On how WR Stevie Johnson fits into his future plans with the organization:
He fits in. We do want him back and I know that you think about the antics, penalties and obviously we’re not happy about that. I don’t think Stevie is either, but we are around him a lot. I know the things he does in practice, he practices hurt – I think he’s a team guy. Yea, we want him back.
On if the ‘stipulations’ of wanting him back may affect him:
No, I’m not concerned about that. I think our stipulations were what we put on him after the first time. He knew what the consequences were. He did it. I’m convinced that he thought he’d have to pay a fine but I don’t think he’d get a penalty. I don’t think he would intentionally do something to hurt our team. I really don’t. I know him. He tries to do the right thing when he’s playing and he tries to do the right thing in practice and in the locker room. He’s not a criminal. He made a mistake. It cost us. And he paid the price.
On if he will use the franchise tag on Johnson if necessary:
Now I wouldn’t get into that.
On how much his antics will have a possible affect on his contract:
It doesn’t affect… that’s behind us. Now he may do it again. If he does, we’ll deal with it. But that doesn’t affect what we’re trying to get done with him.
On if it makes him more high-risk:
There’s something in the paper everyday about somebody whipping their wife or robbing a store. This wasn’t smart. And those kinds of things are not. But if we didn’t think we could handle that and that he would handle it then it might make a difference. But I think he can and I think we can.
On if he will re-open talks with Johnson’s representatives for a new deal in the next few weeks:
There were proposals made during the season. The last one we made their stance was we’d like for Stevie to concentrate on the season, finish out the year and then start the talks at the end of the year. And there has been dialogue since the season was over and they will continue.
On if he feels there is a bit of a recruiting problem in Buffalo without have won in a long time and if it’s tough to get guys here and might have to pay more than he’d want:
Yea, I think I said that when I first took this job that until you got them here, there was probably some hesitation on players’ parts to come here. But guys that have been here like Steve has I think he would like to stay here. He says that, hopefully if he wanted to hit the market he’d say ‘I want to hit the market.’ Or if he wanted to go somewhere else he’d say that. I don’t know why you wouldn’t just be upfront with it. But I take him at his word. He says he wants to be here. I think if we’re fair and it seems fair to them I think we’ll get a deal done.
On in general recruiting people to Buffalo:
I’d say a small-market and everybody thinks about the weather when they think about Buffalo… Let me answer your question. Yea, it probably is a little harder. It probably is.
On if there has been dialogue with RB
Does anybody in here know how long Fred Jackson’s contract is? You do, John? He’s a Bill for 14 months, a year from March 13th. Now, Fred and I have talked. We want to extend Fred. I’d like for Fred to finish his career as a Bill. He’s meant a lot to us. I’ve got great respect for him. I tell him that. We’re going to try to get something done. Does it matter if we do it or if we do it next week or a month from now? As long as we get it done before the season starts it’s all the same, really, seems to me. And it’s not like he’s going to get hurt playing now. But we do want Fred back and we do intend to try to workout a deal with him. I’ve told him that and I’m going to tell him again this week before I leave here. And just to re-assure him that what we said is what we’re going to do.
On if he overestimated the depth going into the season and did he second-guess himself with the moves of WR Lee Evans and C Geoff Hangartner:
Well I think Lee caught three passes so I’m not so sure how much depth… Lee’s a good player. He had the misfortune of being hurt. Now, as far as being second-guessed that’s going to happen anyway and it doesn’t bother me. I don’t know what we could’ve done that would’ve provided more depth. Maybe there was in hindsight, if so I wish we would’ve done it. But at the time we make the best decision we can with what we’ve got. I can’t think of any specifics where we could’ve picked up more guys or brought… it’s a slow process sometimes. It’s a lot slower than any of us want it to be. It’s a deal where if you’re going to try to win this year and then drop off next year and drop off and then win, we’re trying to build it with young guys that are good players that are the right kind of people so that’ll stay that way year after year. At least we’ll be competitive.
On what his prescription is for fixing the defense:
I think there’s a lot of things. I think one of the things is to me having coached defense for years and that doesn’t mean I know everything about it which I don’t, but if you can keep things simple and keep it basic where guys play hard. If you’re having to think and play defense you’re probably a step late. I think some of that will help us. We had too many missed assignments and that kind of thing and I’m certainly not blaming anybody. We also didn’t have good enough players at every position, so to fix it I think our secondary everything would look better if we had some pressure on the passer. If you can’t disrupt passers in the NFL and make them get out of rhythm and make them move any of them will wear you out. We had some rookies that looked like Dan Marino and we let them look like that because we let them stand there. You’ve got to disrupt the quarterback.
On if he prefers a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive look:
I knew you guys were going to ask that so I looked at the stats of how much we played a four-man front this year and it was 47-percent of the time. Forty-seven percent of the time we were in nickel, and when we were in nickel we had four down linemen. I watched, all of us did, the playoff games. I watched Houston and Wade Phillips is probably the granddaddy of the 3-4 right now and they played at least 50-percent of the time they had four down linemen. So I’m not so sure that it matters. I think Dave’s (Wannstedt) expertise is more 4-3, but again you’re talking 50-percent of the time we’ll be in that and 50 percent of the time you may be in a three-man rush. And you’re blitzing some. So, I don’t think it’s as big a deal as everyone wants to make it. I know that the one thing that I said before and I think that’s true is that you need to get players that are playmakers and put them in a position where they can play. Now I know that sounds simple but that is the key to it. You take a guy like Von Miller. If you’re a 4-3 team and you put Von Miller down in a three-point stance and have him set the edge on the running game and make him a three-down player it’s not what he does best. So you’ve got to move him around and he’s a pass rusher. I’m just using that (as an example).
On how he said last year that his scouts take into account playing a 3-4 or 4-3 defense:
How do you guys remember all of that? Do you write that down somewhere? Everything you say a year from now you bring it up? That is true. I did say that. Let’s look at it this way. The guys we drafted this year:
On how LB
Merriman is in a position and I might as well go back, and Scott told me not elaborate on everything but I will. I know you guys got things to do and I’m going to be candid with you about it. We took a chance on Shawne Merriman. It was a risk. We knew it was going in. We needed a guy of his caliber that we couldn’t go anywhere else and get. If you remember correctly we weren’t the only ones that claimed Merriman but we had the priority. There was a decision made that without surgery he could be fixed and he could make it. Well he didn’t. When he was out there even though he didn’t have a lot of sacks we put a lot of credit in how many sacks a guy gets, but we missed him when he wasn’t there. Somebody to set the edge, we lost containment continuously. I’m giving you the reasons of why we did it. And if you went back right now and we were in the shape then, with what we knew then we’d do it again. It’s a risk. The business is (risky). When you draft a guy and he gets hurt the first day of camp. We knew he had injuries. We knew there were things that may crop up. Right now he’s in the process. He’s been through the surgery. He had his shoulder fixed. He’s in the process of rehabbing and getting healthy. He’ll have a physical this spring, he’ll have another one this summer. If he gets healthy and passes the physical, he’s still ours. We’ll take it from there. We’ll see what happens.
On having to take risks and pay guys in order to get them to come to Buffalo:
He didn’t want to come. Now he didn’t want to come, he didn’t make any bones about it. Once he got here it took him about two weeks and he didn’t want to leave. It’s just the way the place is. Again, I think that if you have a guy make a choice between us and San Diego, I’m just naming them because I’ve been there; he might at face value take the other place. But we can get there, we’ve got to do it the way we said we wanted to start and that was draft our way into it, build through the draft, take free agency and plug in guys to take some pressure off the draft, some guys that fit. If you have to pay him a little more or you have to convince him a little more, use connections, you have to do all those things.
On spending the cap:
We can spend the cap. We can and we will.
On if a pass rusher is a top priority in the draft:
Yes. If a guy’s there in free agency that fits what we need, we’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to try to do whatever we can do at least from where we are now from where we were, we looked and it was a hodge-podge of needs. We had them everywhere. It wasn’t like you could pin point them. I think we’re at a point where we can spot three or four positions that if we could fill those with the right guys and get our injured guys back we’ll be competitive.
On how much winning plays a role in getting guys to come to Buffalo:
I think it does. I think winning solves all the evils, most of them, and fixes the flaws. There’s no question about it. I think it does.
On the situation at LT and what he plans for that position in the situation:
Pears is a RT. He’s a good RT and I’m glad we got him.
On if there’s anything that’s preventing them from seeking better options:
We’re going to draft a tackle if we can. If there’s one there is what I mean. If there’s one we think can play we’re going to draft a tackle. You can never have too many tackles. This could be an exception, you can have exceptions to this but it’s easier to move a guy from tackle to guard than it is from guard to tackle, obviously. We draft tackles and we are at pretty good shape at guard and center.
On his confidence level in QB
I’ve got no reservations about Ryan. He had some bad games. The thing we know for sure is that we’ve seen him do it. We’ve seen him have to good games. He’s what we thought he would be. I think when we started losing players and losing weapons for him he compensated by trying to carry the load some and playing with different receivers each week. Sounds like excuses, but they’re reasons. Another thing with Ryan is the interceptions and the things that he did that were turnovers toward the end of the year, had we wanted to keep those down and had he been the kind of guy that you’d run the ball more you wouldn’t take chances but you’re down 30 points and he’s still trying to score. That didn’t matter. He’s got a gun slinger mentality. I think you’ve got to rein that in a little bit and make good judgments but he’s, if we put good people around him we can get to the dance with Ryan.
On how his list of personnel needs has narrowed down to a couple after being here a few years:
I think even signing Stevie (Johnson), I know all you guys watched the games this weekend and there’s only one Calvin Johnson but there’s some more similar to that, that you throw it up there. They’re not covered when they’re covered. We could use another big time receiver. On offense we could use another offensive tackle. Defensively I would say the priority would have to be pass rushers, defensive ends, pass rushers - one maybe two. And you could never have enough corners. We would like to add two corners, whether it’s through free agency or whether it’s through the draft. We also at some point need another linebacker. We got we think
On how far away he thinks he is from being able to get a team together that can contend in the playoffs:
Next year. My expectations are that we’ll take a big step. If we get these guys back, which we think we will, that are injured and we add some to this mix that we should take a big step next year.
On if he ever got answers to the why the number of injuries have occurred over the years:
It didn’t kind of crop up, it jumped out at us. We probably had the most of anybody in the league. The one reason it hit us as hard as it did is if we didn’t have the experience depth we talked about and then it was who got injured for us. It was our main guys. To answer your question, we’ve researched everything we know to research. There’s no answer. We had four guys with ACL’s that didn’t get touched, didn’t get hit. Another guy jumping over a pile, patella tendon,
On where CB Terrence McGee will fit in:
He’s a really good player when he’s healthy. The downside to that is he hasn’t been healthy a whole lot. We hope he’ll get well, we’ll play it by ear and see how he does, but if he’s healthy and gets back to form, he’ll be a player for us.
I’m going to start with Marcus. Marcus has had the worst luck. I try to stay away from him, I’m afraid it will wear off on us. His problem has been completely solved. They said it would not recur again. So we don’t know what we’ve got. We know he’s talented. We’ve always thought he was. He’s a really big, strong guy. He’s 225 pounds and can run. He runs after the catch, we hadn’t had that much. We’ve got to see what we’ve got. I don’t know if Roscoe’s finished a year healthy. He played seven or eight games for us last year and then one game this year. I think it’s a decision that we’re going to have to make of where he is physically as to whether or not we do re-sign him. He’s a good player, a really good player when he’s healthy. He’s done it. We need somebody like that in that position. Whether it will be him or not I don’t know yet.
On losing QB coach George Cortez and filling the position:
That’s up to Chan (Gailey). He’s probably got some guys in mind. George was a great guy and did a good job for us. We’re happy for him. That’s something he wanted to do. We wish him the best.
On if he has any interest in drafting a quarterback in the draft:
Maybe so, yeah. If there’s one there at the right time, I don’t mean it to be that vague of an answer but yes we’d take one.
On the job that head coach Chan Gailey has done the past two years:
What we’ve done offensively, where we came from and who he did it with, I think he’s done an excellent job. Now you know you start looking at the whole thing defensively, we knew we had a long way to go there and we’ve got to make improvements there which we all know. We’ve got to get better. We’ve talked about Fitz, we’ve talked about these guys but if you can play good defense, you look at the Giants you look at the guys that are in the playoffs, if you can play defense. Houston won with their third quarterback that was a fifth-rounder that nobody really thought could play. We’ve got to improve that but to answer your question I think Chan did a good job.
On why he didn’t make Dave Wannstedt defensive coordinator last season:
We didn’t bring him in for that reason. First of all we didn’t know we could get him, we didn’t know he’d be available. Then when we got him we brought him in to help us be better on defense and to help George (Edwards). That’s exactly the role he filled at that time. I think that’s what he needed to do. That’s my philosophy. I thought we would just add better people and we’d continue to move. Since nobody’s asked me about George. I think George is a smart guy. Did a good job and worked hard. Anytime a coach is let go we all know it’s part of the business. There’s two kind of coaches; ones that have been fired and ones that are going to get fired. I think that we all accept some of the responsibility when that happens. He didn’t have enough talent at the right spots. Chan decided that he wants to move in a different direction according to the talent we’ve got and that’s what we did. It was not to save anybody’s job. I hear all the scapegoat stuff. I don’t know exactly where that comes from and it wasn’t from us and it wasn’t that situation.
On how long his commitment is to turn this team around:
I hate to disappoint you guys but I’m not retiring. My commitment is this. I’ve never quit anything. As long as I can, my energy level stays where it is then I’m going to do it till the job’s done. I’ve been fortunate enough that it’s stayed there. If it gets to the point where I have to say I don’t feel like doing that or I can’t go here or I can’t go scouting then yes, I’d let somebody else do it. Eventually it comes to all of us. I’ve got no plans for that.
On if he’s surprised that the run defense gave up as much as it did. Is the middle of the line good enough if all the pieces are there:
Absolutely it’s good enough. Again, we lost some guys; I won’t even get into that. I was disappointed that we didn’t make more strides. I know we were bad last year, we ranked at the bottom. We really didn’t make much of a move and again I think there are a lot of reasons for that and part of it is personnel.
On spending up to the cap and if he can elaborate:
I’m not limited except by the cap. Nobody’s told me, nobody’s ever told me you can’t do this or you can’t do that. There are a lot of things that go into it as I’m sure you guys know. One of them is, and the thing that I ask our cap people, Jeff Littmann and Jim Overdorf, the thing I ask them is if we sign this guy for this amount then is it going to cost us this player and this player. That’s kind of the way I try to make my decision. Are we going to be able to keep the core and important guys or are we just going to get this guy and can’t get anybody else.
On having conviction in his voice when saying the team will spend up to the salary cap:
Absolutely. Listen guys, I want to win. That’s what I came here for. That’s what I want to do. I want to do whatever I can to help that along and I’m saying “I” and there are a lot of us involved. We have a lot of good people and personnel and a lot of good help. And we’ll use all of our resources and then make the best decision we can.
On if that’s Mr. Wilson’s philosophy as well:
Yeah. I always meet with him at the end of the year but I always inform him of everything we’re doing anyway. He either agrees or he doesn’t. But he’s never really sat up and said, “You can’t do that,’ or, ‘No.’ It’s been very good so far.
On how the dynamics of WR as a priority will change if the team cannot resign Stevie Johnson or any of the top receivers:
Well, we will return some of them. Some of them are hurt. Hopefully we’ll get Donald Jones back and like I said, Marcus Easley is an unknown entity. We don’t know what we have. But if we were to not get Stevie back we’d need two.
On if next year’s CBA rule that teams have to spend 99% of the cap next year affects the way the team structures contracts this year going forward:
Probably. But again if you’re going to use it all anyway then you look down the road. You’d like to extend guys that are the core of your team ahead of time… that’s kind of our philosophy. I told you this when I came here: We’ll try to build through the draft, we’ll try to keep our good players and then we’ll try to sign guys a little ahead of time. Once they hit the market [free agency] March13th, we’re one of 32 teams. We won’t have an advantage over anybody else. They may know people on our team but we’re all in the same boat once they hit the market.
On if he’s talking about spending cash to the cap:
On no amortization bonuses on the team’s own books and that still being in place:
On his thoughts of the developments of RB
Everybody’s been surprised, I guess, about C.J. except us. We always knew, I think, what we had. Everybody talks about ‘he’s learned to run, he’s learned how to run,’ and obviously all of them learn things. But with C.J., the opportunity is what he needed and he got it when Fred [Jackson] got hurt and he’s what we thought he’d be. I’ve been one of the few, I think, and I wish I’d wait a couple of years to say this so I can say ‘I told you so,’ but I was one of the few that thinks that C.J. can run inside and be a workhorse kind of back. I don’t think he’s a 25 or 30 play a game deal but I think he can run inside the tackles. He’s done that. He’s stronger than you think he is. He’s 200 pounds. He’s a tough guy. Of course obviously his biggest asset is his speed. When you look at Chris Johnson from Tennessee, Chris is 10 pounds lighter than C.J. and they’re built a lot alike. So it’s according to who you have. I hate to bring up guys from before you guys were born (laughs) but James Brooks was 180 pounds and he ran over a 225 pound linebacker. Some of them are wiry and that’s kind of the way C.J. is. He’s really strong up top and he’ll mature and just keep getting stronger. I think he can be everything we thought he’d be.
On if there’s a concern that the team could lose Doug Whaley to one of the open GM spots in the league and if he’s taken steps to prevent that if the case:
We signed him to more than a year. I’m not concerned. Obviously, I don’t want to lose him and he knows that and I think he wants to be here. I think Doug realizes he needs to do some things to be, if you can get ready for that position, he needs to do some things to be more ready like running pre-draft meetings and getting in to the college side. He has not done that much. He’s a smart guy and I’m glad we have him. He’s done a good job along with Tom Gibbons and Chuck Cook and those guys. I think we really have a good setup with those guys. They’re very thorough, they’re hard workers and they’re glad to be here. And I’m glad we have them.
On how he thinks Whaley did on his first year scouting on the road a lot on the college side of things:
Again, he is a really smart and good up-and-coming guy in this business. He did good. He knows players. He’s very thorough, he works at it, he played, he coached a little bit and that’s the way most of our guys are.
On his first reaction when the Indianapolis Colts released Bill Polian:
Shocked, like everybody else, I guess. I’ve always kind of looked up to Bill and the things he’s done. I followed him here. I’ve heard all of the stories about him and all of those things. Shocked, but we’re all just temporary anyway.
I think it’s exactly what we thought when we brought him in here. Brad can be a difference maker if you use him in the right way. I think his versatility is the biggest thing about him and what makes him the most important. We were going along there and running the Wildcat with him and had that in. If you look, when our third-down efficiency dropped off was when we had to move him to wideout mostly fulltime. So it made it a lot harder. He’s good at that. He can do that. He can be fifth or sixth wideout and he can be a good special team’s player. I’m glad we have him. He’s a great guy to have.
On if the defensive coaching staff will remain the same or if Wannstedt will bring some of his own guys in:
There will probably be some changes. I think that’s still in the evaluation stage. And down the road, as soon as we know, I’ll tell you or Chan [Gailey] will tell you but I think we’re still in that process.
On how much of an importance he puts on re-signing TE
We want Scott back, we do. I think, again, we want to keep the good players and he’s one of them. If we can keep him at the right price, we will. You look at the guys, and I’m just saying what I said awhile ago, a lot of it’s when they get their opportunity, like C.J. When Chan came here, Stevie Johnson couldn’t get on the field, Ryan Fitzpatrick was a second or third thought at quarterback…Scott Chandler going into this year caught one ball in his career, one. [San Diego] drafted him in 2007, so I guess my point is those guys are probably more productive and more important to us than they may be to somebody else. I don’t know that. They [players] may want to find out. If they do and it’s more and they get what they want, more power to them. But I’m just saying that a lot of times that grass looks a lot greener but it may not be.
On if he’d like to keep K
On if he’s considered more regular press conferences with the media as they like it:
Yeah and I do, too, to tell you the truth. But let me tell you why I don’t. I think during the season most of the questions are about football and about our players and injuries and that kind of thing. I really think that time of year that there needs to be one voice and I think that needs to be the head coach. I just wouldn’t want to be following up with the same stuff or that kind of thing. If there’s something huge I’ll do it. Now, from here until we get through camp, pretty much the one voice will be mine, but that’s the reason we don’t do it during the season.
On whom he likes tonight in the Alabama vs. LSU game:
I knew you were going to ask that. I coached at both of those places so really what I’ll do is I’ll sit there with my book and I’ll look at the prospects on both teams and the ones that’ll be available for the draft. I’ve been to both places already and there’s a load of players.
On if there are any prospects that he can name that he likes:
Oh yeah, there’s a bunch of them on both teams. Same names that you’ll hear from [ESPN’s] Mel Kiper tonight (laughs) but Alabama’s secondary and LSU’s secondary, I mean, those guys are as good as it gets. And there’s a couple of pass rushers in the game, too.
On the first playoff game with the new overtime rules and only one team got the ball:
Well, I don’t know. I mean I was shocked. I was just settled in for the overtime and then it was over, so we didn’t get to practice the rule much. But I think that overtime rule is a start. I don’t like the fact that the rules are different when you get into the playoffs then they are during the year. If that’s a good rule then we ought to have it all of the time, but all we get is one vote.