What are your thoughts on Sean Payton's offensive system?
"I think Sean does a real good job of keeping the defense off balance. They really attack pretty much every inch of the field. They run toss plays and screens. They like to get the ball outside. They have a good inside running game. They throw the ball. (Drew) Brees uses his guys on checkdowns and things like that very well and they have the ability to get the ball vertically down the field to pretty much everybody, especially the receivers, but (Jimmy) Graham obviously and even (Darren) Sproles to an extent. So, you have to defend the deep ball. You have to defend from the sideline to the middle of the field. You have to defend the running game inside and out, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers; they are all a big part of the passing game. Brees even, they have some moving pocket plays where he boots and he has had a couple red area scrambles where the receivers are covered and he was able to run them into the end zone as kind of a sixth receiver. They just have a lot of different weapons, a lot of different ways to attack you, obviously a lot of good players, very good scheme. They are well-coached. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They don't get a lot of penalties, turn the ball over, or have bad plays where they create long yardage situations, little stuff like that. I think they are at the top of the league in fewest negative runs, those type of numbers so you don't get a lot of long yardage opportunities that some teams get themselves into one way or another and it's hard to convert those. They don't get that on first and second down, they are usually in a third down situation and is somewhat manageable. They stay on the field and when they get in the red area they score a lot of points down there. It's a great offensive system. Sean (Payton), Pete Carmichael and their staff do a great job of coaching it and installing it and they execute it well."
Can you talk about the different type of crop of tight ends that are in the league right now as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago?
"I think there have been good players in the league all the way through. I think the passing game has evolved to more spread formations and gave more opportunities. Certainly, Jimmy Graham is as good as anybody we've seen all year or will see in the passing game. He is very athletic. He has great athletic ability down the field to come up with the ball. He is fast and quick and is a hard guy to match up to no matter who you put on him. If you put size on him, it's hard to match up to his speed and quickness. If you put speed and quickness on him, it is hard to match up to his size. Players at that position that are at tight end that are big and can run, they're hard, defensively, to match up to. That has been the case through the years at that position. If you go back to all the great tight ends that have played there is kind of the same element. It is hard to get a guy on him that can match him athletically."
What is it about Sean Payton makes him such an effective leader?
"I never coached with Sean so I've never been with him on a day to day basis. Our relationship is obviously on the other side of the field and then I think we share some common things and of course being in opposite conferences makes it a little bit easier to develop a relationship with a coach like that. We spent time with him in practices and Pro Bowls, stuff like that, but I have never actually worked with him. His day to day handling of the team, pregame things and things like that, I'm probably not the right person to ask about that. Obviously he does a good job, but I don't have any specifics or anything like that."
What are some of the common things you see that you and Sean share?
"We both worked for Coach (Bill) Parcells. We have a similar general overall outlook to the game as how we try to coach of what things are important. When we practiced with the Saints they are very easy to work with. I think the things that we want to emphasize in practice, they want to emphasize. The ability to do things and work together because of common philosophies, not schematically, but in terms of approach to the game, practicing, preparing, working against each other, those things were very easy with the Saints."
How has Rob Ryan grown as a coach since he left New England?
"Well when he was at New England, he coached the linebackers. Then when he went to Oakland as a coordinator, he's really been a coordinator since he left New England. I'd say that's the major development. Rob's teams have always been, we played against them at Oakland, at Dallas, and now this week at New Orleans, but just watching his defenses play, they're always very well prepared, they're a good situational team, they do things weekly that attack the specific opponent that they're playing, keep you off balance and present problems that hit at your weaknesses. I think he's got great experience from his total background, from his family to all the coaching that he's done. He's been in several different systems. Rob is a smart guy that really is a very dedicated coach. He works hard at football, studies football, and has a good understanding of what other people are doing, which then of course helps him in whatever he's doing (with a) better understanding of what's going on. He's good in the running game, good in the passing game, good on situation football. He's got a good energy; he installs a solid confidence within his players because he's always prepared. He knows what to do and I think that carries over to the people he works with…at least it did here. I really enjoyed having Rob on the staff here. He contributed a lot to us and he had the opportunity to move up as a coordinator and I couldn't do that at that time, so I was happy for him to have that opportunity and he has obviously done well with it. He's an excellent coach."
What are your thoughts on winning the coin toss and the rule change a few years ago allowing teams to defer? Some coaches differ all the time. How do you view that and is there an advantage to doing that? Does it change from game to game?
"Well, in our case, we talk about it every week and if we win the toss, then we talk about what are the advantages of our choices and most of the time we've differed, but not always. It just depends on what we feel like is the best strategy for that particular game and that situation. So, it's not etched in stone; it's a weekly decision that we make prior to the game and if we have that option. So, it just depends on what the circumstances of the situation are in that particular game giving everything that's involved in the game. It's a unique decision; we don't have one set standard to where this is the way it's going to be. It depends on how we feel about that game at that time."
Is weather a big factor or is it just one of many?
"I'd say it's certainly one factor. Weather is a factor. It's how you feel about your game plan, how you want to start the game, how you feel that if you could control the flow of the game, whether you'd want to have possession at the start of the game or the start of the half. Most likely if you defer and they take the ball, then you would have a wind advantage, which a lot of times there is in New England. That plays into the start of the game as well, so starting off (on) offense or defense, the wind is part of the weather decision. The weather is part of the decision. How the other team, what type of a starting team they are, if there's a tendency or something that you do or don't want to address there, all those things play into it. But certainly, weather is part of the conversation."
What kind of matchup problem has Rob Gronkowski presented over the years?
"I think you'd have to ask the other teams that really. We just have our plays and Tom (Brady) has a number of options on most plays in the passing game other than screens or anything like that that are just designed to go to one guy. But, he has options based on the coverage and the matchups that we get, and he tries to take the best option or take the lightest part of the coverage that's available. That's what we try to do. How they try to defend it, we've seen multiple things on that like everybody has, but it's really the quarterback's choice to try to go where he feels the best opportunity is on that particular pattern against that particular coverage. Each play has its own set of rules and reads, and it's a function of what happens on that play."