Q. In reviewing the game against the Ravens, one of the points you made was that "I thought it was far from perfect, but I thought collectively our guys did not blink. No one sought comfort." What does "sought comfort" mean in that context?
A. Things that people do under duress that when given the opportunity to look back at it they wish they hadn't. To lessen their roles when things get tough. That's one of the things we openly talk about – don't minimize your role when things are tough. Have ownership over what's transpiring. Don't blame others. Don't state problems. Let's openly talk about solutions as opposed to stating the obvious. Just things that we live by that are somewhat human nature that we try to stay away from in the midst of tough times. We just feel like it's a winning edge for us in terms of overcoming those obstacles.
Q. So then seeking comfort is normal human nature?
A. Exactly. We're blessed to be in the position we're in. We can't do what comes natural. We have to resist human nature. We cannot seek comfort. We can't minimize our role. We can't blame others. We can't talk about the problem. We need to talk about and take action that produces solutions.
Q. After the game in Baltimore, you spoke about making halftime adjustments and the impact those had on the outcome. When you're making adjustments are they always the kinds of things you have worked on in the past in practice or used in previous games, or do they sometimes involve something totally new that you believe could be an answer to a specific issue?
A. Sometimes I wish it was as interesting as that. Most of the time it's about deciding what you want to stop doing. And for us, that's what it was about. There were some things that weren't working for us, there were some things we were asking people to do that we weren't getting executed to an acceptable level. To me, halftime adjustments always start with subtraction, before it starts with addition. I think that's a prudent approach. I think players digest that in a 12-minute period much more than they do "adding to." If we're going to add to the mix in some way, always start with taking out of the mix just so they don't feel mentally overloaded in the process. Hey, we're going to do this; we're going to add this call, but we're going to take these calls away. That's just a good component of managing the emotions of the time period and making sure that guys realize there are some adjustments that need to happen but we're not having wholesale changes, or changing who we are or what we spent all week working on.
Q. The five-linebacker defense that you used against the Ravens. Was that planned, or something you went to based on what the Ravens were doing in that specific game?
A. It was something we had planned, but it was something that definitely assumed a larger role at halftime. And that's what I mean. Sometimes it's about minimizing some calls and bringing some other calls to the forefront. That was something we had worked during the course of the week and run a few times in the first half, but in the second half we really brought it to the forefront and it really became a significant call for us over the second half of the game, and that's probably why we're talking about it today.
Q. On more than one occasion, you have described Mike Hilton as a significant run defender. How is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound defensive back a significant run defender?
A. It's funny you ask that, and it's a real question. The nature of the position he plays, the nickel back position, those guys usually come at you with big-time coverage ability and awareness. When you find one who has an appetite for the run game and a nose for the run game, and an appetite for blitzing the way Mike does, it is unique. We realize that's an asset to us, and it's probably why our sub-package run defense is as strong as it is. And that's why we were really concerned in the stadium last weekend in Baltimore. We were playing without Tyson Alualu in our base defense, and we were playing without Mike Hilton in our sub-package defense, and you're talking about two critical components to run defense – one in base and one in sub. And it's funny, they look and are shaped very differently, but both are very critical in terms of us getting after the run game.
Q. Is Avery Williamson's experience as an inside linebacker when Dick LeBeau was there as the coordinator with the Titans sufficient for him to be able to wear the green dot?
A. It is not. We brought Avery in to provide quality depth for us. We know from a talent standpoint he more than fits the description, but he is getting on a moving train. Some of the intimacies of playing within our scheme and so forth he is going to have to learn along the way. We have a desire for him to position himself to be our third inside linebacker if something happens to Vince (Williams) or to Rob (Spillane). In the meantime, he's got to get himself up to speed as quickly as he can, and then we'll kind of go from there. He's capable, he's willing, he's willing to put his hand in the pile. We're excited about having him. He's a luxury, if you will, and that's why acquiring him was so important. We just feel real good about where we are with that.
Q. On the subject of NFL assistant coaches, specifically the position coaches: An NFL position coach who has experience being a position coach for a college program – how is that experience valuable to what he's asked to do in the NFL?
A. When Coach (Tony) Dungy hired me some 20-some-odd years ago, he was specifically looking for a college football coach. He interviewed probably 8-to-10 defensive backs coaches from the college ranks, and I was one of them and I was fortunate enough to get the job. After I got the job, I asked him why it was so important to him that he hired a college coach? He said he had some young guys in the secondary, and thought it was very important that he hired a teacher, somebody with a teacher's mentality, somebody who didn't have the experience of working with professionals that could allow you to become somewhat lazy and make some assumptions. That's something that always stuck out in my mind, and something I've been cognizant of, and something I thoughtfully do from time to time. I hired Eddie Faulkner as our running backs coach directly from college with no pro experience. Matt Canada is our quarterbacks coach, and I hired him more recently than Faulkner. There's value in hiring a college football coach and one who embraces the aspect that's a little different than ours, and that's the nurturing and development of young men and players both on and off the field. I think when you bring that mentality to a professional environment it can be useful and helpful, particularly when you have young people in a positional group.
Q. When Tony Dungy hired you for that job, did it surprise you that you were teaching professionals the way you taught college kids?
A. Initially it was very surprising to me because as somebody who came in with no pro experience you make some assumptions about where those guys are from a football intellect standpoint. One of the things Coach Dungy consistently preached to me was don't make those assumptions. Don't make those assumptions, and coach the way that you always have coached. And it really proved to be true. Guys play the game, and their perspective on the game is different than those who coach the game. We who coach the game, we have a perspective that we need to provide those guys and teach those guys, regardless of their level of playing experience, and that's just something we need to continually remind ourselves. We're teachers, and our job is to teach and to instruct. They're learners, and their job is to learn and to do, regardless of their age or experience.
Q. Did you find then, and do you find now that professionals are receptive to that kind of basic teaching/coaching, or might they resent being taught such basic material based on where they are with their careers?
A. They have so much more humility than a middle-schooler that it would be shocking to you. They crave it. They need the instruction, the instruction helps them do their job. The more instruction you give them, the more they're into it. That's one of the things that's really shocking when you don't have NFL experience as a coach, and it's one of the things I continually impress on our guys who lack NFL coaching experience. I want them to feel comfortable teaching, instructing. I want Matt Canada to feel comfortable teaching and instructing Ben even though Ben has been doing his job for 17 years. I want Eddie Faulkner to feel comfortable instructing and teaching James Conner and all of those other guys who have been playing the position for a number of years.
Q. During a typical week, how much preparation time is spent on the opponent's quarterback in terms of what he does well and in how you may want to try to minimize that?
A. It's something that's ongoing and continual and probably a part of every single discussion, no matter what the discussion is. At different points in the week, you could be talking about misdirection pass, short-yardage, red zone, goal line, third down. His abilities, his tangible traits, just the things that he does well, and his intangible traits also can be a part of the discussion.
Q. In getting ready for the Cowboys, you didn't know who their starting quarterback was going to be, and it's also unlikely there's much out there on the two candidates – Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush. How do you handle a situation such as that?
A. We focus our energies on known commodities like Ezekiel Elliott, because I would imagine they're going to lean on their strengths in an effort to support the inexperienced quarterback. And with that lean-on, all roads lead to Ezekiel Elliott for us, and so the type of attention we generally pay to the quarterback position in all those situations and discussions I was mentioning we had this week, we shifted that focus to No. 21 and how he might be impacting those scenarios, and we believe that was appropriate.