Cleveland Browns Coach Eric Mangini had a conference call with the New Orleans media. During the availability with reporters he talked about the challenges the Saints offense poses as well as his team's starting quarterback situation. Below is a transcript:
It looks like you guys have been awfully close but haven't been able to seal the deal. What do you need to be able to get over the hump?
"For us there are a couple different areas that we need to improve on. Penalties for us were down last week in terms of number of penalties. That's going to continue to be important for us. Last year we were the least penalized team in the league and that's my expectation. The other thing is turnovers, consistently protecting the ball. The giveaway-takeaway ratio ends up deciding a lot of games. We had three last week, muffed a punt, had a pick in our own area, had a pick in a drive. That's going to happen throughout the course of a season. We start with the self-inflicted wounds, handling those that would help a lot. Outside of that it becomes us continuing to play complementary football, where each side does what they need to do and supports the other two sides. We see some progress there, but it has to be week in and week out."
What has Scott Fujita meant to your football team?
"Scott's been great. He's so bright. He understands what the offense is trying to do, he understands what we're trying to do and then he can take parts of the defense and there's certain tools available with each call where he's got enough intelligence to capitalize on those. Like the strip sack he had against Atlanta was a call he and Robaire (Smith) made, based on the opportunity that was there in the defense and it created a strip sack. It blocked the punt. He's done a lot of things from that perspective, plus he's athletic. He's got good leadership skills. He's a really good person and just that, he understands what it takes to win in that the Super Bowl experience and all the things that come with that are invaluable in a locker room that is learning how to win."
The NFL is fining and considering suspensions for violent hits. There was a game last weekend you were involved in that had one of these. What's your take on trying to protect these players but at the same time keeping the NFL and the game what it is and what fans have grown to love?
"I think it's a difficult situation, because on one side you want to have the hits that we've all been accustomed to and are a great part of the game and on the other side you want to protect the players. I think the league's done a good job of working to protect the players. This weekend highlights the need to continue to emphasize that and they're doing that. I've been on both sides of this. T.J. Ward had a hit against Cincinnati. I was the coach of the Jets when Eric Smith hit Anquan Boldin. I believe he was suspended the next week for that. You do the best you can from a coaching and playing perspective to make sure that you're not losing your aggressiveness but also playing from the framework within the rules. I don't think anybody can disagree with the fact that we need to do everything we can to protect the guys that are playing."
As a defensive coach, the conventional wisdom is that this would change the way you prepare and teach. Is that true?
"I think you just continue to emphasize at a pad level, emphasis of not only where the receiver is when he's making a catch, but where the receiver's going to be when you make contact and you do the best you can. So many of these decisions are split second decisions at high speeds with a lot on the line. It's difficult from all aspects, but it's important to try to get it right."
Has Scott Fujita been in your ear about Drew Brees and what this Saints offense is about?
"He doesn't really need to. You look at them offensively and Drew Brees is just so, one, talented and two, you can tell what a great understanding he has of his offense and what a great feel he has for the defense he's playing against. There's not just one receiver that gets an inordinate amount of balls. He gets it to the the right place. It's a creative offense. Every skill player can do something with the balls that they get. It doesn't matter who you put in whether it's Lance Moore or whether it's Chris Ivory. When the guys go in they excel. It makes it tough. Playing in New Orleans as loud as it's going to be an on turf; those things are all tremendous challenges for us."
Do you see Colt McCoy as your probable starter Sunday and how did he look against Pittsburgh?
"Jake (Delhomme) and Seneca (Wallace) are a week further along so we'll have to see how the week goes. If they can't play then Colt would start. I thought Colt did a really nice job in his first start. You're playing Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh with the blitzes they bring, what they do even when they're not blitzing, another environment that's really loud, the rivalry that's there. There were a lot of chips stacked against him and he played well. It wasn't perfect but you wouldn't expect it to be perfect for a rookie. Now we come in and play against another defense in New Orleans that has a variety of blitzes, they're creative blitzes and it's a little bit of education through fire."
Prior to this week the Saints looked a little vulnerable with three close wins and a couple losses and then last week they probably looked a lot more like what they were used to seeing. What were you seeing was going on with the Saints and what do you think accounts for the drastic improvement between week five and six?
"I'm not surprised when they're explosive. They have the ability to change the game at any point. There's a deep ball to (Robert) Meachem or Devery Henerson or (Marques) Colston. You can start putting points on the board pretty quickly. Every play they have that potential. Sometimes when they're coming off a Super Bowl year, it can take a while to get back in that rhythm. Every team is giving you their best shot. From experience in New England, they have to be up every week and you have to expect the best shot every week. There is a learning experience for them doing them. It is a new thing for them being in this role."
Last year Chris Ivory was in school in Tiffin. He seemed to have as bad a college career as you could have to make it in the NFL. What are your thoughts as to the Saints' decision to give him a shot and whether you knew anything about him having played the little he did in Ohio?
"I didn't know much about him, but that's the great thing about the NFL or about any transition you make whether it's high school to college or college to pro football. You have the chance to be defined by what you do there and every guy that you bring into camp has an opportunity to impress, reinvent themselves and show what potential is. I think that Chris has done a great job with that. I've seen it. Randall Gay was a guy that we signed in New England out of LSU. He wasn't very well-known. He's created a nice career for himself. There are a lot of guys like that, when they get their chance and you seize it. He's seizing his chances."
If you look at him on film, in terms of measurable why would a team want to give him a chance? Is it size, speed, or a combination of things?
"He has excellent size, excellent speed. He runs tough, so those three things alone I think are redeeming qualities that I think you'd want to look at."