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Doug Marrone: Bills QB situation "challenging"

Posted Oct 30, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about the quarterback situation heading into Sunday, what he thinks of the offensive line, and the status of Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Opening Statement:
Did not participate in practice: Thad Lewis with sore ribs, Freddy Jackson with knee, Kyle Williams with the achilles which is normal and Stevie Johnson with his hip. Limited in practice was EJ Manuel, C.J. Spiller with an ankle, Marquise Goodwin with his elbow, but he really did mostly everything. Manny Lawson with his hamstring and Kraig Urbik with a knee. That’s where we are. I know you guys have a lot of questions.

Q: Are you at the point with quarterback where you just spin the wheel now and pick a guy?
A: Challenging is a word we use. It’s challenging and I really, to be honest with you, obviously EJ was cleared to go on the field today so we’re working with him. He’s not going to play. The doctors haven’t cleared him. Thad is truly right now 50-50. Obviously we’ll know more. Then today was the first time that I saw Matt Flynn really out there a little bit, he took some reps. Then we have Jeff Tuel. I think that if you look at it anywhere or any way else you could talk yourself in to making excuses. I think it’s a great challenge. I think pick it up, we’ll do whatever we can if we have to go with either Jeff (Tuel) or Matt (Flynn) and do the best job for them in putting them in to position to win and for the team.

Q: Is the rib injury from the first hit he took?
A: I don’t know if it was a hit, it was a couple. I’m being honest because the x-rays came back negative so it’s just more the doctors call it a contusion and I think in layman’s terms I call it sore.

Q: How do you balance out the reps this week knowing that you have to get one guy ready to play?
A: Working them rep by rep just trying to figure it out. Same way, just trying to do it. It’s challenging, it’s difficult.

Q: Where is Matt Flynn at in terms of catching on to the offense?
A: He’s smart. It’s just a matter of going out there and seeing. I think we could bring a lot of us in to a room and learn it, but then going out on the field and doing it.

Q: I asked Matt if it felt like a quarterback competition this week. Is that how you see it?
A: I don’t know right now. I want to see where Thad is first. I’ve got tomorrow to really look at that. That’s the way I’m looking at it. Obviously I feel better about Jeff right now because I know Jeff. That’s not to say Matt’s not good enough, I just haven’t seen enough from Matt to really say it’s a competition yet.

Q: You excited about the new analytics hire?

A: I’m big into that and I always have been. We use it quite a bit, but we use it every day really for a lot of different reasons even more so from outside of third down or things like that. There’s a lot of other things that we’re researching and trying to get ourselves in to. I had talked about it to Russ (Brandon) when the interview process was on and Mike Lyons is coming aboard so I’m really excited about that. The people that I’ve dealt with in the past on it have been MIT grads and that’s one of the things I told Russ. The guys I dealt with before have been from MIT and those guys that I have dealt with have been off the charts amazing. I think it’s something when you look at, it can just really give you information maybe to make, in football, make better decisions but it’s really information for the whole organization. Stephen Brown has been doing it with me for a while now so I feel great that we have someone in there. The other thing that I feel good about is it’s not, and we talked about this in the interview, it’s not something where we’re going to borrow other peoples programs or productions, we’re going to be doing that ourselves. That’s one of the mistakes sometimes people make with analytics. They go out and buy programs and then try to feed information to it. My experience is that you have to build from scratch what gives you the best information.

Q: The approach you’re using right now, is this what you did at Syracuse and how is it phased in?
A: I’ve always done it as a coach. Meaning I think you do it naturally and I’ll give you an example. Two minutes before the half, two minute at the end of the game with a three score, a field goal or a touchdown, teams may change and look at percentages of coverages. I told you the other day, when you game plan you look at percentages of coverages. 60 percent is cover two, 40 percent is cover one. If you have ten plays, six of them are going to be against cover two and the other plays will be against cover one. You balance yourself out on stuff like that. I think we’ve always used it and I’ve used it to other extremes of third down situations is it better 3rd and eight or is it better 2nd and 18? What are the percentages there? We do around with a lot of, we do it with the team every week. I don’t know if they know that, but when we talk to them about the things that we do as far as what it takes to beat a team and we try to keep those private. Those come from a lot of analytics.

Q: Can you talk about your offensive line? Where do you think they are right now?
A: I think they’re working hard. I think there are some things that we’ve struggled with at times. I think there are some things we’ve done well. I think we have to get that balance, I think you’re right. When people start to come at you, you have to show you can make plays. What it does, is it puts everyone individually truly one on one in what you’re doing. I’ll throw some analytics; there is more of a percentage of a breakdown. They’re working hard. You see it and it goes from week to week. Sometimes we have great challenges with the different types of players that we’re seeing. The challenges of the one on one battles have been good as far as being able to hold for most of the game. We’ve made mistakes in that where we need to do a better job along with everyone on the team of just being smart and saying, ‘Hey listen. This is what this guy does, this is his favorite move, I’m not going to let him beat me with this move; I’m going to make him beat me on a counter move. Here’s the down and distance, here’s the situation, this is how that guy goes.’ Things like that where I think we lose sight of some of that during the course of the game.

Q: To the naked eye, Cordy Glenn seems to be having the best season of the five guys. What has he been able to do?
A: Really Eric Wood is playing really well on the inside, but if you look at it from the standpoint of maybe the one on one battle that people can see on the two edges, I think Cordy has done a nice job. He has a great challenge; both of our tackles have an unbelievable challenge this week.

Q: What are your thoughts about Stevie’s status for Sunday?
A: I talked to Stevie today. He told me he thinks he’ll be ready to go and be out there tomorrow limited.

Q: Is Stevie one of those guys who always wants to go? Even though he was limping pretty badly in the game, he wanted to stay in there. Do you have to be careful with him?
A: I think you have to be careful with all of them. You know what you have to guard from? You have to guard from the player wants to go in there and don’t get me wrong, I’ve said a million times I appreciate that, but then we have to look at it from a production standpoint where what can you get out of it?

Q: How about C.J. Spiller?

A: I’m probably still going to go day to day. Take a good peek tomorrow; I’m not ready to really stand on the table one way or the other.

Q: Was Thad Lewis not well enough to go out and watch practice today?
A: We just thought that we film it, so we thought it would be better to lay down and rest and there was a little bit of a flu virus too.

Q: He’s obviously your most experienced quarterback in the system, if he could be able to practice Friday would you feel good about him playing?
A: It would depend on how he practiced that Friday, it really would. Like I said before, each player is different. That’s not discounting Jeff and Matt Flynn with those guys putting the work in. Those two guys have been told to prepare like they’re going to be able to start this game. We’ve got Thad being ready, obviously we’re preparing mentally and then we just have to make sure physically he can play.

Q: EJ Manuel hasn’t been cleared, but to get him back out there how did he look?
A: He looked good out there.

Q: What are you looking for specifically between Jeff and Matt that would make you lean one way or the other?
A: I would probably look at it with the game plan and what we’re doing and who is best to win the game for us.

Q: How much more confidence do you have in Jeff given that he struggled against Cleveland?
A: I think the Cleveland game, and I’ve said this before, is probably the worst situation you could ever have. He’s a rookie free agent, we all know that. We do like what he does and we like the tools and we really in a perfect world would love to have him on the practice squad and working with him, there’s no doubt about that. He’s in this situation now where he has to make the best of that opportunity. I feel better, I really thought last week and I said this Jeff and I said this to other people in the organization, that he had an outstanding week of practice. He really did. Threw the ball better than I’ve ever seen him throw the ball. Really on target accuracy-wise and all that. I was very pleased with the way he practiced this week knowing that a situation like this would happen with Thad. Really with Matt, I can’t speak a lot about Matt because today was the first time I saw a couple plays and I’ve got to see more before I make or put an opinion out there that is going to get written about on the kid.

Q: Can you give us a characterization for how the first half of the season went?
A: Disappointed in our results being 3-5, but excited about moving forward.

Q: The Chiefs a model at what can happen in this league or are you amazed that the team you’re watching on film could go 0-12 in the AFC last year?
A: I wasn’t there last year, so it’s hard. I think they’re the last unbeaten team, they’re 8-0, they’re plus 12 in turnovers. Their defense, who I’ve personally worked with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and the linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, are not good coaches, but they’re outstanding coaches. I don’t know Coach Reid personally, but I’ve competed against him and know what they’ve done. They are playing, defensively they are playing outstanding. When you think about it, you think about a team that’s been able to hold teams, and there’s articles about the scoring is up and total yards are up and all those things are going up in the National Football League, and here comes this team in the Kansas City Chiefs and they’ve given up 17 points or less a game. When you look at the modern age of football and you look at the 1977, that’s when I really started getting in to football, I remember the Atlanta ‘Gritz Blitz’ Falcons and what they were doing. They were number one at nine games in a row. I think number two is the ’71 Dolphins and number 3 at eight, which they just tied, I’m just going with a little history, a little trivia, I think the next team was the 1970 Minnesota Vikings. What they’re doing and you know what they’re hot. They’re playing extremely well. They take the shots when they need to take their shots and Coach Reid is always going to do that. They’re blocking well up front, positive yards, not making a lot of mistakes. Taking advantage of the turnovers. 38 percent of their total points are scored off their turnovers. Field position, they’re averaging the 34 yard line, the opponents are averaging the 22 which is 7.2 points per game if you look at it that they’re getting just in field position. They have a lot of things going which is going to be a pretty big challenge for us. How’s that for analytics right there.

Q: Does what they’ve done in such a short span in turning around, does it encourage you to show that teams can turn things around quickly?
A: That’s not really a decision for me to make or really a question to answer. I don’t know what the situation was there. I think that when you play, I will say this though, when you do play on Sunday everywhere I’ve been in this league you have a chance to win. How do you go about the following week and how do you go about the preparation and how do you go about your mental state, I think everyone is different. You do have the opportunity in this league to get on a roll just like you do in any other sport. We see it in baseball all the time. You see it in this league a lot. You rarely see the good teams losing two games in a row.

Q: Any inkling that Thad will be able to practice tomorrow?
A: 50-50. Thad’s sticking with the doctors.

Q: Does Dennis Dixon factor in to the quarterback equation at all?
A: No.

Q: What do you think about facing a defense like this when you have a lot of injuries?
A: I think it’s a great challenge. I do, I really do. I think it’s a thing where we’ve got to put our players in good position. The things that we feel that we can do well during the game, we have to do well. You’re not going to be able to go to a lot of different things. You’re going to have to have one heck of a game plan and you’re going to have to execute really well. You’re going to have to do that even with those other guys there. I think it puts more of a burden on all of us. Usually you don’t like to say, and I’ve said it before, ‘Don’t worry about Thad Lewis, worry about yourself on the field.’ I really believe that. At this point in time right now, it’s too early for me to say that. Right now I’m feeling the onus on us and making sure we’re putting them in the best position we can. That’s’ not a coaching line, that’s how I feel today.

Q: With Thad, do you gain some admiration for the fact that he played every snap in the New Orleans game?
A: It’s interesting. When I was a player, and it was a very short time, I remember watching Dalton Hilliard early on and I remember him coming up near the sideline because I was sitting on the bench and people were tackling and hitting him in one of these physical games. I remember thinking to myself that this is a physical game and how physical it is. I keep saying the same thing and John Anselmo just had this conversation. John, he’s been at Nassau Community College, he was with me at Georgia Tech and he’s come here, he was with me at Syracuse. I was telling John because we were talking about practicing and shoulder pads or shouldn’t we go with shoulder pads and I said it’s getting this point in the year where we don’t need to go out there today at this point and time, we don’t have any issues to tackle. He says, ‘You know what? Years ago I would have said that’s crazy, but when you go out there on Sunday and watch those guys play and how physical a game it is, it’s truly amazing.’ I think that until you’re really on that sideline and you can really hear what’s going on out there and how physical a game it is, I think you have an appreciation not just for Thad, but for all those players that are out there. It’s an extremely physical game. Any time and John probably said it best and maybe I don’t appreciate it as much because I’ve been in the league before, is that any one of those shots can hurt someone. To say the same thing, I used to go out to a local restaurant because I can’t say bar and you’d have my friends in there and they’d say, ‘I wish they’d pay me a million dollars, I’d get in there with Mike Tyson.’ When I was a little kid, I used to go to those Golden Glove fights and when you get those heavyweights in there and you’re next in the ring and you see those guys and when they hit each other you’re like ‘Oof.’ I said, ‘You go in there with Mike Tyson for a million dollars, you might not be able to spend it because you wouldn’t be able to go out there.’ It’s the same with this game. I think you have to have a great appreciation for how physical it is and what these players go through.

Q: It sounds like as a team and an organization you wanted a better analytics department that may someday help you with challenges?
A: Absolutely. I think it’s one of those things like when you look at, let’s say you take all the challenges for 2012 or 2013 and you combined them. You say to yourself what was challenged and then you look to yourself, right off the top of my head I would bet and I don’t know this, this doesn’t come from true information, I would bet when you’re challenging a spot in the field, I bet you it’s less than six percent at best as far as when you’re challenging a spot on the field. Now I bet when you challenge a foot on the line, you’re probably hitting some high grades there. I think that’s a way to get information to see what are your percentages to challenging what could at times be crucial challenges. Especially the spot one.

Q: Was it just a rest day for Kraig Urbik or did he tweak something?
A: He was out there and he was limited going in to practice. We just want to limit his reps.

Q: So you expect him to play Sunday?
A: Yes. Absolutely.