Huskies coach Chris Petersen was a guest on Sports Radio KJR 950 AM with Mitch Levy this morning. Several topics were discussed, as indicated in the headline. A full transcript of that interview can be found below.
(On whether he’s happy at UW after one season) “Am I happy that I took the job at Washington? Absolutely. … I’m really happy that I did that. All the reasons that I did leave and came here, to be challenged, to grow, to take this program where everybody wants it to go – I mean, that is the mission in life around here with me, with our coaches, with everybody. And so I really am happy that I came here to Washington. Now, again, going back to that (question) about being happy … having fun. Again, I just don’t look at it like – again, there are certain aspects that I really enjoy. And this is one of the times of the year that I really do enjoy, because what I really do enjoy is I love going into the film room and studying football and studying offensive football, and breaking it down and tearing ourselves apart, and how do we take the next step, and how do we get more detailed? I have fun with that, and so that’s part of the process that’s going on here right now. So I do really enjoy, and I am having fun right now in this part of our offseason."
(On what isn’t fun about the job) “I think probably there are just different little segments. I’m not thrilled to go have a bunch of media press conferences, those type of things. I don’t find it a lot of fun when there’s discipline issues going on, and you have to go and protect the kids. That part I don’t like, where kids make mistakes, it’s so public, and they don’t really know all of what went on, and it’s really like, a lot of it to me shouldn’t be everybody else’s business a lot of times about that, when you’re trying to help kids grow and you’re trying to do things right for your program, but yet then it’s out there in the middle of the paper and for everybody to see. That’s hard for me and for the kids and their families and those type of things. But it’s also really, really important that we do the things correctly, and that we get them corrected. But the fact that has to be public – I think that’s what I was talking about when I said you just want to do your job kind of by yourself and get things right, but you can’t do it by yourself. It’s just a part of the beauty of sports, that everybody wants to know what’s up.”
(On his first season at UW and the challenges of being new) “What happened is, we were at Boise for a long time, and so the kids and the coaches, everybody just really knew how we did things and what was expected. So you go anywhere new, those expectations and standards are different. Not right or wrong, but just different. And I knew it would be different. I didn’t know how it would be different. That was part of the excitement of taking a new job, all that newness and excitement, and then trying to figure out how to solve it. And the thing that was enjoyable about the season last year – because in my mind there wasn’t a lot that was really enjoyable. I don’t think anyone came here to be average. So that was hard. But I did feel like we made progress the last third of the season. Even when we lost the Arizona game. The energy, the focus, the fight, the commitment – that all felt different from that game on. And so what was disappointing about that, the last third, was obviously the bowl game. Because I thought the kids practiced hard during the bowl practices. I thought they did a good job down there in Arizona getting ready. And our defense came out and played well in the first quarter, getting some turnovers, and we didn’t respond on offense. And that had been one of the things, when we didn’t respond together – really, if our defense did well and our offense didn’t score points, we kind of had a hard time getting going. It kind of rattled us. And we went right back to that mentality. And then at halftime, we go in there, guys were embarrassed, guys are really ticked off, and we come out and play like we should have played from the start. And so again, I think there’s a lot of lessons learned that we all learned from there, and just how tough and how hard the competition is. Like, every single game. If you don’t show up with that killer edge, you’re going to be in trouble.”
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(How was your coaching performance in 2014?) “Those exact questions you’re asking are exactly the things that I ask every guy on our staff, guys on our team, myself, starting with myself. And so to me, hey, I’m a direct reflection of what you’re seeing on the field. To me, it was average. My job was average. Absolutely. That’s what our record was. We were swinging for all we were worth trying to get everybody going, but at the end of the day, it was average, and so that’s how I would evaluate myself, is average.”
(Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?) “That’s the question that we keep asking, and when we go back. I just think it’s a lot of little things. I don’t know if there’s any – I didn’t have a bunch of things (where) we go, ‘if we did this, I know we would have been significantly better.’ I always think it’s pretty easy when it’s like that, if you could just change one or two things that are that glaring, that’s easy. And I don’t think it’s that easy. I think it’s going to be a lot of little things that add up over time. That’s what we always talk about. It’s like being consistent day after day, and putting really, really productive good days together, that make a real big, or maybe even a slight difference, at the end of the season or the end of the game, to give you a chance to win. Because everybody’s good and it’s really, really competitive. So there’s a lot of little, little things we are tweaking, we would do different. And it’s not any one thing. It’s not just the coaches. It’s not just the players. It’s all of us together, getting on the same page, being more detailed, having more competitiveness, fight and toughness to us. If we do all those things, we’ll take a step.”
(On talking to NFL personnel about Marcus Peters’ dismissal) “The thing is, I think I can be honest because it wasn’t any one particular thing. The thing that was frustrating, that was really embarrassing I think for the media, there was a report that Marcus got into a fight and an argument with an assistant coach. That wasn’t even kind of true. That was so false. And I was really, really bent for nobody else other than for Marcus’ sake, because that wasn’t fair to Marcus. That didn’t even kind of happen. So I’d love to sit here and kind of detail everything that went on, but that’s not fair either. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not really anyone else’s business other than the team and Marcus.”
(On lack of information leading to speculation and what the right answer is) “The right answer is not to report false stuff. Because that flat-out is a lie. It wasn’t even kind of true. I mean, whoever was saying that, that they were there – I would love to see that. Ask every member on our team. They would say, ‘what are you talking about? That never happened.’ So guys are just making stuff up, obviously. So that is hard.”
(NOTE: Petersen is likely referring to this NFL.com report that cited an anonymous scout who said Peters tried to choke an assistant coach, which was later refuted by a pair of UW coaches via The Seattle Times, and then later by Peters himself.)
(But he obviously did something to get thrown off the team) “It was serious things, over the season, but it wasn’t any one thing. And it wasn’t anything that even remotely was described from what I saw. And so that’s just flat-out a fabrication that’s not even kind of true. And like I said, you say whatever you want to say about me and our coaches and that kind of stuff, because we get the role that we’re in. that kind of comes with the job. And unfortunately, sometimes it does for the kids, too. But I just don’t think that’s right, especially when it’s wrong information. There’s no gray area there. So somebody’s just making some stuff up. So I thought that was really disappointing for Marcus in terms of, he’d already been removed from the team and now they’re saying the reason he was removed was a wrong reason. And like I said, I always want to be really honest. I do. I’m never going to like, say something that’s not true. But what I might do is not say anything when I really can’t just divulge everything, when it comes to players’ conduct and that type of stuff. It’s just not the right thing to do, to air dirty laundry like that. It’s not fair for them.”
(More on Peters) “Let me say this about Marcus – again, I hope he plays in the NFL for a long time, and I hope the whole experience at Washington makes him better, and he’s learned, and it helps him play for a long time. Really, some of the things we learn most are the hard lessons. And so that’s really my thought with Marcus going forward. So if we had to go through this here to help him down the road, that’s why we’re in this thing, is to help kids just be better – not just football players, but people as well. So I think we all hope that Marcus gets drafted well and plays for a long time, and then it was like all that heartache that we’ve been through was in some way worth it.”
(On what might happen with the quarterback situation) “Again, if I could … here’s the thing: why wouldn’t i? I’m as anxious and curious to see this thing as anybody. And I know that we’re going to get better at quarterback. There’s no doubt about that, just by the nature of the competition that’s going on, and I love that. And if I really knew what was going to happen, I would say. … and it really goes back to spring. It’s going to be interesting, because we’re going to have to have a seating chart. It’s not a starting lineup by any stretch. But Cyler’s (Miles) been here and done some things, and so as we start that first day, he’s going to get some reps with the starters, but we’re going to mix that thing up. We’re going to give everybody a good look. We’re going to do that. And I’m excited to see it.”
(On how hard it is for freshmen to play their first year) “I always say this – I’m shocked when we play true freshmen at any position. I don’t really think people understand how complicated this game has got, how sophisticated, how detailed it is. And playing in this conference, against the best of the best. When you put a freshman out there, that is really hard to do. And some of these guys go out there and compete at a really, really high level. And to me, who’s in this business every day, I know how hard it is – I’m just amazed. And so now you go to the quarterback, that there’s no tougher position than that to play. I think it’s the greatest position in all of sports, with the sophistication that comes with it. And some of these guys that play, you know, like Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, the best of the best – how simple they make it look. And it is so stinking complex. And so you just assume. But when they’re that good, it makes it look simple, and it is not. So with that being said, it is so hard. It is so hard for any freshman, let alone a quarterback. And that’s why you don’t want to get these expectations out of whack for these young guys. For Jake Browning, for K.J. (Carta-Samuels). They’re good players, and they’re going to be really good down the road. I don’t know what down the road means, if it means game one, or next year. You just don’t know. That’s why I’m anxious to see this quarterback competition myself.”
(On how that applies to Petersen’s offense) “I think what we do on offense for the most part is going to be driven by what our quarterback can handle. We’ve always had a lot of flexibility on offense. What does that mean? Well, it means what can the quarterback do? What are his strengths? What can he handle? How many banked reps has he had on certain things? And we kind of go from there. and I think what the really good coaches and teachers do is they simplify everything. I say how complex it is – our job is to make it as un-complex as possible for these guys. I don’t take pride in saying oh, our system is so complex and it takes you like three years to figure it out. That’s not a good thing in my eyes. And so I think the better the coaches are and the better the teachers are, the more they can simplify the complex for these guys to actually have a chance to compete and play fast and play as a young guy.”
(On the Huskies playing at Boise State and the emotions of Petersen returning there) “I’m not worried about myself. What needs to happen around here is for everybody that’s going to play in that game from over here, they need to understand how emotional that game is. I mean, there will be as much energy and focus and excitement as any game in college football in a long time. I just know how that is. In the past when we played over there when it was a big game and a Pac-12 team would come in, everybody wants to see that, because there’s not many Pac-12 teams that go over there on the blue turf. So when that happens, the fans are excited, but the players will be extremely, extremely focused and ready to go. We’re still worried about ourselves around here, but down the road, everybody’s going to have to understand what we’re walking into.”
(On whether he gets emotional about going to Boise) “I’ll tell you this – it’s always hard when you’re playing your friends. We’ve done that over the years where you play some guys you’re very close to, and then certainly some of those kids we recruited over there. you don’t like to do that. But then when the game happens, the game happens. That’s how it is. When I was at Boise and we played Oregon, everybody was talking about the same thing, to go back there. and when the game starts, you’re just playing. You’re not worried about any of that type of stuff, and the game is always so emotional. I don’t see this like, OK, now it’s more emotional, it’s more important. Every game that we play is just so important and so emotional. And for us I think it’s always about as coaches to keep our emotions in check, and that will trickle down to the players, hopefully.”