Q. After victories, such as last Sunday's over New Orleans, you always say that while there still are things for the team to work on and improve upon, it's good to go into that work with a win. Is there a noticeable difference in the way the players come to work based on the outcome of the previous game?
A. Without a doubt. They're human. Football is our game, but our business is winning. When you win you take care of business; when you don't, you're not taking care of business, and so there are consequences of that. Everybody understands that, and really everybody embraces that. You know, there's joy in winning. That's what we do.
Q. But in terms of the work, is it more productive if they're energized by a win, or honked off by a loss?
A. I think both states of mind are useful, to be quite honest with you. From a coach's perspective, that's the approach I take. I know there's a certain energy or attention that's capable of being captured when we win, and I work to capture it. And I also understand that there's a differing spirit, or energy, or urgency, to capture when we lose, and it's a coach's job to capture that as well.
Q. Sticking with the game against the Saints, you also said you were happy with the way the team began the game, because it came after a bye and that you never can be sure about the start of a game coming off a weekend without a game. But you said, the team "didn't waste any time warming up to the competition and got in the flow of the game immediately." Besides talking about that, is there a way to make sure that happens?
A. You know, there are several things that you do. You work to get into that rhythm as you come off the bye, that Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday leading up to it and getting back into the structure of a game week. But the reality is, there's a rhythm to this thing. You're stepping into a stadium once a week, and over the course of four or five months, you just gather that rhythm. And missing an opportunity to do it, although it's a welcome break in the action, there's always concern about rust and things of that nature, warming up to the competition. And so, I think if you talk about the elephant in the room, there's less risk of that becoming a negative factor in play. And we talked openly about it. We acknowledged the potential of that, all in an effort to reduce the potential of it.
Q. Alex Highsmith had two sacks last Sunday, and he got to Andy Dalton on one of those by using a spin move. Did Highsmith come to the NFL with that move, or did he develop it here?
A. He may have had it when he got here. Everyone has it, but everyone shouldn't pull it out in a game circumstance. He has honed that tool to the point where it's a weapon for him, and I think that's the component of the discussion worth mentioning. Boy, he has really perfected that in the ways that a pitcher works on his pitch repertoire; rushers develop a rush repertoire if you will, and the spin is definitely a component of his menu.
Q. Are developing and perfecting pass-rush moves an example of something that takes place during the offseason?
A. It is continual. Maybe the guts of the framing of it starts in the offseason, but it is continual. And it is your skills and talents that you hone relative to the skills and talents and the strengths and weaknesses of the people you compete against. And so, you know in Alex's case, he has worked the spin. Spin is a weapon for him, but it might not show every week because of the skill-set or the talents of who is going against him. So that's why they work on multiple rushes. That's why they need to have a repertoire at their disposal, and obviously the spin is something that's in his wheelhouse.
Q. Are there certain pass-rush moves that players are discouraged from using based on whether the quarterback is mobile or not?
A. I think when you talk about quarterback mobility it's more about the collective rush and not one individual. When we talk about minimizing escape lanes, you talk to the collective. And so, he may be able to spin, the spin may be a weapon for him, but there better be a counteraction by someone else to close that window or escape lane for the quarterback. It's a collective when you're talking about minimizing quarterback mobility and escape lanes.
Q. In terms of the snap-hold-kick process on field goals and extra points, what is considered varsity in terms of how long it takes?
A. It differs, and I say that because you might have a snapper with great velocity but a holder whose mechanics are a little bit slow. You might have the opposite of that. You might have a kicker who starts to the ball a little bit slow. What's most important is the total time of the collective, the total operation time. If that's unacceptable, then you start looking at the components of the total to see where the issues are. But we're talking about fractions of a second. You know, .7 seconds is great velocity on a snap, but .85 is terrible, and so you get away from all that minutia by analyzing the total op-time, and as long as the total op-time is acceptable, you stay away from breaking down the minute components of it, because you've got to have an itchy trigger finger when you're talking about analyzing what component of snap-hold-kick is letting you down from an operation time standpoint. It is a fraction of a second we're talking about, but that fraction of a second is inches because we're talking about a defender coming off the edge, too, and being able to get his hand on the ball. That's just the world we live in, particularly at this level of play.
Q. So, with respect to total op-time, what's varsity?
A. I'm not going to get into those details because that's a competitive advantage or disadvantage. My acceptable op-time might be a little bit different than someone else's, and so pardon me if I don't disclose sensitive information.
Q. As far as long-snapping and location of the ball, is there something similar to a strike zone that the long-snapper needs to hit? Is low better than high? How does that work?
A. Without getting too detailed, it's where the holder needs the ball to operate. If a holder operates and his comfort zone is a ball placed in a certain spot, then the snapper works to hit that spot. If somebody else's area of comfort as in another area, then he works to hit that spot. It's that level of detail. It's about the amount of time that the holder needs to catch the ball, get the laces pointed the right way, and putting it on the ground and readying it for the kicker. It's different for different people.
Q. Over the past several weeks a popular topic of questions for you is change. Are you favoring change? Are you going to make any changes? When will you make any changes? But is it your experience that when you're asked about changes, it's almost always referring to personnel, and then that's not necessarily what you mean when you say there are going to be changes, or you're thinking about changes?
A. Let's be honest, OK. When they're asking about change, that's an angry mob that wants a hanging. They want some pounds of flesh. And I understand that. But my mentality is change for the purposes of getting better, not to feed the angry mob. If changing increases our chance of winning, if changes are a part of solution-oriented things as opposed to assigning blame, then I'm all for change. But shooting a hostage, assigning blame, that's less than professional, that's weak-minded, that's not where we are. When you're in it, like we're in it, like I'm in it, I have the resolve to maintain that posture. When you're not in it, and you're rooting from afar, I understand that mentality, but I don't share that mentality. I'm open to change always because I'm in pursuit of victory, but only for the purposes of betterment and to win. Not to lessen pressure on me or us, not to place blame elsewhere. That's just not how we roll. That's not the appropriate and professional way to roll. We're willing to do anything and everything – schematics, personnel, leadership in an effort to increase our chances of winning, but that has to be the reason.
Q. In assessing the challenge posed by the Bengals, you said, "On the offensive side of the ball, obviously it starts with Joe Burrow and finding ways to minimize his impact on the game." Why would you disagree that it starts with Joe Mixon and his impact on the game?
A. It just feels like their global fortunes changed with the arrival of Joe Burrow. Joe Mixon has been there. You know, Joe Burrow is the variable that's different culturally in Cincinnati, and anybody who denies that is kidding themselves. And no disrespect to Joe Mixon, because he is a quality back. He's one of the best backs in the league. He's capable of getting you. But in terms of the mojo of that group, the swagger of that group, the heartbeat of that group is Joe Burrow offensively, defensively, and special teams. I'm talking about their football team, not only their offensive unit.
Q. In the NFL, based on the way the game is played, is it pretty much the rule of thumb that it always starts with the quarterback.
A. I think Derrick Henry would disagree. It's whoever the guy is. Whoever The Guy is. And if you look at the Tennessee Titans, Derrick Henry's The Guy.
Q. In terms of success in the red zone, your offense is tied-for-28th in the NFL with a touchdown percentage of 46.2, and your defense is sixth in the NFL with a touchdown allowed percentage of 50. Obviously, your preference would be for those percentages to be 100 for the offense and zero for the defense, but what would you consider to be varsity?
A. You know, anything in the top 25 percentile of the league in any statistic is what we hunt; anything in the bottom 25 percentile we've got to stay away from, and that's any discussion. Those are relative things because if you're talking about relative to the other teams there are certain raw numbers that we're interested in, but it's a relative game because we're competing against people every week. And so, we're talking about top eight and bottom eight are things that really get your attention.
Q. When Le'Veon Bell was a young running back, you explained to him that success at the NFL level is more about being lighter and highly conditioned than it is about being big and strong. Bell lost weight, and his career took off. Might you have a similar conversation with Najee Harris at some point in the future, not so much about conditioning but maybe about his size?
A. No, they're different people. I make those judgments based on a lot of things and not just my naked eye. Body mass index and things of that nature, because we've got a lot of technology, and so that discussion was exclusive to Le'Veon. Le'Veon is a much smaller human from a frame standpoint than Najee, and so I was talking about the weight that Le'Veon was carrying relative to his frame. Those are very individual discussions, and we better be really cautious relating one person to another regarding those things.