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Marrone on competition: "It starts as soon as people are acquired"

Posted May 14, 2013

HC Doug Marrone

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Opening statement:

Just to start off, obviously we are in the next phase of development, which is OTAs with our players. A couple things to share with you that I have talked to the players about—it is at a point now where the majority of the players are in. Obviously we have some veteran players with personal issues that they are taking care of that we are aware of. Obviously we have some of the young kids, the rookie kids, with their graduation date that has not come to a point yet where they can return to participate. The majority of the people are here. What I have talked to the players about is it does not really matter how you have been acquired, whether you have been a draft pick or an unrestricted free agent. It is really what we do now on the field to get us to a level where we can become competitive for the 53-man roster. We talked to the players about that. We talked about OTAs and learning the system. Learning how to practice. You saw today that we need to do a better job of staying up and staying on our feet. That is the one thing that we are looking for out of them. And we are looking for effort. I thought that between yesterday and today that we have ourselves started at a good point where now we can evaluate and keep pushing forward, keep getting more from the players and more from myself and the coaches.

Q: How do you feel about the graduation issue? You came from Syracuse.

A: I came from a great academic institution. Is that what you were meaning to say? (Laughs) I am actually for them. I am a big supporter of student-athletes and a big supporter of making sure that you graduate. I applaud the NFL and what they have done from when I was a player till now. I was one of those players that had to leave school and that is why when you look at my resume and you will see 1991 is when I graduated, a lot of that is because I did have to leave and go to the team that drafted me.

Q: What are the guys who are not here because they are missing because of graduation losing?

A: Well I do not look at it as far as what they are losing. I look at it as far as what they are gaining. They are gaining an education that lasts a lifetime. That is how I view that.

Q: You have talked a lot about the players being in competition. Does that start now?

A: I think it starts as soon as people are acquired you start the competition. We have done a good job just watching the reps of the quarterbacks and we are trying to make it to a point where it is equal while obviously Kevin (Kolb) and Tarvaris (Jackson) have been here for a while so it is not to that point yet. We are getting a lot of reps out of EJ (Manuel) right now. Probably a little bit less than the other two are, but our goal is to somewhere along this line during these OTAs as he progresses to have those equal amount of reps.

Q: Do you ever have any concerns about a player having a personal coach in the offseason and the message they are getting there differing from your message?

A: Well I think nowadays, and I will speak just as a parent, I have a nine year old. He has a pitching coach, a hitting coach and a baseball coach. I struggle a little bit with that personally. I think that is what we are seeing now. You see that at a Little League level. Kickers have been doing it for quite some time. Quarterbacks are doing it. Offensive linemen are going and training with people. I think that you see a lot of people doing that. Does it send a mix message? I do not think so because I think the player is training to a certain point and then once we get the player we become the coaches.

Q: When you say you struggle with it…

A: I struggle with it as a parent. Like my wife and I, we argue about this all the time. When I grew up I like to look as myself as a good baseball player. I had one Little League coach. He picked us all up in a station wagon. We all went to a batting cage. We all went out and practiced. We all walked down the field. I think everyone can relate to that especially in this town. I think now as parents, logistically it is very difficult. For us, the expenses are high, too. We want the best for our children. I think that it has become so individualized. I want my son to play multiple positions and multiple sports. Be a kid and have fun. I think that when at a young age, and I am going to get my butt kicked for saying this stuff, at a young age I played all sports and played all different positions. I had some fun, ran around. Nowadays everything is becoming more specialized at a younger age and that is what we are seeing.

Q: So you are OK with your guys working with an individual coach?

A: Here is the good part about it—he is working, he is training, he is trying to get better and he knows what we are expecting now. So if one of our players left to go train with someone else, they know what our system is and they know what our drills are so I do not have a problem with that.

Q: Can you give a thumbnail on your philosophy of how to teach a team a playbook?

A: Well obviously for us the iPads help us out quite a bit I think because there is so much more you can put on it to learn and to teach. I believe everything else, everything comes from a foundation. I think that when you look at the foundation of defense you are putting in a front and you are putting in a coverage. You are putting the same thing on offense. You are putting in a run game foundation, a passing game foundation. What you are trying to do is you are trying to build this that when adversity does hit, and adversity hits all the time throughout the course of a season, that you are able to go back to that foundation. I think it is a lengthy answer because your foundation is built on your individual mental training and individual skills. Then you take it to combination skills. Then you take it to half unit skills, full unit skills. Then you go out there and practice all the different situations. I think what you will see out of us is more of a progression. How we practice is the same way as how we install. If you watch practice from the beginning, it is individual, then there is some type of group work, then there is some split up type of group work and then we go to our team period.

Q: How basic are things right now?

A: Well here is the thing that you get into in my opinion. You want to keep things, you want your foundation and your plays put in. What happens during the course of a season—problems will come up on both sides of the ball even within two days offensively and defensively where you will say, ‘Hey if this team is doing a lot of this, this is the adjustment we can make.’ What I did not want to do is two things. When we came out, we came in here fresh. So now we have the ability as coaches to look at the playbook and say, ‘OK this playbook kind of gradually builds as you develop as a coach and as you are going through a season.’ What we did do, as I told the coaches, I said, ‘Look, now we have the chance to strip all our stuff down. Let’s get to the foundation and then we can start working on the adjustment when the season comes and the game planning comes.’ I think a lot of time you can get yourself in trouble if you are working on the adjustment first before you are working on the adjustment of plays.

Q: Coach you have had Paul Hackett and Mike Pettine Sr. around for a couple days. Can you talk about the resource they might provide for their sons on your staff and the team in general?

A: Well I first think that they are obviously proud fathers. That is the first thing they are. Obviously with Paul having been in the profession and Nathanial (Hackett). Coach Pettine and now his son. That is the first thing that they are. I actually, and I have talked to Buddy (Nix), Russ (Brandon) and people around about this. I like having people that have had that type of experience. People that have had a lot of success. My father-in-law will be here eventually. I think what it does for at least me and I think it does for Nathanial and it does for Mike (Pettine) is it keeps you grounded. Meaning that in this day in age everything is so much schematics and scheme. We sometimes lose sight of the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. The things that have been the strongholds of this game for a long time are the foundation of this game. I think it is good and to get guys making sure that hey, managing us and they are people that are close. It is family. There is no one that wants us to do better as individuals than those people that are around us.

Q: Coach you choose to help out with the different positions coaches while some other head coaches choose just to observe. Why is that?

A: I think that is a point of just managing myself. Honestly. In other words, I think that when you first become a head coach it is kind of like how do I want to be? You are trying to look for an identity of what you want to do. I do not know if many people will say this publicly, but I will just tell you the truth. For me that first approach is like golly I do not feel like I am really doing anything. I am kind like a judge. What I mean by judge is saying, ‘OK this side play like this. This side play like that.’ What I found was I did not enjoy that. That was not my passion. That is not what I wanted to do. I try to get involved now more for myself than it is anything else. I think it helps getting around to all the position groups because you can relate to those players better. You have to coach the whole team.

Q: Can you talk about what some of the blitz packages there were at practice provides the team?

A: Everyone that is in OTAs now is doing it and we just have to get our players ready. If you think about how we train from an offensive standpoint, you are training at and getting the technique correct. Then you are going forward and working on those techniques and fundamentals. Then you are going for the quarterback. He is going to throw a route versus air. He is just throwing the routes as you go. Then you look at the next point which is decision making. The faster we can get to situations whether it is zone or whether is pressure where now they have to make decisions on the field, it will become a better evaluation for us.

Q: What is WR Stevie Johnson’s status? Is his back still an issue?

A: He does have a problem like you said, and again, I think that I feel very comfortable with what Stevie has done in the past. For me, it is more important for me to get him healthy and get him well than it is to try and push him to get on the field. I have said that to a couple of players that are out here already who have a little bit of soreness. ‘Hey listen, we are here to make sure that you know what you are doing and are healthy.’ Like I said before it is very difficult to make a team in this time frame right here, but it is easy not to make a team in this time frame.

Q: How do you feel about the youth at cornerback?

A: I like it. I really do because sometimes when you come in and you are teaching new concepts, I do not want to use the phrase you are teaching an old dog new tricks because there are a lot of older players who can make that transition very well, it is good to get them when they are fresh and they are not locked into a certain technique that they are doing. So I like a lot of those young guys back there.

Q: Do you have a timeframe for when you want to decide who wins the quarterback competition?

A: I think it is up to the players. At other positions, too. It is out there and it is basically once we see one person pull away from the other I think then you make that decision. To put a timeline or anything on it I think is very difficult. I think again it is up to the players to do that.