As sure as he is breathing, Pete Carroll is an optimist. He may tell you the sun is shining at 3 a.m.
So of course he’s encouraged by his Seahawks’ redemptive 2018 season.
And why not?
He fired and changed both coordinators. He swapped nine assistant coaches in all. He brought in eight new players on a remade defense, losing and forcing out iconic, foundation players such as Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. He changed his system of scouting, signing, drafting and coaching offensive linemen, then changed the entire offense to become the NFL’s top rushing attack.
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Through all that upheaval, Seattle went 10-6 and returned to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
That’s why Carroll, Russell Wilson and others feel like this past season is a lot like 2012. ‘
That worked out OK for Seattle.
Those Seahawks, with a rookie Wilson at quarterback and rookie Bobby Wagner in the middle of the defense, lost in the playoffs at Atlanta a game they felt they should have won. But they had formed the nucleus for the team that then went to consecutive Super Bowls and in the following season won the franchise’s first NFL championship.
There will be changes to the roster in 2019. In the NFL, there always are. But Carroll believes he has remade this team into a new championship core.
Here is that, plus everything else the 67-year-old coach with a contract through Seattle’s 2021 season said Monday in his end-of-the-season press conference at team headquarters two days after the wild-card playoff loss at Dallas:
“Well, after having the chance to really dig in on that game it’s frustrating that...first off, it’s just frustrating that we’re not playing. That’s the whole thing. The finality hits you so square in the face that you don’t get to keep going. We were in the mode for a lot more stuff. The game was frustrating in that we weren’t able to do some things we thought we would do going in. Not moving it as well as wanted to, not converting on third downs was something that we were counting on being able to do. You could see how tight the game was, field goals, 10-6 at halftime and all that, that was OK with me. The fact that it was a tight game and all that is what we expected. That was no problem. We just didn’t get going. It was frustrating. Not running the football like we’d like was part of it but really the converting on third down, which really, I know it’s an old subject for us but that was an issue because you just don’t get the turns to get the rhythm that you need. It was very limited opportunities, it felt like. Limited opportunities for us on offense, limited opportunities for us to get going, and I felt it during the game. It was okay as long as it was close.”
“I think that we expected a lot and I made an expectation on Fluke (D.J. Fluker) coming back and Sweez (J.R. Sweezy) getting back out there without practice time. Hard to expect those guys to play top-flight football. Dallas guys were coming off the rock, did a nice job up front and we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. That’s really what it felt like watching the film and getting back through it. The game was frustrating. We love that we had a shot to keep coming back. We were going for twos throughout and we made the adjustment with Seabass (Sebastian Janikowski) getting banged up.
“The guys really went for it and I think it was a statement, really, of what the season was all about. The season was a season of growth, progress and proving and coming to grips with who we are and what we can do, in a great fashion. It was a marvelous season of work with our guys. It was so much fun to see these guys grow and to see them see the future and go for it and not take a step back at any time as far as how they went about it and took to the challenge.
“We come out of here with a great feeling about our future. Our guys are excited about it and know that we can do some damage in the playoffs. They know we can go a long ways. And they know they have a lot of work ahead of them, too. All the indications when you come up short, there’s enough of them, there’s enough lessons that we’ve learned. I love this team, I love where we’re going and it’s going to be more competitive than ever. The roster will continue to be built and constructed to be competitive and bring out the best in our guys. I think that it’s evident to me that we made a connection with our fans, they can feel our team and they can feel our future with us. It’s exciting. We actually leave here on a positive, and we know there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s so much out there for us. Really good feeling about it. Tremendous frustrating along with that. At times like this you got to deal with all of it. So, on we go.”
HOW DID YOU THINK BRIAN SCHOTTENHEIMER DID IN HIS FIRST SEASON AS YOUR OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR?
“Well, first off, for somebody to look at this game and (say) somebody didn’t do this or didn’t do that, and try to hold that against them or whatever, is really unfair. Hold it against me, I’m the guy that’s in charge of this thing. There’s nowhere to look at an individual guy, it’s a team thing. But I’m on top of it and I’m the one to be pointed at. We couldn’t have been more committed to being an aggressive football team than we were this year. That meant we’re playing great defense, we’re working on our (special) teams, running the football and playing off of that. That’s us, that’s how we do it. That’s not anybody but starting with me. So, the fact that Schotty was working the game plan and trying to hammer the football is what we did every week and that’s how we figured to win. When it doesn’t work you have to get moving and find the ways that you got to get there to get the game won, and that’s what we were attempting to do. You forget maybe that the go-ahead touchdown drive in this game was a 9-play drive, eight plays were runs. We got the ball at midfield off great field position after a great kick, exactly like we like to do it. Defense held them, here we go and we knock it on down there, we fight our way through a fourth-down conversion and make it 14-10. OK, let’s go from there. So, to try and blame Schotty with the play-calling or something, I understand that reaction but it isn’t warranted. We had a hell of a season. We did a bunch of good stuff and we’re just getting started. That’s what it feels like.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT GOING FORWARD?
“We have to expect we’ll make a big jump growth-wise, experience-wise. We had a lot of guys play with us for the first time, and contributed in big ways. We can anticipate them making a big step forward, what we call a mastery of their position. I don’t see it as something we didn’t do and didn’t grow toward. With the leadership we had, with the direction we’re all on, the chemistry we have, I think it’s expected that we’ll grow a lot. See things better to avoid the issues that come up. They can be in the kicking game, penalties, offense, defense -- any part of our game, clean it up and not give our opponents any advantage on us. I showed them examples on film. Guys making plays through their experience and awareness. How you can anticipate growing as a player, through curiosity and diligence and work ethic that it takes. The time you got to put in. That’s why it’s all on the up because everyone knows what that’s going to have to take place. If it takes us far enough, we’ll do big stuff next year.
WHERE DO YOU FEEL THE OFFENSE IS?
“We have a formidable running attack. It’s all out there for us. The guys up front, and the running-back crew. This is an excellent room. Chad Moore has guys who can do all kinds of things. It’s a great strength. We have a quarterback that you can absolutely count on who doesn’t turn the ball over, makes big plays, throws touchdown passes. He can control the whole game now. This year Russ really took a step forward. He is control across the board. He’s able to change plays at the goal line -- he did it to score the touchdown. Multiple examples of that big jump forward. We gotta get great at what we’re doing.”
WHAT IS YOUR CONFIDENCE IN HAVING FRANK CLARK BACK, WITH HIS CONTRACT ENDING?
“I’m counting on it. Counting on it. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Let me say this, this time of year, we always cite that it’s a really difficult time. There’s a lot of stuff that has to take place, there’s a lot of business. John (Schneider) has a master plan of carrying this thing out. He’s got a schedule and calendar of all kinds of stuff that he’s working. Already, we’re well into it. There’s a strategy and a plan to carry this out and our guys know. We’ve communicated with everybody. We’re on-going and there’s a process to this and it takes a long time. There’s free agency coming up, there’s our own contracts that we’re dealing with, there’s the draft coming up – all of that stuff is all what’s at hand right now this time of year. We’re really good at doing this and we’re going to carry it out with a real plan and a strategy to make us as strong as we possibly can. The other side of that, the individual questions about guys and stuff, we can’t go into any of that right now. We want Franky (Clark) to be with us. We’ve got some contract issues that we’re going to be dealing with and discussions that will go on for months now.”
What does Rashaad Penny need to do to be more of a factor for the Seahawks next season?
“Just be with us. Just be with us again, go through the whole offseason, hope for good health and just compete. He’s going to be really good. He showed it again the other night. He’s going to be a really good player for us. It gives us a tremendous one, two punch – one, two, three punch. We’ve got combinations to throw at you with our guys. The competition, we’ll play that out.”
Is K.J. Wright a guy he’d like to continue seeing as a Seahawks player?
“We’d love to have K.J. back with us. That’s one of the many issues.”
HOW DID THE INJURIES TO SWEEZY AND FLUKER AFFECT SATURDAY’S GAME?
“I thought our timing was a little bit off early -- in the beginning -- and you could see it improve during the course of the game. In the second half, we came out just more in control. We had to adapt to some things that they were doing, moving up front in some fashions that we just had to adjust to. I just felt like they weren’t as sure footing in their place as they would be because they needed to get back going again. They hadn’t been able to practice full speed for some time. Fluke had some plays a couple weeks ago, but no preparation for that and no preparation (last) week to speak of. They were very limited in the prep. That’s why I felt like it was a lot to ask of them. But we went for it, and that’s the way we decided to do it.”
HOW CLOSE WAS SWEEZY TO NOT PLAYING AT DALLAS?
“We worked Sweez out in pregame, a couple hours before gametime.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE ROOKIE CLASS?
“It’s a really a good group. I think it’s a group that’s going to be here for a long time factoring in. They have special qualities that we love. I thought they were phenomenal. Will (Dissly) had a terrific start of the season. We missed the heck out of him and he’s coming back. We’re thrilled to get him back. … The play we got from Tre (Floers), Tre had a fantastic season all the way through the stretch of the season. Where you might see a guy get worn down, he wasn’t. He fought through. He was very competitive. I think you could see Jacob Martin help us out a lot. Rasheem Green will come back and be a big factor in the competition of it all. He showed tons of good stuff during the course of the season. A couple of the young guys we acquired, too. Poona (Ford) had a great finish to the season, too. Poona is legitimately going to play starting time when we come back and will be competing to do that. … Rashaad (Penny) is going to be a big factor. It’s a really excited group, and I think the depth of it and the consistency throughout is what’s really good about it.”
ON TRE FLOWERS...
“The sky is the limit for him, really. He’s got all of the attributes that you’re looking for. He’s a real heady player too, and he’s going to learn and he’s going to grow and the savvy that he gains. He’s one of those guys that the day that he steps back with us in April, he’s going to be a whole new football player because of what he’s been through. You can’t clear away from that first experience until you get away from it, and then you look back at all of the stuff and all of the lessons. He should be a tremendously improved player, which is really bright because he played a great football season for us anyway.”
HOW MUCH DOES K.J. WRIGHT DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY IN YOUR PROGRAM AND THE MESSAGE RE-SIGNING OR NOT RE-SIGNING HIM WILL SEND TO THE LOCKER ROOM APPLY TO THE DECISION ON HIS CONTRACT?
“I don’t know that we’ve ever not been on that perch with him. He’s been a fantastic player for us for years in every way. In every way. He’s been a leader, he’s been tough, he’s been here, he’s been consistent, his messaging. Everything he stands is what we love about him and would love for him to be here throughout.”
MORE ON RASHAAD PENNY’S ROOKIE SEASON...
“He did really well. … He’s been growing throughout the process. It was a jump for him, like it is for the guys. It’s a jump to be in the limelight, particularly when you’re a (first-round) pick and everyone puts the pressure and expectations on you and all of that. There’s a lot going on. You just gotta go through it. He’s a young kid.
AND RASHEEM GREEN...
“Rasheem Green is 21, you know? I don’t know how old Rashaad is right now, but he’s a young kid too. There’s just so much ahead (for) these guys. Every day was a learning experience for them to see what it’s like. They’re not playing behind old guys that have been here six or eight years or 10 years that could tell them the ropes and all that. They’re learning with new guys. Chris (Carson) has just had his first full season playing, and so these guys are all learning together. They’re growing well together.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE IN THE GROWTH OF SHAQUILL GRIFFIN THIS SEASON
“I thought he was very consistent throughout the year. I thought he was very solid. We counted on him to be the guy that I’m not concerned about him; he’s going to be all right. He had all of the experience of one year. But I think he had a good, solid season. I understand there’s been some talk about his game (at Dallas) this week. He missed a tackle, and a guy caught a fade route and he was all over the guy. He’s a good ball player. I thought he played really good, throughout the season. He was tough. He was physical. His approach was great. His physicalness is absolutely rock-solid. I think we are lucky to have him playing and he just continues to get better. There is no question he will continue to improve.”
WAS THERE A MOMENT THIS SEASON THAT PROVED TO YOU THIS GROUP CAN WIN TITLES?
“I don’t think there was a moment, there were just the moments throughout the season. The indications early on, that was great. And then for the guys to carry through the challenges and the ups and downs of the early part of the season, and to stay and to sustain the mentality and to continue to grow and get better--we won, what, six or seven games at the end of the year?--you can feel the guys felt they should have won them all. That connection they have to what we are asking them to do, and the willingness to practice that on a regular basis, to bring their attitude and bring their energy all the time, that’s rare. It’s special. And that’s what gives me the thought--I can go back a few years, I said the same thing four, five, six years ago, whatever it was now, you know? You can tell that the nucleus and the core of the team that you need to have a championship club is here. Maybe they’ve got their own build on it. I couldn’t be more adamant about that right now. That’s where we are.”
DID THAT NEW CORE DEVELOP THIS YEAR? OR IS IT STILL GOING TO BE IN PROGRESS NEXT YEAR?
“We took a big jump this year. I think we have a real clear understanding of what we are trying to get done, and how we are going to go about it. The challenges, everything was very much up front. We were very accountable, very open to the areas that we need to get better, from the coaches through the players. We took a really good step in our mentality in terms of accountability. We just got better at it. We were willing to be vulnerable in stating everything in the areas of accountability that we can improve on. We took a step in that understanding and that communication. I think that was a really instrumental part in the chemistry in what happened during this season. That’s going to carry us going forward. Kind of goes back to, was there a moment? No, I don’t think there was a moment. But there were enough moments that when you put it together, it was obvious.”
MOMENTUM AT END OF THE SEASON, HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN THAT THROUGH THIS OFFSEASON?
“Well, there is a momentum, and that is the message that’s been carried throughout. Hopefully, everything goes well. It’s really important that they have an individual plan that is organized and is structured, and then they go about it. A lot of our guys, our young guys, are asking, ‘Do we go home?’ Do they go home to their home here? Do they go home to where they come from? They just didn’t know. So those are the conversation, as basic as that may sound, of getting organized to put together a really good, active plan, until April 15 or whatever it is.”
RUSSELL WILSON AND TALKING TO HIS REPRESENTATIVE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A LONG-TERM DEAL DONE WITH HIM BEFORE NEXT SEASON, GIVEN HIS CONTRACT ENDS FOLLOWING THE 2019 SEASON?
“We talked about all of that, yeah. Russ and I met and we talked about the future. We are talking about where we are going and what we want to get done. And, you know, that’s very much in our plans.”
DOUG BALDWIN’S SEASON?
“I thought it was a heroic season for Doug. I thought it was so hard for him because it was so different. He’s never missed anything, maybe there was a couple of days in practice in years past, but he had to deal with that and he had to find a way and a mode he could get through the weeks and prep. Which I don’t mean to feel sorry for him but it was a challenge for him. It was a new way of looking at the world and he had to shift gears and all that. I thought he finished in tremendous fashion and made all of the plays. He came through and was huge down the stretch here and was really happy for that so he could recapture the feeling of being a big part of the club and what was going on and being able to factor in like he pictures. He’s an incredible player.”
DOUG BALDWIN’S FUTURE?
“Yeah, planning on being right with us.”
HOW WILL YOUR TEAM VIEW THE NEW LEAGUE?
“That’s a good topic right now. We’re all kind of excited about it. We’re going to take it in and do the evaluations where they allow us to, when we can see them and all of that. We’ll do all the film work. We’ll do everything. We’ll break these guys down. We’ll take it as a whole other aspect of the feeding system to give us information. The only way we know how to do it is fully go for it. We’re going to really embrace the whole setup. It’s an exciting venture as always. We think it’s necessary. We think it’s a necessary opportunity that has been created and we’re really excited to see where turns out. We’re going to learn stuff. We’re going to learn about these guys and some of them are going to play. I think it’s great. I hope it works out.”
KJ AND DOUG MISSING TIME WITH INJURIES. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT VETERAN PLAYERS?
“I think it’s reality that the challenges grow. The challenges grow to stay healthy and all of that. That’s not exclusive to us. That’s just sports in general. We all get a little older, Art. Some of us don’t. Have to deal with it.”
HOW MUCH DOES THE IMPACT OF A GUY’S INFLUENCE IN THE LOCKER AND MEETING ROOMS FACTOR INTO WHETHER TO KEEP THEM?
“It really does factor in. All of that factors in and in particular in our program where the relationships are so important to us and what they add and how they help others paly better around them. It’s one of the great factors that some athletes bring. They bring that factor guys around them play better when they’re next to them. We have to evaluate that just as much as height, weight and speed, and try to understand where to make the considerations and all that. There is no question that’s important. You hear me always go back to the leadership has been so significant around here and we’ve had such great direction from guys and the really exciting thing is to watch guys grow into that position. Frank is a great example of that. He’s just grown into becoming a voice and a constant and those guys they bring value in that manner for sure.”
HOW MUCH DID GUYS WHO LOVE FOOTBALL SHOW UP THIS YEAR?
“I think it showed up across the board in the draft class, and Poona and figuring out Jordan Simmons fit with us too, and Elijah and these guys, were guys that fit with us and added to our team. It’s so important, mentality, so important the competitiveness and the chip on the shoulder that the guys bring and the attitude that they’ve got to prove something. We’ve lived with those guys, they’ve been the core of this team for years and I think it’s the element for any team in any sport anywhere. It’s the grit that they bring that make them uniquely standout and uniquely hang tough and persevere and all the stuff that stands for. We’re just going to continue to evaluate more deeply to understand our guys even more so that we can count on what we’re going to get from the guys. IT’s not always how fast they are or how big they are. The great example of this, let’s talk about Poona. Poona is 5-foot-11 and he was player of the year in his conference because he was a great player and he got overlooked to the point where we had a chance to get him in free agency and we got him. That’s a classic example. He’s a baller. It will be really tough to keep him down because he is just such a good football player. It means so much to him, he cares so much about it. It’s a great attribute of a guy. Hopefully that’s consistent throughout.”
WHAT WAS THE CHALLENGE OF INTEGRATING SO MANY NEW COACHES?
“Well, it is certainly a challenge and it sets you back time wise because it takes a while to communicate and to learn and to study and all that and that process is till ongoing. Schotty and I and Kenny and I will come back around again and we will go through everything all of our guys, we actually start tomorrow, we already go to work on it to put together what happened, what took place, what we set out to do, what we would do differently, how we would see it differently, what we have learned from our players, what we’ve learned from our coaches, the combination of Schotty and Mike working together, Mike Solari, they did a marvelous job together. But there are adjustments to be made there, too, as we go forward, adjustments in what our players are capable of doing, all of those things have to be evaluated. So it is a big challenge and its not over, we are just in the idle of it. Everything is a competition for us, we are competing to figure all of that out. It’s obviously a challenge that we can handle but we think we can do better and try to improve and find everywhere we can to make this as competitive a club as we can and that’s all that that work is going to call for.’’
EXPECTING ANY CHANGES IN THE COACHING STAFF?
“I don’t know. There are a lot of changes the league happening so who knows. I don’t know what is going to happen. We will see how that goes but we don’t anticipate any major changes.’’
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF THE SPECIAL TEAMS THIS SEASON?
“I think we had some ups and downs. We had a great stretch in the middle that we were really on it and I thought that we showed some vulnerabilities late in the year on some returns and part of that was adapting to the kicker, the punter, that’s just what happened. It was a classic example of driving the ball so deep and Tavon Austin gets all that room to run and he found a little space on us, you know. He kicked the ball 68 yards to get that done, Mike just missed that ball getting out of bounds, which he is great at doing. But I think there’s some newnews, too, and as you get on in the season the inexperience can show up moreso in that the experienced guys can take advantage of a young guy that makes an error or misses an opportunity or all of that. Again that’s an area where we think we can improve and get better just through maturity. But I thought there was a little bit of inconsistency there that showed up and some big plays that happened that we weren’t accustomed too. And they weren’t all in the same area. So it I think that shows us that this is our guys and we’ve just got to keep growing with them and making sure we are giving them the right opportunities and teaching them well and helping them grow so they can make the right decisions and choices and all.’’
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE FAN BASE?
“I appreciate that. This was a really exciting year and I know that we exceeded expectations. Not so much exceeded expectations on the inside. We had high hopes for being where we are and I love this team because of who they are and what they are all about and how they bring it and the style that we have and the style that we can continue to develop that can single us out and mkake us soeting special. I don’t thnk there is any doubt that that is the case. And just in hearing comments as the season grew I think our fans learned our players and they started to grow with them and anticipate their plays because the familiarity began to become obvious and I think as our season crescendoed the ceiling crescendoed too and I think all of the interaction and the response and we saw the people that would be there for us when we were leaving and traveling and all that continued to grow like we have seen in the past, all of that is just great signs for really high hopes and really big expectations for the future. I don’t mind the big expectations at all. I don’t mind them one bit. These guys are worthy of it.’’
ON INJURED-RESERVE GUYS C.J. PROSISE AND AMARA DARBOH?
“Yeah I hope. I saw Amara yesterday he looks great, he should be fine and C.J. he really needed the surgery that he had, it was a little more extensive than we thought but he will be back from that, that’s about an eight-week recovery or something like that so he will be fine. A great, competitive position for us and I love C.J.’s play. I think he is a fantastic player, he just has had that bug about staying healthy he’s had to deal with, but he’s a terrific competitor when he’s out there so it will be exciting to have him back.
HAVE YOU TALKED TO EARL THOMAS?
WOULD YOU LIKE EARL THOMAS BACK?
“Uh...we will see what happens. I don’t know, yeah, I’d love, Earl’s a great player. I don’t now what that means for contact and all that stuff but it’s one of the issues. We’ve got a bunch of them.’’
DOES SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI NEED SURGERY?
“I don’t know that yet, haven’t heard back on that yet. He thought not. He didn’t think he did something out of the ordinary of a hamstring pull, but it was certainly significant.”
HOW DID SHAQUEM GRIFFIN HANDLE HIS ROOKIE YEAR?
“I think he handled it really well. I think the two of them gaining strength from each other made their way through it with all of the attention and the focus on the brothers and all of that. They competed great, they were always here. Their mentality was great every day. Every day they were consistent with their attitude and their approach to it. I think Griff gave himself a chance to be a factor in a lot of ways on the team. He showed up, he played hard, he worked hard, he learned a lot playing his linebacker spot. He has come miles from where he started. So I think he handled it really well, but it’s hard to separate them handling it together. They’re just kind of peas in a pod, you know? I thought it was a very successful year under all of the attention.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF GERMAIN IFEDI’S SEASON?
“He had a good year. He improved throughout the year. He was very stead. He really took to Mike (Solari) and (Brennan Carroll)’s coaching. They worked with him to make sure he was working to improve the whole time, and his attitude towards getting better technique-wise and scheme-wise. He’s a legit player.”
HOW DID THE YOUNG DEFENDERS HANDLE A ROAD PLAYOFF GAME?
“We didn’t have an yproblem at all, it wasn’t even an issue. We can go anywhere, and it was evidenced again in that game. They played great football, hard, tough, all that. We’ve got to get rid of the errors, we’ve got to clean up, and they will. I don’t think it had anything to do with where we were playing.”
DID YOU SEE MORE DISCIPLINED PLAY FROM IFEDI?
“I don’t know about disciplined, Yeah, well in terms of—he had the penalty thing that really jumped out a year ago—he did better for sure there. But he’s just growing, learning, knows what he can do and what he can’t do better, and he’s much more consistent. He came out of the season physically in great shape, so he should have a terrific offseason and should come raring back again. We should count on those guys up front to be really good now. They should be improved and just a step forward with the system and all the things we asked them to do differently. They’ll be better, and he certainly will to.”
DID YOU MEET YOUR OWN EXPECATIONS THIS SEASON?
“We were approaching it. We can see the future, and that’s kind of how I would say it, that we can tell where we can go. Our expectations is that we needed to further this year and keep going and keep playing, everybody feels like that. Nobody was satisfied with the outcome
WHAT AREAS OF THE TEAM NEED IMPROVED?”
“It’s interesting, John (Schneider) and I are in our conversations as we’re putting it together—I’m not going share that with you directly—but we’re pleased with the progress that we’ve made with the guys we have, so we know we’re adding too. We don’t feel like there’s big voids and big holes, so we’re going to add too. To make this roster more competitive across the board is really the intent and make guys have to work harder to hold their spots and have to get better to do that. That’s right at the heart of what we’re all about, so we’re really looking forward to that.”
WHAT IMPACT DID KAM CHANCELLOR HAVE?
“Kam’s pretty quiet. Kind of a travels quietly and carries a big stick kind of guy, you know? I loved having him around. Every time he was with us on the road late in the season, I just loved him being with us, because he is a steadying force. He’s one of those guys who helps other people perform better and feel more confident and feel better about themselves. He has a way of doing that, so he was very helpful, and I hope that we can keep him close to the program. He’s got great input.”
DO YOUR WANT TO KEEP FLUKER AND SWEEZY FOR NEXT SEASON?
“We’d love to keep those guys with us. We’d love to do that.”
HAS THE 2017 DRAFT CLASS PROGRESSED THE WAY YOU HOPED?
“Those guys are worth talking about. I’m glad you brought it up because they’re hugely instrumental in what’s going on moving forward here. Look at the difference between Delano (Hill) and Tedric’s (Thompson) play a year ago and how they contributed now. I think Delano is going to be really good. He’s just getting started. Tedric, we’ve been as excited as can be about and he’s just getting going too really. Chris Carson had a fantastic season for us. What a player he is and a contributor he is. What a great draft pick that was. So those guys are a big part of it. Give me another name (David Moore, Ethan Pocic). Yeah David Moore he was a guy I pointed to yesterday may be one of the guys that can improve the most from Year 2 to Year 3 because of where he’s come from, the sparks that he showed during the season. A fantastic competitor on this roster to play and be a factor a year from now. If you have four guys like that – who were the other ones you said? (Naz Jones). Naz has been moved to 5-technique. Excited about that. We did that in the middle of the year to see him contribute out there. That’s a tremendous statement about that class. That’s why it feels like it feels. There’s two solid years of young guys that are right in the middle of just the start of their careers, and they’re with us and they’re good dudes and they work hard and they care and all that. I can’t talk any more positive about how we see the future. Those guys are the reason. They are the future. That’s the guys I’m talking to in this room that’s probably 10 draft picks at least, maybe it’s 12 draft picks in the last couple years that are right in the middle of everything. That’s exciting.”
DID TYLER LOCKETT EXCEED EXPECTATIONS THIS YEAR?
“I was thinking about the analogy of a baseball player who gets a big contract and he hits a buck-98 or sometI hing the next year. That didn’t happen. He got a new contract, he got rewarded for the work he had done and the future that it holds and then he just took off. It was a challenging year for Tyler. He was very emotional about the whole transition of getting the new contract and representing his future and all. It was a really big deal to him, it really mattered to him that he did well and man did he do well. The stat that we’ve got to always remember – I don’t even know where this stat comes from but having the highest efficiency that you could possibly have with your quarterback. I’ve never heard of that stat being taken into account but what a number. Look at what he did the last game. We threw two balls, he had four or five catches for 100-something yards. He just did it again. Every single opportunity he showed, he came through. He’s got to be considered one of the most explosive, one of the most dynamic players in the game. It’s what he looked like and he showed it. So I’m really excited about that.”
HOW DO YOU KEEP THE UNITY TOGETHER KNOWING THE TEAM WILL CHANGE SOME? DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH OF A CORE TO DO THAT?
“I’m going to take that challenge on personally to do everything I can to find the ways to make sense for these where we’re going and how they in their individual ways can contribute to this by figuring out who they are and what they are, what are their possibilities that they can venture into to create the most dynamic aspect of themselves for this team. Every aspect of developing them and challenging them and teaching them and challenging them to find their greatness. Really that’s what this is. Challenge them to find how deep they can dig and how much they have in there so that they don’t miss this opportunity to be the best they can possibly be. It may sound like a bunch of (inaudible) but that’s what this is. It’s one guy, individual, his story, his world, where he’s coming from, how can he tap into it, how can we kick him in the ass to figure out how to push him and then love him up and hug him up, whatever it takes to get that done. So I’ve got a bunch of guys to work with that care in the same fashion, the staff cares that way, they understand this is what we’re all about. I want the culture of this building to be obvious. When you walk in here you can tell that something’s going on here. That’s part of it. That’s an every-day, never-stop ethic. Really, it’s the ethos of this place that we have to have that intact and I’ve got to make sure that happens. To take on that challenge it’s a life challenge I love. So that’s what we’ve got to do and see where that leads us.”
DID THIS SEASON REJUVENATE YOU AS A COACH AT ALL?
“Yeah. Yeah. I had more fun. I agree with Sweez. Sweez had more fun than he’s ever had. So did I. It was a blast. I love that game. I know it was ugly and hard at times and all that, but I loved that we were in it fighting and clawing and scratching up and down the sidelines seeing guys find their belief and again rediscover that belief and why we should keep believing. Sure enough, Russ hits Tyler and here we go. We’re coming back. It’s an exciting part of it. This season was just kind of the tip of it with so much more. There’s so much more out there, so it’s a blast.”