Q. You often talk about your job being one where you give the players what they need. What did they need earlier this week in the immediate aftermath of Darryl Drake’s passing?
A. I thought the first thing that they needed, and we all needed, was time to digest what transpired in some way, to digest it in individual ways. That’s why I cancelled work last Sunday. That’s why we switched the off-day from Tuesday to Monday. It just gave guys a block of time to absorb, in whatever ways they could absorb what transpired. It also gave us time to mobilize and be thoughtful about the assistance we would give them – the professional grief counseling, etc. I think that was the first reaction in regards to the guys – to provide the space and the time so they could grieve in whatever ways that they grieve, but also time to mobilize a plan to support them in the professional ways in which they need to be supported.
Q. What do they need from you now when it comes to that tragedy?
A. They need to understand that we have to continue to live, that we have to continue to move and to move forward. That’s life, but that’s also what Coach Drake would want us to do. Often times this week, I thought about what Darryl would want, and I know that’s what he would want. As a matter of fact, he would probably be upset with the amount of time we have given this. But that’s him, that’s the man, and that’s why the guys feel the way they do about him.
Q. When you’re watching video of a game that has just been played, how do you go about that? Do you watch every individual on every snap?
A. Me personally, I watch it for several reasons. I watch it for schematics, and I have an all-22 man feel when I watch it that way. But I also watch the individuals and the individual techniques and the production of players. You really devour the tape. I really can’t tell you how many times you watch it or you watch particular plays. It’s not like you run each play back 11 times, but you know where the significant points are in a play in terms of the development of it or the making of it. That’s where you spend your time. Some assignments or some locations of players are less significant and you can scan them. You watch a lot of plays multiple times and you watch them for different reasons. It’s appropriate and needed at this time of the year when you’re evaluating a lot of things – the growth and development of individuals, the detail of their execution, their schematics. There are a lot of things to devour.
Q. Do you give grades?
A. You can give grades, and you do. We evolve into that, but that’s probably more as we get into this journey. I try to find catch-phases that eloquently describe what we’re looking for as a level of expectation. Two of the terms we use are varsity and JV. Everybody knows what varsity and JV means. Everybody who is here is looking to be varsity, looking to be on the 53-man roster and display characteristics of that. So that’s a catch-phrase we’ve been using to describe the line, the level of expectation that’s acceptable in this setting: varsity and JV.
Q. Do you watch alone?
A. I watch by myself. I watch with others. I watch with the coaching staff. I watch with players. I watch tape with a variety of groups of people during the course of a game review. The first time I watch it I watch it by myself because I don’t want my perception to be skewed in any way. By the time I expose myself to the opinions of others, I want to have an opinion myself.
Q. If I were a young, politely aggressive individual who wanted to learn from you how to get the most out of watching video, what tips might you give me?
A. To be a good archivist, in whatever ways work for you. Some people are capable of remembering significant things. Some people have to write them down. Some people have to watch it multiple times. When you’re talking about tape study, you’re talking about learning from the tape. When you’re talking about formatting plans from the tape that you study, you better be a good archivist in some way. You better be able to catalogue the lessons you learn and the things you see. That’s been really useful for me – working hard and being a good archivist.
Q. Do teams have any input as to their opponents during the preseason?
A. There are relationships, like the long-standing relationship we have with the Carolina Panthers in the fourth preseason game. Every organization I have been in has had a special relationship, and it’s a professional courtesy that’s usually based on the relationship of ownership. From a coach’s perspective, who we play means very little to me. I just like the opportunity to get in stadiums and see competent, capable adversaries. A lot of times preseason games are geographically convenient as well, because the games can be happening at different times of the week.
Q. Is there anything about the Kansas City Chiefs that makes that team a good preseason opponent from the standpoint of evaluating your own team?
A. I like their style of play offensively, with the spread and the thoughtful changes of rhythm of pace of play. There are some obscure formations and some special talents they have at certain positions, although I have no control over who they play or how often they play them. But guys like tight end Travis Kelce present unique challenges, ones you like to see your team address.
Q. Cam Sutton has been working at both outside cornerback and slot cornerback. What are the unique requirements for each position?
A. The outside corner position is much more technical in its demands, in terms of hand usage and footwork and the techniques of play. The interior play is more communicative and more awareness based, more vision based. There’s more physicality inside because of their inclusion in the run game. Cam’s got a very balanced skill set, and it’s on display when he’s able to play outside and inside.
Q. When a player is not practicing but is healthy enough to be standing on the sideline and watching, what is he expected to be doing with that time?
A. He’s expected to know the play being executed and to watch his position, not only for his own growth and development but for the growth and development of whomever is playing his position. To be an extra set of eyes, to communicate in a brotherly or in a teammate sort of way based on what it is that’s transpiring on the field.
Q. Is it accurate to say that over the course of a training camp and preseason, the amount of hitting is dialed back as you get closer to the regular season?
A. Yes. You want to hit enough so that you know. At the early stages you don’t know a lot and so you hit a lot. As you gain an understanding about what you can expect from guys regarding that element of play, you do it less in an effort to preserve them so they can step into a stadium and do what it is they need to do.
Q. If a guy played well in the preseason opener, what do you expect from him in this second outing?
A. I want to see him maintain that level of play as he gets more exposure. Playing well often times produces more opportunity, and so I don’t want to see production wane as snaps increase. But it also means he may get an opportunity to play earlier in the game against stiffer competition, and I want to see how they adjust and adapt to that environment as well.