work, regardless of where you're at in the season, what the records are. Everybody's a professional in this business: myself, the coaches, the players, the scouts, you guys. We're all professionals. I think the best thing you can do is just control what you can control, which is the things you need to control this week. All the other things, there's no real sense. Everybody knows what the game is this week. I think what's the most important is, 'How do we improve our blocking, our decision making, getting off blocks, our tackling, our units?' Everything. All that stuff is really what matters, and that's where our focus needs to be.
Q: Have you found in your experience as a coordinator, as an assistant and maybe in this time as a head coach, that when you're trying to get them to concentrate on different blocks, concentrate on coverage, concentrate on all the little things that you think are important to win a game that their ears are open wider now because of what could come next as opposed to they know that in two weeks they're going home, and that's it?
A: I think you bring the right type of people into your organization who, again, are professionals. This is important to all of us. This is our jobs. And I think that when you have the right people in your building, again, regardless of your record or anything like that, you want to go out there and put your best foot forward and do everything you can do to win that week.
Q: You guys are in position to clinch a playoff spot, but not a lot of people expected that this year. Did you expect it, and to what do you attribute the success that you've had so far?
A: I think when you start out – this is our first year trying to implement our systems – and put together the best team we could possibly put together and go out there and do everything we can do each day to win that day. And if you do that and concentrate on those things, then hopefully the results will come. They don't always come; I've said that before. We've seen that, obviously, this year. But focus on the things that are important, and hopefully you get the results that you're working hard to get. And constantly monitor really everything – whether that's scheme, decision-making, practice habits. You evaluate the film and correct the mistakes that you got to make. Those are the things that I focus on and that I think our coaches focus on. And that trickles down to the players focusing on the things that they can control.
Q: Since he's come back from the sprained MCL, (tackle) Evan Neal seems to have really had some struggles, especially in pass protection. What are you seeing from Evan over the last couple games? What do you think he really needs to get better the final couple of weeks?
A: I'd say Evan's improved since he's gotten here. Really, all of us can continue to improve and get better in the things we need to get better in – not just Evan, really everybody on our team starting with the coaches all the way down to our players. And that's what we'll try to work on. But he's smart. He's tough. He's dependable. He's done a lot of good things, too.
Q: Real quick on Adoree', you said you're going to see by the end of the week. It sounded like you're at least anticipating him practicing this week. Is that a fair assumption there?
A: I'd say we'll see on that. Again, each week, he's gotten progressively better. Tomorrow will be a walkthrough, so we'll see where he's at with the trainers and stuff, the rehabbing that he's doing. And by the end of the week, we'll see. Maybe he will be; maybe he won't. I think it's too early to give you that answer.
Q: And then, I'm curious where making the playoffs was – or was it – on your list of goals. Obviously, you're trying to build a program here, right, in year one. Where was making the playoffs on your list of goals? Or was it even a goal for you?
A: I'd just say we try to win each day. I think if you stack good days together, that leads to good weeks. As you keep going throughout the season, you improve. Just improving, I'd say, overall: our play, our coaching. Keep doing that all the way through. But certainly, you want to try to win every game you play. I'm thankful for the position that we're in, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done. It starts this week just like every other week we've had.
Q: So, then is there is a bonus, kind of – like a peripheral benefit if you do make the playoffs, that 'Hey, we're trying to build something here. At least our guys do gain experience,'? Maybe you didn't specify that at the start, but do you see the benefit? Or do you feel there is a big benefit to be able to make it or have that experience for your guys?
A: I don't even think that far down the road. I just think, 'Let's get ready to play the Colts and do the things we need to do this week to put ourselves in good position.'
Q: You've been very clear about your philosophy – really the entire season – but especially the last couple weeks when we keep asking you about 'bigger game, bigger game, bigger game.' How much of that for you, in year one, is knowing this team and the homework you put into the players on this team, seeing how this team reacts and knowing what really this locker room needs as opposed to what you may think another team, three years from now, might need in this situation?
A: That's a good question. I think every team that I've been part of is certainly different. Obviously, this is my first year as a head coach. So, it's not just dealing with a position group or the offensive side of the ball. I think in this position, you're constantly trying to get a feel for your players, your team, things you can talk to them about. But I'd say the one thing that I just fall back on is in all the years that I've been doing this, I think being consistent and focusing on the things you can control, which I know is a boring answer, but it's the truth. That's all we really can do. Thinking about what's going to go on a week from now or two weeks or what happened five weeks ago, I think you learn lessons from those things that happened in the past. And I certainly have in my years of coaching football and watching how different coaches do it and watching how different teams react. But every team is different. Every season is different. Heck, every week is different. So, what I've learned and what I try to approach – not just in this business, but each day – is to just try to win the day.
Q: You were in the hotel, I assume, on Friday night. When did you hear about a shooting at the Mall (of America)? When did you get concerned about your players? Or did you find out about everything after it was all over, or what?
A: No, I heard about it as it was going on. And I'd say that the communication from our security department with Jerry Meade (vice president of security) and James (Jim) Ryan (team security coordinator) and the rest of everybody that was involved in that and Laura Young (director of coaching operations), who I can't say enough good things about, just letting everybody know just what's going on, where people are, making sure. When you have a situation like that, the number one thing that goes through everybody's mind is just the safety of really everybody involved. And for me, it was, being the head coach, you're concerned about really everybody in the organization, making sure that everybody's safe. So, the communication between the people that were in the mall with LY (Laura Young) and LY to Jerry and James Ryan; and those people did a fantastic job. And soon after or during the middle, I can't tell you the time, I got a message that it seemed like every two minutes that there was an update of, 'Okay, running backs (are) all accounted for. Tight ends, coaches (are accounted for).' By the end of whatever time it was, LY sent that everybody's accounted for in the hotel, safe. And those people did a great job.
Q: Was there anybody ever near the shooting or in danger?
A: I don't think so.
Q: I'll give this one last chance, and then we'll be done.
A: Body blows. Body blows.
Q: What would it mean to you to make the playoffs in your first year? Just simply that question.
A: We're not in it yet. I'm not going to look too far down the road, and we're going to try to beat the Colts. And that's where I'm at with it.