New Orleans Saints Quarterback
Thursday, December 22, 2011
When you grew up, did you look at a lot of NFL games and with teams like the Steelers and where the game was much less pass-oriented, how did you look at it?
“I grew up in Austin, Texas in the early 1990’s. That was the Cowboy heyday. We were all Cowboys fans. We all watched the Cowboys. They seemed to have a healthy balance of one of the greatest running backs of all-time in Emmitt Smith, but then guys like Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek, (Alvin) Harper and others. I think you got a little bit of everything with those guys, a great defense…One of my favorite quarterbacks of all-time was Joe Montana, running the West Coast offense in those days. The film that I’ve seen…I have seen some actual games. You watch the whole game and you actually see the balance of run to pass. But if you just watch NFL Films, you’re just getting the highlights, so you’re getting a lot of passing highlights, the Bill Walsh system, the guys that ran that system, going back to Montana, (Steve) Young, (Brett) Favre, kind of that whole lineage of guys out in Green Bay. Then spending time in San Diego, it was the Don Coryell era that everybody talked about with Dan Fouts and obviously other guys were a part of that, Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow, Chuck Muncie and all those guys. There were some great teams that kind of came out of the West Coast even though it was two different offenses, scoring a lot of points and doing a lot of that stuff. I think the highlights you see in a lot of cases are passing highlights, talking about the run and shoot that was a version of what Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers were running at one point, the offense with the Buffalo Bills and Jim Kelly. There’s been these offenses, when you look at them spread out all over the country, some West Coast, some Northeast, some down South, yet everybody has their own version, everybody’s putting up points and it seems like they were throwing it a lot, maybe not according to today’s standards. It sure seemed like it.”
What has coach Payton meant to you in your development as a quarterback?
“Having Sean Payton has been everything for me. Having the opportunity to be here with him, be coached by him and be mentored by him, I think he brought out a confidence in me I didn’t have before. I’ve always been a real confident guy but there were certain things that wouldn’t have come out unless I was with him. I think that showed. Each and every year, I’ve gotten a little bit better. That’s always been my goal, to get a little better. Statistics don’t always show that, but in my heart, I know that’s true. He’s a huge part of it. Obviously this system allows us to do some pretty cool stuff. We have a lot of great skill position players where you just get the ball in their hands, they can do something special with it, an offensive line that’s been one of the most consistent in the league over the last six years. You’ve had some different faces, but for the most part it’s been some great continuity and obviously the last three years especially with Gregg Williams coming in here, the defensive philosophy and culture he’s created provides us with opportunities as well. It’s really a team thing. Certainly coach Payton deserves a large portion of credit for helping create that confidence in all of us for that we can accomplish anything and I think together, we like seeing the numbers and points we’re putting up. That’s winning football.”
Can you explain how he gave you more confidence?
“Especially coming off my injury, like I said, I’m an extremely confident person, but it’s easy for doubt to seep in when something like that happens. We had experienced success in San Diego my last two years there, but I just hadn’t gotten my feeling that everybody there was all in with me. So, it was nice to walk into an organization where I felt like everybody believed in me and sometimes that’s all you need. All you need is somebody to believe in you. Obviously my mindset was that I’m not going to let these guys down. They have a lot invested in me, so I want to prove them right, but mostly you need something good to happen to you. I think going through that ’06 offseason and the preseason, it was pretty dismal there for a while, all we needed was something good to happen to us. We go up to Cleveland and squeak one out in week one and then go to Green Bay, get behind early, have a come-from-behind victory and gain some confidence and then the Monday Night reopening of the dome. I’m a big believer in sometimes that your full potential or your full confidence maybe doesn’t come out if you’re in a situation where you know that everybody around you believes in you and is giving you the best chance to be successful and win.”
We talk a lot about Dan Marino’s record. Have you talked a lot to Dan about that?
“Yes. We talked about it after the ’08 season. At the time, it was like we made our run at it. The chances of making a run at it again are pretty slim and honestly I’ve really tried to numb my senses to the whole thing right now and just think about winning football games, executing this offense, being as prepared as I can be, focusing on the process. I just know the result will take care of itself. I haven’t talked to Dan this season. He actually reached out to me this week and wanted to do something. I’d really like to just focus on the game. I respectfully said let’s wait here and just kind of let everything fall into place the way it is. We’ll definitely sit down. I would love to do that.”
What would it be like to break his record and win a division title on the same night?
“Does it get much better than that? That’s what you play for. You look at the calendar when the schedule comes out and say Monday night, Atlanta, day after Christmas, week 15 that’s going to be a meaningful game, obviously within the division and everything we have going for us, knowing the type of team they are, I’m sure they’re going to have a lot going for them as well. You add some of the other stuff. It just makes it even more meaningful. I guess we can’t make this game any bigger than it already is.”
How do you balance what was successful the first go around against the Falcons with this go around?
“There’s a lot of familiarity with divisional opponents and there’s tweaks you make here and there. One thing you always know is it’s always going to be a four quarter game, two out of the last three have been more than a four quarter game, been overtime games. We know this is the type of game this is shaping up to be. You just set your expectation levels at that. Obviously you try to go out and execute as best you can. You also understand that there’s ebb and flow and you just try to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them.”
Can you compare the running back situation from at this point last year to at this point this year?
“Yes, last year we were pretty banged-up at this point. Obviously this year, we have four backs that are all in the mix. Each one of them have a special skill set. Each one of them is rolling pretty well right now, so those are all good things. It really allows you to open it up and do what you want to do offensively. You’re not limited in any way.”
Along those lines you have two running backs that seem to excel in the screen game. How much does that seem to add to a passing game?
“That’s another element to an offense. There’s the power run game, the nickel run game. Then there’s the short, intermediate passing game, there’s the down the field passing game and then there’s the screen game and I guess not everybody has it. It sure is nice when you have it in your arsenal. It slows down a pass rush. It gets your guys out in space and it’s definitely an element you have. If it’s rolling, it can definitely be a big part of your offense.”
Did you anticipate
“Yes. I think you do and yet there’s so many factors that go into it. Can he stay healthy? How involved is everybody? How does the season go? Certainly he has that capability. But, it’s hard to do. I was fortunate enough to be with (Antonio) Gates in San Diego when he got into the league and I remember Gates’ first season as a starter, he broke a touchdown record. (Rob) Gronkowski broke it this year, which was 13. I’ve been around a guy that in particular that you just kind of felt like…If everything works out the way it’s supposed to this guy can be special. I definitely feel that way about Jimmy, where he’s come from, where it all started for him, where he’s at now, where he still has left to go. You just say, man it’s pretty awesome.”
Is there advantage in close, big wins against the Falcons the past couple years, has having won a Super Bowl and had that big game experience been valuable?
“Yes, it is. Atlanta is a team too that you would say you look over the last two years especially, they are a team that has won a lot of close games. I think that’s definitely something that you gain as you grind through an offseason, a preseason. It becomes part of your identity as a team once it gets to the regular season. It helps to have a group of veteran guys that can lead, especially lead during those critical moments in a tight game. It just becomes kind of a learned habit of where you just know the fourth quarter rolls around, give us a chance to win. Offense, defense, special teams, give us a chance, somebody will make a play. I think that if there are plays to be made they feel it’s to be made by them (skill players). Each guy individually says if the play comes to me I’m going to make it. I think we have that mentality and also trust the guy next to you. Those things seem to happen. The last three years we’ve had quite a few of those wins like that.”
What is the offensive line doing differently now than they were doing earlier in the year?
“I think we’ve all kind of evolved to an extent. First of all, the O-line has done a phenomenal job, especially in the last six weeks. They’ve played great, as a unit, pass protection and run game. I think that’s been a huge improvement. To be honest, those things go hand in hand. The more you run the ball, teams are worried about that. They’re not just pinning their ears back and teeing off at you on the pass rush. I think we do a great job just with our whole pass protection scheme, mixing it up, different protections, different landmarks in the pocket, while I’m setting it up. Good mix of the three step, five step, seven step, play action, on the moves, nakeds, all that stuff, where you don’t give defenses one spot that they can tee off on every time. You consistently change it up on them.”
Did you get those guys Christmas gifts?
While there’s a lot of talk about the Dan Marino record, are you guys aware, excited, or interested in the team and NFL total yardage records and what they mean?
“I guess interested in it? At this point, we’re just going to try to score as many points as we can. Typically with the points, come the yards. You need the yards to drive down the field to score the points. Is that a significant record? Yes. It’s very significant. Does St. Louis hold that record from 1999?”
“All those are significant records. The most important thing is winning this game, to win the division, to continue our win streak and also stay in line with our goals to continue to progress as we move to the playoffs here.”
How much do you think being able to doctor the ball on the road has made a difference?
“That’s a little thing. Yes. I don’t know if we like the term doctor.”
How about treating the ball?
“You make it sound like your rubbing stuff. No, it just allows you to use the balls that you’ve broken in and you’re not having to use somebody else’s. Everybody has preference.”
Do you have preference?
“Yes, I don’t think it’s as specific as some places. Everybody has their own kind of little deal.”
Did you use to know places where the ball would feel a certain way?
“Yes, these balls (example) are really slick. They’re brand new. It’s like they’re straight out of the box. No quarterback likes those. I remember that rule. It was during ’06 I believe. I remember Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were spearheading that deal. I remember getting a call from them and going back and forth through emails, text messages, voicemail messages, trying to get that rule passed. Because it makes sense.”
Is your growth as a parent of young kids relevant to your growth as a football player?
“I’d say that it puts life in perspective. The more balanced you are in your life outside of football, the more you have things together, the better a football player you become. Not only does it put life in perspective, but it also, gives you even more to play for and so, when I think about what I play for. I play for my family, because I want my two boys to grow up to be proud like I did. So, that’s definitely something I think allows you to be a more complete person and therefore a more complete player.”
Was stuff like appearing on Sesame Street inspired by fatherhood?
“Yes, who knows if I would have gotten those opportunities otherwise, but having kids I’ve rubbed Vicks Vapo-Rub on my kid 25 times in the last three years and I’ve probably watched Sesame Street 1000 times over the last three years, so it all fits into fatherhood.”
How much work went into yours and
“That’s something we do every day. That’s pretty funny. If you were to document every handshake/dance/celebration that different guys have with their teammates, it would be phenomenal number one you could turn it into a movie or some kind of a documentary. I would say I probably have handshakes with ten different guys.
How important is winning a Most Valuable Player award to you?
“I’ll be honest. I’ve gone though this whole season, not even thinking for a second about it. Maybe that’s because turning on TV watching Aaron Rodgers light it up, he seems like a pretty obvious choice, but I’m not thinking about it at all. I’m putting it in the numbing that part of my brain category. I’m just trying to focus on all the other stuff that’s going to help us get a win on Monday night.”
Where it’s you or somebody else, what are your thoughts on that award?
“It’s significant. It is a tremendous honor when you think about it, NFL MVP for a given season. There are a lot of great athletes, great football players, good people in this league, you think about what that award signifies and means and the group it puts you in, that’s an elite group. It’s a tremendous honor to have it bestowed upon you.”
What stands out in your mind about the 2011 defense of the Falcons?
“I would say they have some young players. They had some rookies starting last year, (Sean) Weatherspoon, William Moore that obviously now in their second year, you see their progression, where these guys are playing great as a team, as an offense, obviously they are very talented players, both high draft picks, in the first and second rounds respectively. You know they’re well-coached. I have a lot of respect for Mike Smith. I was with him and his whole staff at the Pro Bowl this (past) year, so I had a chance to be around him. They seem to do things the right way. With success comes confidence. Obviously they had a great year last year, a 13-3 season. You knew their confidence level coming into this year would be at an all-time high. I don’t see where that’s wavered at all. They’re build for speed. They’re flying around. Just disciplined, well-coached, all those things. They’re a hot team. They’re playing well. That’s why I think this will be one heck of a football team.”