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Doug Marrone: "all of our focus is going to be on winning"

Posted Nov 20, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about adding an offensive lineman to the roster, his message to the players heading into the long weekend, and how fast he wants the offense functioning.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Opening Statement:
The last couple days we really concentrated on getting our players, basically for lack of a better term, flushed out. Meaning the soreness, so we did a lot of weight training, pushed them hard in the weight room, pushed them hard running. As coaches, we were able to start getting the game plans ready as best we can. Waiting for the one game obviously, Atlanta plays on Thursday. I’m happy to say that if we were playing this week, we’d have everybody healthy, everybody practicing. That’s a great sign. I think the most part, for the players they’re going home; they understand that it’s just a bye. We explained it to them that it’s not the end of the season and the reason why is we want to make sure they come back with the proper mindset and that they’re ready to go. We talked to them about nutrition while they’re away, we talked to them about lifting while they’re away and we talked about conditioning while away.

We talked about the mindset when they come back, we as coaches we’ve been able to look back at a lot of things and it’s tough to sit here with a smile when we look back and some of the opportunities that we’ve had. It’s like going through and reliving those things. We still have a large portion of games in front of us. I was able to peek at a couple of teams, which means I kind of just got a glance at them. Obviously I’m aware of their records; I think their records are not a great indication of really who those teams are. They’ve had some injuries to some of those teams and some tough breaks. It looks like a couple of them are starting to play well, maybe like we are. That’s what we hope to do. We understand that we’re disappointed in where we are, but it’s what we are. We have five games where we can change that and build a foundation for what we have and we don’t want to look too far down the road. Really it comes back and all of our focus is going to be on winning a game and beating Atlanta.

Q: You made a roster move, were you looking to specifically add an offensive lineman or was it more a case of this guy you liked and had to have?

A: It might be a little bit of both really. We switched out, the roster moves obviously are we switched out the practice squad and then we brought J.J. (Unga) in, we had looked at him before when we were looking at Antoine (McClain). He was actually with Baltimore at one time, missed him on waivers the first time. I think what we like to do is build a bigger team. My philosophy has always been that this is a game for; it’s a big man’s game. I think that when we have the opportunity to better ourselves, we have to go ahead and do that no matter what time of year it is. I think players know that and coaches know that. That’s what we’re trying to do; we’re trying to get bigger.

Q: Does he play tackle?
A: What’s interesting is they had him at tackle, when you look at the film actually Antoine McClain was playing guard and he was playing next to him at tackle. We’re moving him inside to play guard.

Q: Is this bye at a good time or a bad time?
A: I don’t know. I look at it, sometimes when I say a bye is coming at a good time, maybe you’re a little rattled things aren’t going well. Obviously if there’s injuries, then the bye becomes great. I think we as coaches look at it as right in the middle of the year is the most beneficial from a quality control/self-scout type of standpoint. I’ve never been involved with a bye this late. I said it before and I explained it to the players, I think where that bye occurs and how healthy your team is dictates a lot of what you do on that bye week. I made a decision to make sure this late let’s get our guys healthy, let’s get them feeling good and let’s get them rolling. I think that’s the challenge, what you said and that’s what we talked about today in great length with the players. When they come back that mindset, we can’t afford to kind of get things going with a two to three day acclimation period. We have to come back ready to go on Monday.

Q: Where do you think this team is at in terms of the renewal of the organization?
A: I think it’s a constant evolution. You’re always trying to get better as you go. I don’t think you say, ‘Ok here. Boom. We’ve stopped and we’re ready to go.’ I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m not pleased with the development of our younger players. I think they’ve done quite well, they really have. I think even when you look at the second year players; I think we sometimes forget the second year players and what their progress is. That’s a big year for those types of players. I think that there’s still a lot left where those players can make a great impact, make a great move, keep developing and I know that some point someone told me that we were the third youngest team in the league, so it’s important for our guys to learn how to finish and get better. That’s what we’re trying to do. To say when does it stop, I don’t think it ever stops. Whether it’s us as coaches looking to get better or looking to get a better roster.

Q: What about assessing your rookie season as a head coach so far? You are a rookie after all.
A: Yeah, people say that and I don’t know what that means. I think that if it was the first time I was a head coach, I think there would be a lot of things. I said it before when I was an assistant coach, I use to always say to myself and look at the head coach and look at the seat and look at the table and I would say to myself, ‘What’s he doing? Where is he going? Gosh this doesn’t seem that hard.’ And I would say I don’t why people when they look for a head coach, look for so much of head coaching experience and then I think when you take the job, and I said this before and I’ve told this to a lot of people, when you take the job you’re like, ‘Holy cow.’ You’re dealing with a lot of different issues in all different areas in different departments. I think that everyone has a plan, everyone has a protocol, but those plans are constantly challenged each day. I think that really one of the main things is how to manage yourself. I think with my experience back in college I think that really really helped me and made this transition much much easier than the transition before. I have a lot more respect for first time head coaches and head coaches in general for what they have to do.

Q: Since you’re such a young team, was there a stress by you to stay smart on this bye week because a lot of these younger guys are going back home and being with their friends?
A: Absolutely. We addressed that today in the team meeting. It’s one of those things, I always get upset, I’m not one of those types of coaches that say, god forbid if something happens, I can say, ‘On August 22nd we had a program on this, on August 29th we did a program on this...’ kind of like that checklist type of approach. So we talked to the players today, we gave them examples of what has gone on with some things on the bye week. We talked about how important it is for our focus. We talked about going back out and leaving an atmosphere of quite a bit of structure from during the season and going back out there. Keeping the structure and being careful, let’s be honest. When players leave, no matter what team, especially young ones, they’re back in to their families and a lot of things come upon them. Meaning responsibilities and problems. So I told them don’t go out there, be very careful and specific with what you do. Make sure you rest and all the things, but we don’t want you leaving and coming back with more problems. Honestly, that’s what I told them, I said you want to come back here and we want to play like we did last weekend and prove whether it’s a chip on our shoulder or what we have to do. We have a lot to prove, we have a lot of room for improvement. We’re disappointed and let’s get after it in this next game.

Q: You’ve gotten pretty healthy in the secondary with everyone now back and playing well. Da’Norris (Searcy) has seemed to settle in to his role, how do you think he’s done in that?
A: I love him in the dime role. I truly love him in the dime role. I think that he is a good safety, obviously we have Aaron (Williams) and Jairus (Byrd) back there. I think if something happened to one of them and we put Da’Norris back there, I’d be very fine with that. I wouldn’t be like, ‘What are we going to do? We have to get them healthy.’ He is an outstanding dime complement for us.

Q: How much scoreboard watching do you think you’ll be doing this weekend?
A: I struggle a little bit. I get all excited and then I put it on and I realize to myself this is what I do. I think that one the weekend, for me I’m probably coming in and get a little done and try to get myself ready. I think, honestly I’m not going to lie, I don’t really spend enough time with my family and I have three little kids. I’m going to try to spend some time with them and my dog.

Q: Now that EJ is back, how fast do you want the no huddle offense to function?
A: It’s going to be dictated by a couple things, we’ve had discussions about it. A lot of it is going to be by how much we want to change up the personnel. I think that we’re going to have the ability to get to a couple different tempos. We wanted to take the moment to kind of step back and develop the quarterback. I think you’re going to see it grow, I really do, in to a lot of different things. How fast that happens, I really can’t put a time frame on it, but I know we’ve been talking about it. A lot just has to do with the quarterback. We felt very good and everyone knows because of EJ in the beginning, we went through that whole deal and felt here comes Cleveland in the second half and here we go and then the injury. I think that we’re all smart enough to understand that when he first came back after four and a half weeks on the road against a defense that was under a lot of scrutiny at that time with veteran players and then now this week coming off his best game really to date. Has he arrived? Obviously I hope so, but the proof in the pudding is going to be the consistency. Once the consistency starts to come then you can see us doing a lot more different things.

Q: The first two weeks you were trying to run it as fast as possible, it seems like you backed off of that a little bit?
A: It goes back, and I also said this at the time, when you switch personnel you’re not going to go as fast. Everyone understands that and then we switched personnel to try to give us an advantage. I think it’s a little bit of both.

Q: Kyle Williams mentioned that rookies tend to hit a wall around this time of year just because this is around when the college season would usually end. Have you noticed that in your experience?
A: I did when I was in the league, I’ve been out for four years. Coming back I don’t see it as much now and I mentioned that before because I think practices have changed. The last time I was in the league we had a couple rookies starting for us in New Orleans when we went to the playoffs. We really made a conscious effort to make sure that those guys didn’t do that with nutrition and weight lifting. They really didn’t, they played extremely well throughout the playoffs. I don’t see that as much anymore. I do think that if you’re not prepared mentally, that could happen to you. I have not seen that in any of our guys and a lot of our young guys, when you look at the snaps that Kiko has gotten and the snaps that Robert Woods has gotten even though he was hurt the last two games, there a lot of snaps. I don’t see those guys slowing down at all.

Q: What do you attribute that to?
A: The scheduling. The new CBA, collective bargaining agreement, the way training camp is now, the way you have to practice during the season. Normally you practice two days in pads, one day in helmets and shoulder pads and go. That’s not the case anymore. You’re only allowed one day in pads and you’re only allowed to do it so many times per year. I think in training camp, training camp was, we all have those old stories about walking uphill both ways, but training camp was pads in the morning, helmets and shoulder pads in the afternoon, hitting every single day except Sunday. Everyone was reporting to camp the second week in July and playing X amount of preseason games and it was tough. I think when you’re a rookie and you’re going through that, that takes a toll on you. I think that change in schedule has helped a lot of these younger players.