<span> <span style="">Opening Statement:</span>
"In our one injury from the game yesterday, Jeff Charleston had a break in his hand. He'll have surgery on it in the next day or two. Other than that, we met as a team today, shortly after you guys had a chance to visit with the players. Basically, everybody was at the team meeting. Aaron Glenn – his wife is pregnant – he was the only one who was excused, but we went through a number of things, certainly after looking at the tape. It's disappointing after having a chance to win in the end there. Credit Carolina, they made some plays in the end. They came up with a field goal to put them ahead and in the end win the game. This right now for us starts our offseason. Coaches will be out of here for about a week. We'll begin the evaluations when we get back of our own team and move towards the evaluations of free agency. That's pretty routine."
Were all of the guys on injured reserve at the meeting except for Aaron?
"The whole kit and caboodle, everybody and everyone."
Was Reggie Bush there?
Was he at the game yesterday?
When evaluating assistant coaches and your coaching staff, what's your timetable on that?
"We typically give the staff a week off at the end of the year."
Is there a timetable for evaluating their futures?
"There's no timetable. We'll sit down and go through it. Obviously we have to replace a coach and hire someone to take Doug Marrone's spot and then we'll look closely at everything. There's no timetable specifically. It's just really paying close attention to every step in the process."
Do you envision possibly having changes in the staff?
"The day after the season's over with you get asked that question then and there's no right answer, because if you answer it in any way, shape or form, it's going to be perceived then as such. We'll see. I think each year we've had a coach or two that's left for other jobs. This year, Doug Marrone left for Syracuse as a head coach. We'll look closely at the makeup of our staff as we head into 2009 and the responsibilities will be clearer, but any announcement in regards to a new hiring or changes, we would fill you guys in on."
When you have been asked about the future of Deuce McAllister, you haven't said much. Is there a reason for that?
"I don't have to give you the answer to the question you want. We're in the middle of the season and you're asking a question that is something that's going to be addressed at a certain time when the time is right and most importantly in the midst of the season and you're working with these guys, player contracts, the future of players, any of that stuff as it relates to the organization is privy to you only when we feel like we want to give it to you and not before then. I just finished talking to these guys about that. This is a close team. This is a team that I think is tight in the locker room. It's a team that has been a pleasure to coach. Obviously we went through some adversity. It's a team that's fought hard. There's too much respect for each member in that room to discuss something like that, which I think is very important. There will be a time when we go through not only Deuce, but a number of players, but it's something that I reiterated to them in the meeting, make sure that line of communication is between coach-player. And you read a lot that's speculated between now and the beginning of the offseason, half of which will be true, half of which won't be true, but that's the case every year. That's the job that you guys have to do and I certainly appreciate that. What's important with the player if there's any issue or any question that they come see us and we make sure we're on the same page. There is a timeframe where they leave the locker room now and there is a lot of speculation as to what's going to happen in free agency, who the so-called 'priority guys' are going to be or who the guys that we may not choose to bring back. All those things will be answered in time and there will be a lot written about that in the meantime, but what's most important is that the player has that dialogue and that line of communication in terms of where we stand and in the case of Deuce or any one of those guys, we'll have these meetings.
Can you evaluate how you did this year?
"What we did was finish 8-8 and I'm the head coach of the team that finished 8-8. That evaluation right off the bat is clear. One of the great things about our game is you receive an instant grade off of a win or loss and it wasn't good enough this year. We had three or four games where it got close, we couldn't hold onto the lead, nonetheless, we can point to a number of them right now, but we finished 8-8. It's disappointing to be here in December with the season over and us having this final press conference, something not continuing. Everybody in the building works so hard towards the postseason, towards an opportunity to get in the playoffs. It's hard when you don't meet those expectations, so that's the easiest way to say right now it wasn't good enough. We talked about it in the meeting, where each one of us has to do a better job this offseason of putting ourselves in a position, so that a year from now we're not sitting here packing up. A year from now, we're preparing to play in the postseason again. And I think our players will respond to that challenge as well as our coaches."
Do you think you need to make fundamental changes to how you coach?
"I think what we do is sound."
Do you think that your offensive philosophy is sound?
"We want to have balance. I can understand the criticism. I think it gets back to winning and losing football games. We're talking about an offense where in a lot of areas, more than half the areas are first in the league. Scoring is the number one objective I think and we finished at the top of the league in that area, the top of the league in third downs (efficiency), and the top of the league in yards. Certainly we need to do a better job in short yardage situations. I think having better balance, especially as it pertains to later in the season is something that will help. We'll look closely not just in the specifics of short-yardage offense, but we'll look closely at third down defense, closely into our kick return. Those things will all be evaluated. In regards to if we can do something better in that area. We spend a lot of times researching trends and what we think is best, but I think we're real sound. I think we're a well coached team and I think that our players appreciate that and respond accordingly. We're constantly looking to improve."
Do you think there will be changes made to the defense?
"In the last four or five weeks, there were some things that were encouraging. In the end, the thing that was probably most concerning were the pass plays thrown up, plays made above our head that we were not able to make. I think that's most frustrating."
Is that because of the scheme or the personnel?
"I think you have to look closely at both and we do. There's a case in point yesterday in the second down and the ball thrown what seems to be in the air for three or four seconds and Steve Smith jumps up into coverage between Roman (Harper) and Jason (David) and we're unable to intercept or knock the ball down and he ends up coming up with the play. We have to decide are we doing the right thing and are we doing it with the right player? Those are the two things that we look at every offseason and we'll look at this offseason hard."
What do you think of the job Gary Gibbs has done?
"I think he's had to go through, when you look specifically at Mike McKenzie, out, starting corner, Tracy Porter out, starting corner. You look at Charles Grant out, starting defensive end. We've gone through more injuries on defense. Not a lot of it has been brought up. Us purposely as a staff and a group have not talked about it. I think those guys and Gary, they have done a real good job of fighting through the injuries and some of the adversity they've had and when you lose your two starting corners, you lose a starting defensive end in Charles Grant, Sedrick Ellis is out for four weeks. You go on and on. That's the hand we were dealt. We look closely at if these guys are playing hard? I think the answer is yes. Can we play better? Yes. Can we prepare and coach better? Certainly. And those are the things that we'll do."
Did losing Charles Grant slow down Will Smith?
"He's battling with some injuries himself and it becomes harder when you're the guy that the focus shifts to. There's a culmination of things that made it challenging for those guys on defense, not only the coaches, but the players as well."
How will you approach free agency and do you think you have to be heavily involved in bringing in several high-priced players to get your team over the hump?
"I think we'll go through this time. Mickey (Loomis) and I will sit down and go through what we think our needs are. We'll always…I know Mickey feels this way, be judicious in regards to looking at the so called high priced free agents. I think first, we start with developing our young players. That's important. We take that very seriously. Where we can find a complementary player or a player that fits a need, then we look closely at that, but I think history tells us you have to be patient. You have to be smart as you're acquiring someone else's player. What's most important is the proper evaluation of our current players and making sure we start with them before we get onto the next stage. And the next stage is important, but the first stage with our own team is first."
What can you do during the offseason to get better at finishing games?
"I think you have to emphasize that in every aspect of your program as it pertains to finishing practice the right way, finishing the weight workout the right way. You bring it up and talk about three-quarters of the game not being good enough or putting ourselves in a position like yesterday with three minutes left isn't good enough. We have to complete the game and I think our players understand that. We talked about it already prior to this offseason and where we're going with this offseason. We talked about it really as it pertained to the games we've played. You look back to the Washington game where we're ahead by nine in the fourth quarter and that was the first time that it really came up and we had a chance to go 2-0 there. It's something that will be emphasized and something that we have to – starting with me – create that environment a little more in every aspect that these guys are here. With the OTAs and the training camps, those are the things that we'll try to do."
Do you envision Reggie Bush still being the guy, the prominent back in this offense?
"I see him as a prominent member of our offense. The role he plays – be it as a receiver out of the backfield, as a guy in the backfield – we're talking about a guy that was injured this year but was also a big part of an offense that finished at the top of the league in most every category. I see him being a part of that."
Do you see Garrett Hartley as the kicker for the future?
"He has certainly made a good impression. Finishing 13-for-13 – he was a little inconsistent yesterday with the kickoffs, but I'll say this: you guys have seen a limited amount because when you're out to practice we're not in the field goal drills, but as good as he's been on gameday, he's been better in practice and very consistent. That's very encouraging that he's a young player, a rookie, and it's not too big for him and he's handled it very well with a live leg. I'm encouraged with that a lot."
Is improving the defense the number one need again this offseason?
"We're going to have some players back. You talk about a guy like Tracy Porter who started off the season very and he comes back. You talk about Charles Grant who's a young defensive end still and someone we consider that has a lot left in his career and he comes back. We'll look closely at the specific areas that we need to target and that will come after we evaluate our own players and our games. We'll go through each player, try to make sure we have a good bead on what their strengths and weaknesses are and then look at the needs specifically. It would be easy to say with where we finished offensively we're going to point to defense. Some of that might be true, but nonetheless we have to pay close attention to our own players offensively that are free agents right now. There are a few of them that were big contributors to what we did this year."
Finishing out of the playoffs two years in a row with an offense that's ranked number one, do you see the defense as the thing that's holding you back?
"There are some things that we have to be better on offensively. We had an opportunity to really put the game away at Washington and weren't able to run the football in a key situation; were unable to get that key yard in Denver. This doesn't all just shift to one side of the ball or the other even though it's easy to do that. That being said, it's still looking closely at how we can improve our overall team. This is an important part of the year because this is where a mistake made can set you back or the right decision can set you forward, so we take it very seriously."
How much does the health of Mike McKenzie factor into your planning for next season?
"It's significant. His rehab is going well and he has done a good job with all of that. I know he's planning on coming back. It was an unusual injury in the way he got hurt but we're optimistic that he's able to rehab it and get back in time for next season. That being said, it's still a significant injury."
Do you think that you need a big powerful running back?
"That's a good question. I think that as the season finished this year we began to feel real confident in Pierre Thomas' ability to get that one yard. If you look at his numbers, he was pretty effective in short-yardage situations. That being said, we'll always look closely at improving our power running game and being more physical. I think we have the potential up front to be pretty good with the offensive line. They have certainly done a good job in protection and when we've asked them to run it they have responded well. We'll look closely at that position."
What are your thoughts on the progress of Robert Meachem?
"I said earlier that I really looked at this season for him as his rookie year because of the injury a year ago. He's gaining more confidence; he has a greater understanding of what we're trying to do offensively; he's big, he's young, he's talented. He came in as a junior. You take a guy like him and I see some parallels to Devery Henderson. You guys were here when Devery was a rookie; I was not, but I do see a guy that encourages me. I watched him yesterday make some plays when we needed them. He does a good job of catching the ball above his head and he's extremely fast, so I'm excited about his future and I'm glad we have him, especially now that he's healthy. You can just see his confidence grow and certainly the confidence of the quarterback grow with him."
How frustrating was Jeremy Shockey's season?
"The injury that he had is real tough to play with. There is a certain skill-set that he has and certainly he's capable of playing at a higher level. I'm sure he's looking forward to this offseason, being that he'll be working on football rather than rehabilitating an injury. That's something that will benefit not only him, but Drew Brees from a timing aspect. He's one of a number of players that got nicked up. The injury to Reggie was frustrating with the season that he began to have, and that's part of the game. We get these guys back, we work that much harder, we do a better job of coaching and bring in some key pieces that we feel like we need and make those tough decisions and move on."
Are you encouraged that Shockey wants to be more involved in the offseason program here than he ever was in New York?
"Yes. I think the guys on offense understand the significance of making sure they're where Drew Brees is in the offseason. That's important because it starts with the quarterback. They certainly look forward to and get excited about playing in the offense, but as much as anything understand the importance of the hard work and the time that goes into being involved in the passing game or the running game. The weight program here, the running, the throwing – all those things that take place when these guys come back after being rested are all significant."
Do you think you're more likely to be sitting here getting ready for a playoff game next year if Drew Brees' passing totals aren't up around 5,000 yards?
"That's a good question. I think what's most important are the wins and losses. There are some games this year where his numbers being high were a positive in helping us win and then there were some times when it was really a result of us coming from behind. New England just finished 16-0 a year ago with numbers that were that gaudy and it seemed fine because they were winning games. We're going to do what we think gives us the best chance to win and what suits our personnel. That's the way we're going to approach it."
How can the pass rush be improved?
"It's an area that we have to improve on. You can't point to just one player being injured. I think collectively though, it's an area – no different than the short-yardage on offense or a couple of big returns that we gave up this year or the big plays above our heads in the passing game – it's something that we have to look closely at and understand that the teams that are getting after the passer real well defensively do real well. As we saw in a play yesterday where Delhomme takes one hitch, two hitches, three hitches and was back there for an inordinate amount of time. That's an area that we'll look at real closely as well."
Is the philosophy of the defense your philosophy?
"It's the philosophy from when we started in the very beginning here of what we wanted to play. It's a similar scheme that we see in Atlanta and a similar scheme that we see in Tampa Bay. It's a 4-3 scheme that a good portion of the league implements and uses and now it's finding the pieces to make it go."
Do you feel that you need to be a more physical team?
"We have to always look at being a more physical football team. The toughness in a team defensively and offensively is critical to winning. Do we need to re-think how we're going to play offensive football here? No, I don't think so. We have to do what's best and suits our personnel. We'll always look closely at the teams that are at the top of our league and see what wins games. Certainly it starts with good defense. You have to have balance and we understand that. But as you study in the offseason what's winning in your division, you pay close attention to those teams because obviously to get where we want to go, we're going to have to compete and play with Atlanta and Carolina and Tampa Bay, no different than this season."
Not to sound like I'm head-hunting, but do you intend to keep Gary Gibbs as defensive coordinator?
"You are head-hunting. But I'm not going to answer the question right now because the day after the season ends, we're not answering those questions. It's unfair. It's unfair to Gary; it's unfair to point out specific players or coaches. Any change we make or any decision we make, we'll let you know."
Is anyone other than Jeff Charleston scheduled for surgeries?
"We have a few guys that are going to have some scopes done in the next 10 days. I don't have a list in front of me, but I want to say about four minor procedures. Jahri Evans will have a scope and Marques Colston potentially will have a scope on his knee. Not significant procedures, but ones that will get done in the first week-and-a-half after the season."
Are Will Smith, Charles Grant and Deuce McAllister still potentially facing suspensions at the start of next season?
"I'm not really aware of where that's at right now. I know that it hasn't been resolved, so we go from there. Hopefully the sooner the better. I'm really like you guys and waiting to hear."
Will Reggie need any more surgery?
"He was just in today on crutches. He had a scope done a few weeks ago. He's rehabbing now and will be around."