Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: Several times this year, you have used a timeout right after the other team has used one. I know they’re all unique situations, but do you view that as if you have one available, there’s no risk in kind of using it to see maybe what the offense came out in and just using it strategically because you have it?
A: There are all different situations in terms of it. Maybe you’re trying to sneak a look at what they’re doing. Maybe there’s an adjustment you want to make to your own defense or maybe it’s a situation where it could be a kicking situation as well. They’re all unique. If you have one, you think it’s the right time to use it. Ultimately, you’d like to save your timeouts as much as you could for the end of the game. But there are certain situations that may tie into scoring situations, third or fourth down go-for-it situations, or sometimes just within the middle of the drive, you have to go ahead and stop the clock right there and make an adjustment.
Q: I don’t have to remind you there’s only one win so far, and you’re playing the team you have it against. Is there anything you draw from that this week when you talk to the players in terms of either X’s and O’s or just sort of recapturing the feeling of that win afterwards and things like that?
A: No, the only thing that’s relevant from the last time we played this team is what we can learn about ourselves and how we matched up with them individually, and schematically how they tried to attack us. But they’ve made adjustments as well. We went into the last game plan based on the tape before our game. You go through our game, there were things they did different than we expected. Then they played Dallas and obviously had an explosive game. Then they had a bye week, which gives them time to make adjustments internally. I don’t expect to see the same team. They’ve been playing at a very explosive level. They’re very talented. I don’t expect to see the same game plan from them. We can’t go in and just think it’s going to be the same game. Obviously, it’s the same uniforms, but they’re going to make adjustments. We have to make adjustments as well.
Q: You guys claimed Dante Pettis on waivers. I was just wondering what made you guys want to go and get him and what do you like about him as a receiver? He obviously has experience as a returner from college that was pretty prolific, too.
A: I think there were a lot of guys who had exposure to him from when he came out from college, as you just referred to. He has a level of talent, we’d like to see him in the building and give him a chance to get out there and work. But we’re always looking at the waiver all the time and trying to see if there’s any way we can add someone to our roster we think can help. He won’t be available for a few days until he’s through the protocol to get into our program. It gives him a little bit of a window of time to travel and kind of get acclimated. It gives us a little bit of a window of time with the current roster right here. But we have a spot open right now. We’re only at 52 until he officially counts.
Q: You said you expect for everything to be business as usual with Golden (Tate) today. Did he report and is it business as usual?
Q: You’re obviously a first-time head coach, sort of a blank slate. How aware are you with every decision you make, you’re setting a precedent, whether it’s what you did with Golden or with Andrew Thomas for being late? How aware are you of how that’s setting a precedent?
A: Yeah, I’m conscious that my decisions will always be looked at throughout the building and for every decision I make. The biggest thing I have to do is be consistent in the decisions I make based on the circumstances involved. I have a philosophy, we have team rules that are clearly laid out to our players. There is not a lot of gray area in anything we do as a program. It’s what it is.
Q: I have a different question but just to follow up on that for a second, did you feel the need to talk about this specific case with the entire team? What’s the thinking behind that when you get into these situations?
A: Yeah, I address decisions with the team on a regular basis. If something happens, I’ll talk to them in the squad meeting or I’ll address the captains individually or as a group. But whoever needs to be communicated with, I always keep them in the loop.
Q: Also, what have you thought about your defense this year? How much more are you able to throw at the guys now maybe that you’re midway through the season than you were early in the season?
A: At this point in the season, they’re used to some of the multiples we’re dealing with. It’s given them some time, working with Pat (Graham) and those coaches, they’ve really gotten kind of a feel of being on the same page as them. You can see the players able to handle more right now. Not because they couldn’t handle it mentally before. It just was a new system. There are a lot of details in terms of how you want to do things. When I turned the tape on from the other night, I saw our defense doing a lot of things that we’ve been working on one way or another over the last, call it a month or so, that are really starting to take shape in the way that we really pictured with the details, the understanding, the adjustments, the communication. That’s moving in the right direction. I think Pat’s doing a great job with that. The entire defensive staff does a tremendous job in terms of trying to find the right matchups for our guys and the right plan on a weekly basis.
Q: You talk all the time about things you’ll tolerate on the team with the players and things you need to improve with the team with the players. But you always mention the coaches with that, too. Players and coaches. Is this a sign of how demanding you are with your staff? Also, do you look at this as a growing staff also that needs to improve along with the players?
A: I need to improve, every coach on the staff needs to improve, every player needs to improve. That’s our job. On a daily basis, we have to come in and be better than we were the day before. There are no exceptions, no matter what your record is, what point you are in your career. That never stops. Improvement has to be the constant right there. But the reason I talk about the coaches is because, yeah, we’re all held accountable. We’re all responsible for how our players are playing, how our units are playing and how our team is playing. That’s our job. We’re measured by the results on the field. Every coach is held accountable like every player is held accountable. It starts with me.
Q: What did you think of Andrew Thomas the other day? Did you think that he took a step forward?
A: Yeah, I’ve seen this guy take a step forward every week. I thought he did a good job the other night, along with Shane (Lemieux) and Matt (Peart) and Nick (Gates) and Cam (Fleming) and Kevin (Zeitler). I thought they all played a good game, played a tough game. There were obviously plays you turn on you have to correct technique or maybe an assignment or communication thing. That’s always going to happen. We’re always striving for the perfect game, but within that, we’re all perfectionists so we’re always going to find something to go ahead and pick on and make sure we tweak and improve. That being said, this guy has been playing with great effort every game. He’s been doing a really good job coming to work every day and just putting the team first and doing everything we ask him to do.
Q: Logan (Ryan) shared with us yesterday the story about what had transpired with his wife and the medical situation. But he told the story I think to kind of praise you and the organization and what you’re trying to build. Can you shed any light in terms of your approach when something like this happens with a player? I know earlier this season, what happened with Derrick Dillon and letting him go home and come back. How important is that, to let your players know that that’s the way things work within your program?
A: I think you need to keep things in perspective. There are some things that a guy may come to you and you say, ‘hey look, we can’t miss practice or a game for that.’ There are other things that are real life critical. You have to have relationships with your players that you understand what makes them tick, and they have to have a relationship with you to understand that you have their best interests at heart. We’re very demanding of our players. I don’t apologize for that. I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m very critical of our guys and I’m very blunt and honest with them. But at the same time, if you generally care about the players you’re coaching, then you can coach them hard and you can be critical, because they understand at the end of the day that you’re coming from a genuine place and you’re being sincere to try and help them. I don’t want to go too far into Logan’s situation. Pat (Hanlon) mentioned to me earlier that he had shared that story. To me, look, there comes a point where you have to keep in perspective that your job, no matter what the profession is, is your job and your family is your family. You have to take care of your family first. I’ve known Logan for some time. He’s a tremendous family man. But for any player in our locker room, if they have a similar situation, it’s always going to be you put your family first. That’s something I played and worked for a lot of coaches that have always put those priorities in line. The few exceptions that I’ve been around, more in the avenue of assistants that didn’t put those things in priority, it was tough to buy into what they were trying to sell to me in the position room, to be honest with you. They kind of lost me pretty fast as a player. I always took that with me when I got into coaching that you can’t make it all about the X’s and O’s. As a coach, I can’t ever let players feel any kind of pressure that we may feel as coaches. That’s not their job. It’s our job as a team to perform and improve. But I’m a very big believer in relationships within a team. It kind of ties in a lot to what I said yesterday in terms of keeping things internally. That helps as far as keeping these relationships strong and building that trust we need to get through a lot of situations.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: I’m just wondering how much have you sensed frustration, if at all, with Golden Tate and sort of the role he’s playing here?
A: I don’t really want to comment much on that. That’s something for Coach Judge to comment on. Obviously, Golden has done a good job for us when given opportunities. We try to get opportunities for all of our guys and give them chances to help us contribute.
Q: Do you feel the need at least to talk to veteran players who are kind of in that position and kind of explain to them what you guys are thinking and what their role is and really define it for them?
A: I think what you try to do as a coach is communicate with all your players, and have those conversations and communication be daily. Obviously, guys’ roles on teams change day by day, week by week. We’re doing everything we can to try and win a ball game. We as coaches and our players understand that you have to embrace every role that you’re in.
Q: Did Andrew (Thomas) take a step forward you think in your last game? It seemed like he played a little better, had some good blocks. Were you encouraged by his performance?
A: Yeah, Andrew’s a young player. It’s hard to play in the National Football League as a rookie. It’s particularly hard to play left tackle in this league, and particularly hard to go against some of the rushers he’s gone against over the first half of the season. Throughout the season, he’s done some good things. Obviously, there are plenty of areas where he needs to get better. But we all need to get better. Every player on our team, every coach on our team. I thought he did a good job in the game the other night against a really good defensive front, really good pass rushers. He hung in there well. Really good evidence of him run blocking at a high level and pass protecting at a high level. But certainly not a perfect performance. A lot of stuff in the game you go back and you say, ‘this can be better, this can be better.’ That’s what we’ll continue to do with him and everybody on a week by week basis.
Q: Daniel (Jones) said the other day that he needs to do a better job of understanding when the play is over. You were a quarterback, obviously. How difficult is that to “give up on a play”? Also, have you dealt with other quarterbacks that you had to coach that out of also, and how did you do that?
A: I think that’s the nature of most quarterbacks. Quarterbacks who are worth their salt have a playmaking instinct in them. They want the ball in their hands and they want to be the guy who’s guiding the offense but making an impact on what goes on on the field. I would say every quarterback I’ve been around who’s been a really good player has that same instinct. Over time, you learn through experience what plays you simply have to fold on, and you have to get the ball out of your hand and live for another day. Whether it’s punting on the drive or just simply going to second and 10, I think that’s an important thing to understand. The more situations you’re in, if you approach them the right way, you’ll learn from those experiences. Daniel continued to do that. Most guys I’ve been around have gone through that very similar process.
Q: Did you have any moment on the field that you did something and you were told, ‘look, the play is over, don’t be a hero’? Was there anything that stuck into your head that helped you?
A: When I was player? Yeah, I didn’t have those playmaking capabilities that these guys have. But certainly, it’s the same thing. It’s a mentality that you have to develop over time. We ask our quarterbacks to run our offense, make plays in the passing game, make plays with your feet. You’re always balancing that with putting your team in a position where they can be successful. Taking care of the football is a big part of that. That’s a process that I believe all quarterbacks go through. I certainly went through it at different points in my career.
Q: As far as it goes with Daniel, are there things that you can simulate in practice to kind of drill that into him a little bit more? That sometimes you just need to get rid of it or sometimes just take the sack. Are there things in practice you can simulate rather than just drilling it through game film?
A: I think the most important part of practice is 11 on 11 type situations and trying to make those as realistic as possible. You try to do that in seven on seven situations, even when you’re working on one on one. If the timing isn’t right and you have to move on, try to make it as game-like as possible. There are certainly plenty of drills we do in individual period to try to help all our quarterbacks do those things well physically and also with their decision-making. That’s a big part of coaching quarterbacks, and we’ll continue to try to do that.
Q: Do you sense the requisite urgency on his part to kind of combat this, because it seems like it’s an ongoing thing and has been since he arrived in the league?
A: I don’t think there’s any question he recognizes the urgency of it. Daniel is such a hardworking guy, he’s such a passionate guy. He’s so invested in being the best player he can be and helping us be the best team we can be. We love his approach. We love what he’s all about. He’s done so many good things for us this year. But we do have to eliminate the negative plays, and he recognizes that. That will be a thing we continue to work on and focus on as we move forward.
Q: Do you think you’re at a point now halfway through the season without a preseason that you have a better feel of what all your players can do and how to scheme them? It did seem on Monday night like you had the Buccaneers chasing a lot, that guys were open, that with the exception of the two turnovers, it seemed like you guys were clicking. I was wondering if you think without that preseason, it just required a little time to kind of learn the talents and skillsets of everybody before it got going.
A: I just think it’s an ongoing process with coaches. You’re always trying to learn more about your individual players and what they’re capabilities are, and then different parts of your unit. Whether it’s your offensive line or your tight ends, receivers, quarterback, runners, you’re always trying to learn them and play to their strengths and minimize maybe some of their deficiencies. That’s a big part of coaching wherever you are. I think the more you’re around people, the more you get to know them, and maybe most importantly, the more guys get experience, a lot of young players playing for us right now are learning as they go. Again, their approach has been outstanding. I think you see them improve. They improve on a daily and weekly basis. That’s really what you’re asking for from them as a coaching staff, is to come in the building every day with the right mindset and the right mentality to continue to grow and get better. I believe we’ve done that. We have a long way to go, obviously, individually, as a unit, as a team. But guys are approaching it the right way, and that gives us a real good chance to get better week by week.
Q: This question kind of complements that. How much has your playbook expanded as the season has progressed? Is that just sort of a natural thing where you can’t throw everything out there Week 1, and it just builds to this point?
A: Again, I think it’s knowing the players and being able to play to their capabilities. It comes with experience, it comes with time. You have to practice, you have to practice together. Unfortunately, nobody in the league this year had preseason games. That’s a great opportunity to grow and get better. But over the course of the season, the best teams are the ones that grow and get better. They’re better in Week 2 than they were in Week 1, better in Week 3 than in Week 2. That doesn’t always have to be a progression where it’s always taking steps forward. But over the course of the season, you have to improve, you have to get better, and you have to make that a point of emphasis for everybody in the organization. Again, our guys go about it the right way, and I think that’s given us a chance to grow and get better offensively and broaden our capabilities. Hopefully, that will continue this week.
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: On third and long, obviously you have a decision every time whether you’re going to rush and blitz or you’re going to send maybe three and play coverage. What goes into that decision and what are the pros and cons of each approach?
A: Like always, it usually starts with the people, that’s how I look at it. How many people do we have to cover? If the number gets great, we have to be mindful of that. Personally, for me, after the people, how many people do we have to cover, before I even get to our guys is the experience of the quarterback. To me, in those third and longer situations, in my short two years of being a coordinator, when you play zone sometimes, I get worried sometimes based on the experience of the quarterback. Sometimes I like to be on him more based on the experience of the quarterback if they’re younger. That’s just in a general, like you when you ask a big picture, I’m not saying it specifically for this week. If you ask me when I’m at the pool in June, that’s what I’m thinking. From there, it’s just in terms of the rush and the part of the game that we’re at. If it’s the end of the game, you need the play, you might want to force the ball out quick, so you bring a certain rush to get the ball out quick. If it’s early in the game and just a little bit more conservative by nature, then you might three-man rush it. Try to manipulate it so you can get some pressure off of it. Those are some of the things that go into mind right there. For me, it starts with who we’re covering, who’s the quarterback and from there the situation and where it’s at in the game.
Q: Can you talk about the challenges and maybe the difficulty of manufacturing a pass rush? Some guys have one guy who’s going to get 10 or 15 sacks, maybe two guys. You guys are on pace for 40 sacks, but no one is on pace for double digits. You don’t have (Lorenzo) Carter, you don’t have (Oshane Ximines) X-man. (What’s) the challenge of a guy that has to move these chess pieces around?
A: I think it’s less the chess pieces moving around, it’s more these guys just figuring out ways to get to the quarterback. Our guys, they work pretty hard at it. In terms of the coaches that deal with it the most, Bret (Bielema) and Spence (Sean Spencer), they deal with a lot with the pass rush. I would say that Kevin (Sherrer) is involved with that as well. By nature, because I am an old D-line coach, I get involved in the pass rush a little bit. I think the fun part about it is we have to be coordinated. I think the more you look at how this league is changing and it starts probably in Pop Warner and how it is in college, all these quarterbacks can move. When I first got in the league, it was certain quarterbacks you had to worry about them getting out of the pocket. Everybody is live in the red area, everybody will scramble in the red area, we all got that; there’s points at stake, all that stuff. Out on the field, when I first got in the league, we didn’t have to deal with that many quarterbacks that could move and you were worried about it. You could play 2-man and not worry about it because so and so wasn’t going to scramble. You didn’t have to worry about spying him. The more quarterbacks that can move, you just go up and down the list of quarterbacks we’ve played. Really, you say Tom (Brady), but Tom moves in the pocket pretty decent. I’m not saying he is going to scramble for 20 yards. We’ve dealt with every week a quarterback who can move. That’s probably the challenge. Even if you’ve got that guy who can get 12 to 15, that’s cool. The other elements of the rush, you have to piece it together to make sure you’re caging the quarterback up. That’s what we have to keep continuing doing a better job of. Not letting them extend plays. I think it’s fun anytime we get the chance. I don’t know if it’s based on our players but just the challenge of rushing an offense. The O-line coaches in the league, there’s only 32 of them and they’re really good. Usually, you look at most staffs, the O-line coach is the best coach on the staff in terms of detail. I tell the guys all the time, if you want to know anything about yourself, you need to go ask the O-line coach. I’m sure he has a list up on those guys all the time. You want to know what you’re doing, ask the O-line coach. That’s probably the biggest challenge right there.
Q: How are you guys incorporating new players every week so seamlessly? It seems like every week you either have new players to the roster that are suddenly playing say 30 or 40 snaps. Or rookies that you’re acclimating that haven’t played yet and suddenly are making big plays for you. I would imagine there is a lot of detail and a lot of preparation even weeks ahead for some of these guys for these roles. How much detail is there put into that? Why are you guys looking like a defense that maybe has been together even though you keep adding new pieces?
A: First is the hard work the guys put in. Whether it’s they are a rookie or it’s their first day here, they have to put in the work to see the results. We want to push people to get out on the field, but if they don’t show us they can handle it, it’s not going to work out. They do that. Secondly, I would say it’s the coaches. Not just the position coaches like Bret, Spence, Kevin, Jerome (Henderson). It’s also the guys behind the scenes like Mike (Treier), Blev (Anthony Blevins), Jody (Wright). Those guys, when we’re game planning and you have new guys, they spend the time, whether it’s zoom or what have you, to get these guys right to help them get prepared. That plays a huge role in what we do. It’s a huge role in terms of their development in terms of being young NFL coaches. We can push that down the line. To me, I remember when I was put in that position. I was proud when I’m like you know what, I helped get that guy right. It was a big deal. He gets his one or two plays in the game and he gets it right. I’m sitting there and you get pat on the back like you got him right. That’s a big part of it. Is there detail? I hope, yeah. We have to be detailed about everything. Really it comes down to development of players. Football is a physical game, you’re going to lose guys throughout the season. You have to be constantly thinking about developing players, the roster. Joe does a great job of laying that foundation. Again, that’s how we learned. Those guys that aren’t playing in September, they’re going to be playing in November. That’s just how it happens. Something is going to happen, they have to play. You have to look ahead in terms of the development of your roster or you’re going to get caught short. Nobody cares, Washington doesn’t care if so and so is hurt, they don’t care. They are going to go out there and try and kick our butt, they don’t care. You have to develop the roster and hope those guys are prepared and put the work in to do so.
Q: James Bradberry seemed to travel a lot last week. What goes into that decision? Is it the other receiver you want to take out of the game or is it part of the game plan? McLaurin this week is a pretty good guy, too.
A: Yeah, pretty good, to say the least. I think part of it is strategy, I’ll give you that. Part of it is strategy, you can start the game one way and then say okay we’re going to switch it in the second quarter. We started the game one way, okay we’re going to switch it in the second half. That’s part of the whole chess piece moves like we were talking about earlier. Then it’s definitely based on the people like in terms of skill set. How do we see the matchup? Do you take into account the other people playing defensive back? Absolutely. Does so and so matchup better with him, so let’s move these pieces around. Just by nature, JB (James Bradberry), he’s been in the league longer. He can matchup with numerous guys. He’s a good chess piece to have, I keep using that phrase. He’s a good piece to be able to move around because we can match up him different places to help make it easier or help play to our advantage with some of the other positions. I think that answers your question.
Q: You mentioned the acclimation for guys coming into the defense. I’m just curious from the rookie perspective, you mentioned that you guys are always looking ahead. Take us inside that process a little bit. How far in advance are you with some of these guys? Is it a delicate balance to not rush guys based on need? When Zo went down, you could’ve pushed X-man, you could’ve pushed more snaps on the rookies. It seemed like you kind of stuck to the plan rather than putting those guys maybe in positions that they would not succeed.
A: I think, just like I’ve always said, everything is a reflection the head coach’s vision. I’ve been lucky in my career every place I’ve been. I’ve been able to hear what the coach’s vison is and I understood it. Just being close with Joe as a coach and as a friend, I see his vison for the team in terms of how we have to develop these young guys. When we draft the guys that we had on defense, we knew that whatever the process was going to be, we had to keep pushing it to get them better. Improve daily and then put a little bit more on their plate and then the coaches understand that. That comes from being like-minded and understanding that part of it. How far ahead do you look? Joe talks about breaking up the season in quarters, he talked about that. We all know about Thanksgiving, that’s when football starts. To me, you’re trying to always build towards that. When you hit November, you’re playing your best football and you’re playing your best football with who’s available because something is going to happen. Because I have been in the league a few years, as soon as the season ended and we drafted guys, I’m starting to think about that, to be honest with you. Not the minute details of it, but you have to think about it. You draft a young guy, where’s he at? We had Zo (Lorenzo Carter), we had X (Oshane Ximines), we had Fack (Kyler Fackrell). Where are these young edge guys going to play into it? Are they going to start right from jump? No. You have to say how are we going to develop them? What is the best way to do it? That’s how you go about it and see how you use them as weapons. If we need them against Washington, let’s use them against Washington if that plays into the game plan. You have to look ahead, that’s how I was taught to do it.
Q: You guys have told us from the start that this is going to be a very multiple defense. It looked on Monday night like you kind of threw everything you had at Tom Brady. How much of that would you have been able to do earlier in the season? Obviously, there were the limitations this summer and in the spring in general. How much more can you add going forward?
A: The beauty of how we’ve installed and how Joe laid it out that he wanted us to talk to guys. We spent a lot of time in the spring and again, learning this from Flo (Brian Flores), learning this from Matt Patricia, learning this from Bill (Belichick), install the core concepts. So, install cover three. Don’t worry about whatever the call is for cover three, install the version of cover three. What’s the curl flat, what’s a hook curl? If they can understand that and the whole group can understand it, then you can have 10 calls that are still cover three, but people are in different spots. We took our time to do that and that’s what I’ve learned over my career, that’s the best way to do it. To be able to be more multiple as you push down the year. Whether it’s cover two or whatever it may be. Just making sure they understand what the core concepts are, so I can say, ‘okay, you go play this spot.’ Play this spot, it’s the same thing, you were in the same meeting. Same meeting, same technique, go do that. Obviously, it grows as time goes on. I’m just telling you, we’re not doing that much stuff. I know everybody is thinking it, but we’re not doing that much stuff. We just try to do what we can execute, and the guys are trying to do it at a high level. We have a ways to go in terms of improvement. I obviously have to do a better job coaching and a better job of getting them to understand all the fine details of it and also calling the game. It comes from the hard work they put in in the spring and the zoom meetings, to be honest with you. I would assume that even Dalvin (Tomlinson) could tell what the job of the curl flat is.
Q: It seems like the league is trending a lot more toward just generating front four pressure. Your players seem to do it, you guys have done a real nice job. Can you talk about what Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson have been able to do and how they have grown as pass rushers this year?
A: I think they all have the talent. Obviously, there is nothing new that I’ve done. As you’ve seen on tape, that’s why we’re willing to put them in those spots. The thing I’ve seen in terms of development. The biggest thing for Leo (Leonard Williams) was let’s hit quick man, let’s go. Let’s hit the move quick and let’s go, get to the quarterback. Just do that. Dalvin, he’s playing with good pad level. He’s always been powerful, he’s always been explosive. He always has good hands in terms of his hand work. The biggest thing for me is pad level. When it comes back to the rush, fortunately football is simple and I’m a simple dude. It comes back to pad level. The pad level leads to the violence, whether it’s the run game or the pass game. You ask those guys, they might think I’m a jerk. I don’t talk to them about any moves, I don’t care. I just say you have to be lower than them and that’s all I say to them, period.