Head Coach Brian Daboll
Q: I just wanted to see if you plan to play the starters this week.
A: That's a good question. I'll say this: We'll do what's best for the team.
Q: (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson), (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) and (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams) – are you expecting them to practice when Wednesday rolls around? Where are they at?
A: I'm expecting them to do stuff at practice. How much? A couple more days here, but I'm expecting them to do something – each of them.
Q: (Inside linebacker) Jarrad Davis, obviously, you got a long look at him last night. From what you saw, is he a guy who showed enough yesterday to get a role in the playoffs?
A: I thought he played well for only being here a short time. Understood what we asked him to do. I thought he made a lot of good plays out there. We'll continue to put him in there and see how he develops for us. But I thought he did a good job for us.
Q: I was wondering about your receiver corps – the three main guys (Darius Slayton, Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins) and then I guess I would include (tight end Daniel) Bellinger in that. But how has that group been good enough to really not hold your offense back, and it seems from a distance, to really grow during this season?
A: I'd say they're smart, tough and dependable. They know what we expect out of them. They don't really make a lot of mental errors. They know exactly what to do. They've made plays when the ball has come their way. I think the quarterback (Daniel Jones) has a lot of trust in them. He has a good feel for their body language and how they run routes. And I think they do a good job of working on that with him. And I'm including Daniel (Bellinger) even though he had that span where he got hit in the eye and was off some. But dependable group that works really hard. And (they're) selfless, which is important. They don't really care how many they get, just as long as they're helping to contribute to our success.
Q: Is there any chance (wide receiver) Kenny (Golladay), after yesterday finally that touchdown, can work himself back into that group in the playoffs?
A: We'll see. We'll see. Go out there. Kenny's worked hard since he's been here. Those three guys have done a good job for us. Again, every week's a different plan, the way we want to do things. I think everything's on the table.
Q: How do you think that your playoff experience – not as a head coach but for many different teams in the league, many different years – will help you prepare your team this week?
A: I think everybody just has a job to do. It's the same as Week 1 as it is Week 5 as it is the end of the year. Obviously, the stakes are a little different. If you lose a game, you go home. Again, every year is different. Every year that I've been privileged to be part of the playoffs has been different. A lot of different circumstances, different games, how many you played. And what I've learned is none of that really matters. What matters is how you go and play the game on Sunday. So, our preparation, our consistent way we do things, that's all going to be important to us in terms of the process. And then ultimately going out there and executing. Again, I've been part of a lot of them. But they're all different. The losses really hurt; they probably hurt more than the happiness of the wins in the playoffs. But in terms of my overall experience, I'd say there are a lot of coaches on our staff that have some, too. But I talked to those guys already. It's what we do this week. I think everybody understands that. It's what we do this week and ultimately how we go out there and play in the game, because what wins in Week 1 wins in the playoffs. And what loses in Week 1 loses in the playoffs.
Q: Your career has ascended to where you wanted to be as far as being a head coach. But it wasn't a straight line as opposed to some other guys that got it quick. Do you think some of your failures or ups-and-downs have helped you become the head coach that was ready for this right now?
A: I'd just say in general, failures help. They don't help when you're in the middle of them. But you certainly learn a lot from things that didn't go as well. I certainly have. I've had plenty of them, and I know I'll have plenty more. But you learn a lot from the failures, absolutely.
Q: How would you describe what your rookies have contributed to this team? They don't have playoff experience, obviously. But can those kind of guys – the one that always comes to mind to me is (former New England cornerback) Malcolm Butler – but can those kinds of guys make a real difference in these kind of games?
A: Well, I think anybody can make a difference. It's how you play and how you prepare, and that's what I've learned. There's so many things that happen in a game, and there's far fewer games now. There's really one. That's all you're guaranteed. Everybody's only guaranteed one – the teams that made this tournament. And everybody needs to contribute. I can't tell you who it's going to be or not going to be –a rookie, a 10-year veteran, a four-year guy. You got about, call it 65, 70 plays on both sides of the ball and then in the kicking game. You've got to have your best stuff, and you've got to play your best.
Q: How have you felt about this rookie class and where they're at right now in terms of being able to contribute in games like this?
A: They're really not rookies. It's almost like they've been through two college seasons with the preseason, too. So, they're a big part of what we do. I think they've improved just like a lot of the players have improved, and we're going to need everybody.
Q: Obviously, with the playoffs, in a situation where it's going to be 'one and done,' and the pressure is going to be cranked up. I'm just wondering, how are you going to approach talking to the team, especially those that have never been in the playoffs before, so they stay loose and not get too uptight to maybe they make mistakes down the line?
A: I just think that we really believe in our process and being consistent – whether that's a preseason game, a game you have to win to get into the playoffs, a division game. I think that throughout the season, you go through a lot of different things. To (a previous) question, you go through some failures. You go through some successes. You go through some tough games on the road when everbody's against you. You go through some big games, whether that's a night game on a Sunday night against a division opponent or a Thanksgiving (game). You've went through these experiences, and each week you learn. You might not learn for that necessary next game, but I think those collective experiences, you lean on those. But in terms of our preparation for our players, for our coaches, it'll be – a boring word – but it'll be consistent. We believe in what we do. We believe in how we do it, and then we have to go out there and execute and call a good game and make good decisions. Again, what wins in Week 1 wins in the playoffs. And that's the truth.
Q: You just saw the Vikings a couple weeks ago. How do you balance changing things up, determining what to change up? Do you just focus on what you need to correct? How do you kind of approach it?
A: I'd say the same way we did against Washington. We had two games with them in a matter of three weeks, I think. I know Minnesota's certainly looking at our game. We're looking at our game. There's only so much tape to watch. There's only a couple games after our game. So, you start with what you think, just like any other game, what you think will be successful for you, and try to eliminate some of the things they do really well, which there's a lot of them. So, we'll have our work cut out for us. But our preparation of how we go about game planning, practicing, all those things, will be very consistent for our players. That's what I think you need to do this time of year. I think everybody understands the stakes of these games. The process is really more important to me.
Q: A little bit more on Jarrad Davis, but also what you guys are doing at inside linebacker – a lot of mixing and matching, kind of looking for the right fits, the right matchups. How much of that is possible because you have (safeties) Xavier (McKinney), obviously, in the beginning of the season and Julian (Love) taking over and being that signal caller on the back end? So, traditionally, you'd see the linebacker having to come in and having to handle all those responsibilities. But you don't have that. Does that help kind of try to accelerate the curve for some of these guys and Jarrad in particular?
A: That's a good question. Never thought about it like that. The green dot is really just communicating a call from (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) to the rest of the defense. I would just say that the guys that we have brought in – whether that be Jaylon (Smith) or (Jarrad) Davis or LC (Landon Collins) who's played some – they were all pretty productive players at one point in their career, whether it be high draft pick, productive in the league. I think they're all good players. And obviously, (Micah) McFadden, we drafted. So, Eggs (inside linebackers coach John Egorugwu) does a good job with all those guys. Obviously, linebacker, you got a lot to learn. But we've caught him (Jarrad Davis) up to speed the best we can. In terms of the green dot, not the green dot, I don't know. You'd have to probably ask them how they feel about it. I understand the question. I think they've done a good job of acclimating themselves to what we do. And (Jarrad) Davis did a really good job yesterday.
Q: After the Golladay touchdown, the camera showed you go right over to him, sit down next to him, put your arm around him. Obviously, cameras caught you with different interactions with players on the sidelines this year. But is showing humanity an important part of your coaching approach, particularly with a player who has struggled for most of his time in New York?
A: Absolutely. I think getting to know the guys, I have a wide variety of emotions I think I show. This one was more. I just was proud of the young man. He made a great play. I asked him if he thought we'd have cheesesteaks after, when we got out on the buses. But no. I respect all of our players. Every player has a different journey. Every player goes through different things, and he's certainly a guy that I respect a lot.
Q: What do you make of your team's, for the most part, lack of playoff experience?
A: Not much. Just got to go play a game, get ready for a game and play and coach well.
Q: You don't think it matters at all when players do or don't have (experience)? Can it work as a benefit because they're sort of naïve to what it is? It might take a few minutes to realize what they're in?
A: I don't know. I've been in so many different situations. The first year that I was part of a Super Bowl, the quarterback didn't have any playoff experience there at New England. Some of the guys did. Some didn't. We had some experience at Buffalo; we lost. I think really what you make out of it is the experience is probably overrated to be honest with you. It's how you prepare, how you practice and ultimately how you play the game and coach the game on whatever day it is. I've been around a lot of different teams that have had varying levels of experience – some a lot, some a little, some not much. I know someone mentioned Malcolm Butler. I think really what matters is taking advantage of your opportunities when they come and playing a good football game and coaching a good football game. So, I don't know if that answers your question. But I really think it's an overrated thing.
Q: How important do you view this experience in general for what you're trying to build here? Or do you not see it as a big building block?
A: No, I haven't even thought about it. We're in the midst of our most important week of the season, just starting out. And I really don't think about it at all to be honest with you. I just think you make more out of it than it really is. Experience, not experience – the most important thing is playing and coaching well.
Q: The reason I ask is Buffalo did the same thing, right? When (head coach) Sean (McDermott) and when (general manager) Brandon (Beane) got there. The first year they kind of made the playoffs, and it seems like that set the tone for what they were trying to build there.
A: Well, your goal isn't to come out every season and be lousy. It's to improve and keep competing and win as many football games as you can. Our foundation is built on our consistency, our approach, our work ethic, how we do things on and off the field, all those types of things. Again, like I say every week, I can live with the results. I don't like them; I can live with them if we're doing the right stuff. I think we have a bunch of people in our building that try to do the right things on and off the field in every department. So, I think the focus has to be where it's always at; it's this particular week. We're guaranteed one more week. That's it. So, everything you've got to do the right thing off the field, everything you've got to do the right thing in the building, everything you've got for practice, everything you've got for meetings, prepare as hard as you can prepare and feel confident going into a game. And then go play and coach. That's what it is to me.
Q: (Defensive lineman) Dexter Lawrence – Wink called him the centerpiece of his defense, but when you talk to team builders around the NFL, they always say like corners and edge rushers are the most important pieces. Can a defensive tackle be that kind of centerpiece in today's NFL? And do you feel like he's been as valuable as anybody you've had?
A: I think Dexter's been a really good team leader for us; he's been a good player for us. I think different people build their teams different ways. I think it's important to be strong up the middle. Dexter's had a good season for us. I'm glad he's on our football team. Leo's getting back healthier, so I think that those two guys have done a good job. And I think that Dre (defensive line coach Andre Patterson) has developed some of these guys behind him. So, obviously, you want to be strong down the middle – whether that's your guards and centers, your defensive tackles. You know, it's such a team game. Everybody's got to play well, and your best players have to play the best when it counts the most.
Q: What's the players' schedule? Are they not in the building today? Will they be tomorrow? I'm asking because the last playoff game here, a bunch of players went on a trip that was highly publicized during their off day. Do they have any room to go anywhere, or are they pretty much kept here the next two days?
A: So, they have treatment today. Most of the guys come in and get a workout or some treatment or take care of their bodies. Tomorrow will be a normal Tuesday for them, which will be the players' day off. And Wednesday, we'll start up. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, since we're playing on Sunday, will be a normal week for us. Very consistent with how we've done things throughout the year. So, we gave them today to get their bodies right, treatments, things like that, not knowing when exactly we would play right after the game. And then come in ready to go. But there's been a lot of guys in here.
Q: I saw last night how (running back) Saquon (Barkley) said right after the Minnesota loss he wanted a rematch with the Vikings. You guys get that. So, what were your initial thoughts just knowing that you now have the opportunity to play Minnesota again and obviously with the higher stakes?
A: Next team on the list. When you get to this time of year, you don't really focus on brackets. You knew going into the game yesterday it could be one of two teams. Both teams (San Francisco 49ers) are very good with very good records. One we have played and are familiar with. Much like I said earlier, kind of the Washington three-week kind of deal there where we played Washington then another team then Washington again. But it's a great environment up there. Really good team, good coaching staff, competitive, won a lot of football games. So, we've got a lot of work to do.
Q: Having experienced the atmosphere in Minnesota, do you have to pump up the noise this week or is it, 'we know what it's going to be like'?
A: No, we pump it up every time we play on the road. And that's certainly one of the best venues we've played in. Loud, their fans are great. So, certainly have to practice that.
Q: Did you watch the opening kickoff in Buffalo (Bills running back Nyheim Hines returned kickoff for a touchdown), and what was it like in your mind?
A: I did see it, and it was an electric atmosphere. It was a very surreal moment.