BB: There's no updates on the injuries for our roster, so other than any questions about the alarm, I'll take whatever you got.
Q: What makes (Mike) Shanahan the type of coach that he is?
BB: I just think Mike does a really good job in every aspect of running the football team. Number one, from an organizational standpoint, I think they're well organized. I think they're solid in every aspect. Whether it be personnel, or coaching or the management of their team with young players, veteran players, they always seem to have a pretty good mix. Strategically, I think they do a good job of utilizing their personnel, and he presents a lot of scheme problems for you as a coach. He does a good job of seeing how he matches up against your personnel, and then putting you in a position that's tough. Usually, you know early in the game, you're sitting there early in the game saying, 'okay, I see what he's after, now this is going to be a problem, how are we going to try to fix it.'
Q: Have you ever talked to Mike about motivational tactics?
BB: Yeah, I've talked to Mike.
Q: What types of things did you get from him?
BB: Part of the problem is we play them every year, and there's competition there every year so it's always harder to develop those relationships. It's one thing if you've worked together before in another organization or something, but we're both after the same thing and we play each other every year so it's hard to really want to exchange a lot of information when it's direct competition.
Q: ( On the pros and cons of scheming against opponents)
BB: Well, I think the pro to it is you try to find a way to attack the weakness of the team that you're playing against, and try to stress the areas that you feel they are vulnerable. The flip side of it is you're making some changes on a weekly basis, you're doing some things that are different, sometimes things can come up in the game that aren't always the way that you practiced them, and you don't have as much of a background in doing that as you do in something that's your regular thing that you do all the time. I think that's really what you're weighing, and hopefully when you game plan something, hopefully you'll be able to get the situation that you're looking for, get a call in that situation or the other team will be doing what you expect them to be doing, and then hopefully the scheme will work. It doesn't always happen that way, but if you can hit it right, then that increases your chances.
Q: Is it at all difficult for the players to get that?
BB: Yes. You have to make those decisions, how much is too much, when is it really hurting us more than it's helping us. Sometimes it can add up in different ways. For example, if you're making adjustments in the kicking game, you're making adjustments on defense, the player's involved in both aspects, they're related to the player, but maybe the special teams coach, or the defensive coach or the special teams coach and the offensive coach don't know exactly how much transition that is going on in another phase as an example. You have to keep an eye on that, that's something that we talk about regularly, and we meet together as a staff so we understand that. The special teams coach never knows exactly what the offense is doing, just like the offense never knows exactly what the special teams is doing. So you work through it in general days, and you work through it, that would just be one example.
Q: Players seem happy with the way they've been practicing, are you a little perplexed that players have not been able to take that performance to Sunday?
BB: Yeah, that's really all that matters, how we perform on Sunday. Nobody really cares about what happens during the week. The other thing I'd say is that my experience in the league, if you practice well and do things right in practice, then you have a chance to do things right in the game. When you don't practice well, the percentages that they're going to happen the way they're supposed to happen in a game when they haven't happened right in practice usually aren't very good. The stars really have to be in alignment for that to happen, now there's some plays that it's harder to get the same reaction in practice that you get in a game, and sometimes they're a little bit hard to judge. For example, say a reverse. That all depends on how fast the defense pursues, that's part of how successful the play is, so if you're not getting that full-speed pursuit in practice, maybe the play doesn't look quite as good because they're not reacting the way they would in a game. Other than a few plays, generally speaking, if you're not able to execute something very well in practice and you run it three or four times, then to think that you're going to go out there in a game and really light it up on that play, it's a long shot.
Q: Is the team just in a funk, or is it something else?
BB: I don't think there's any . . . I don't know that I could give you any consistent answer on that. First of all, nothing is ever perfect. So, I can't remember ever having a great Wednesday, a great Thursday, a great Friday, and a great game. There have been plenty of days where we've had bad Friday practices, or bad Wednesday practices, or it's just okay, or you have good practices and don't okay that well, or you have okay practices and play better. A lot of that has to do with the way your opponent is playing. You can go out there and play good, average, or poor, but it's how that matches up against their good, average, or poor, and then plus a few plays in the game can always have an impact on it anyway, whichever those plays go. It's far from scientific, but I just believe that the more you do things right, the more consistently you do them, the better chance you have of being consistent in the game, and that's really all we're looking for. When it's not consistent in practice, then, in my experience, it's less likely that it's going to be consistent in the game.
Q: Have you assessed the lack of urgency we saw last Sunday during the week?
BB: No, I don't think we practiced poorly, I think it could always be better, and anytime you're putting in new things, which we do every Wednesday. We go against a new defense and a new offense, and no matter what we're doing it plays a little bit differently because of what are opponents are doing. There's always new learning, new teaching, new timing on certain plays, and that's always going to be a part of it, and usually Wednesday is more of a learning day then Thursday is, and Thursday's more of a learning day than Friday is. Again, what you're really looking for is the players to go out there and execute the plays the way they're supposed to be done, to run them at a good tempo so that you can evaluate whether in fact this is going to be effective. If it's not run correctly in practice, then you can't evaluate what it would look like if it was right, then you don't know. You try to look at it, and then after you see it, we look at the practice tape and make the corrections, and sometimes we adjust it and sometimes we throw it out, sometimes we change the ball handling, or change the gap that a guy's going to hit in the blitz or that kind of thing because of what we're seeing on the practice tapes. That's just part of the process.
Q: Is it more likely that a team could practice badly during the week and surprise you with a good game?
BB: No. That doesn't happen very often. You might have one bad practice in there, but generally speaking; I don't think that's too likely.
Q: Has the preparation outside of practice been up to your expectations?
BB: I don't have a big problem with the way the team's working, I have a problem with the way the team is performing.
Q: What constitutes a bad practice?
BB: Missed assignments, lack of fundamental execution, it starts with that, just like a game. What's the worse thing that could happen in the game? Leaving the ball on the ground, missing assignments, penalties, false starts, being offside, dropping the ball, I mean all those things, they're a just fundamental things, and if that happens in practice, just like it happens in the game, nobody's happy about that. Beyond that, it's team execution. There are a lot of one-on-one battles out there on every play, and we've talked about that and there's a significant number of them. At the same time there a bunch of things that have to work in unison, there are a combination of things. The guard and the tackle work together, the linebacker and the end work together, the corner and the safety work together, so where players are working together in conjunction with each other, picking up twists, punt protection, kickoff returns, all those kinds of things, then what you're looking for is the players to be able to understand where their teammate's going to be, how he's going to be playing, and how that can help me. By knowing what you're doing, how can that help me do my job better, and fitting all that together.
Q: Donald Hayes has talked about having problems picking up the offense, have you seen any signs in practice in the last week or so that he's getting a better grasp?
BB: I don't know exactly what was said, and to what context it was said, but I think it would be inaccurate to characterize Hayes as being somebody who doesn't know his assignments because that's just not the case. There are adjustments on patterns, sometimes things happen by coverages or blitzes where you have to alter what you're doing a little bit, and seeing that and recognizing that and doing that correctly, those are adjustments that we're always working on. Everybody's working on them, Troy Brown's working on them, Donald Hayes is working on them, and everybody's working on them. Some of those things come through experience comes quicker to some than others. That's really the way that I would characterize it, but we saw Donald make big plays in the first game of the year. Those weren't missed assignments. Those were good plays. I think it's more the finer points, and more of doing the little things and making some adjustments on the run and being on the same page as the quarterback. Where two guys are seeing the same thing, they're seeing it exactly the same way, and they know what each other's doing
Q: Are you guys missing big plays? It seems like you had a lot of big plays last year.
BB: We had a lot of big plays in the kicking game, and we haven't had many this year. We haven't particularly in the kicking game, we didn't have many in the kickoff return last year, but we had some in the punt return game, and we haven't had a lot of plays in the return game this year, kickoffs or punts.
Q: Even downing the ball inside the five, you guys really miss that, is that something that can turn the game?
BB: Well, it's a key play, it gives you field position, and that field position statistically usually leads to points, it's not guaranteed, we had the ball on the six-yard line against Green Bay and didn't get anything out of that. But statistically, if you get them down there often enough, that'll lead to some scoring opportunities for your offense. So we certainly can use more of those in the kicking game, there's no question about it. We haven't had really very many of them, we blocked a couple of kicks, field goals, extra points, we put some pressure on there, we've made some kicks. But in terms of the punting game, and the kickoffs, there haven't been a lot of big plays, there haven't been a lot against us, but there haven't been a lot on our favor either, and we're kind of treading water there, and we always want to come out on the plus side of it.
Q: How do you think Richard Seymour is coming along this year?
BB: I think he's like a lot of guys right now. He can be better. I don't think it's bad, but he can be better.
Q: Does he draw a lot of attention from the offensive line? Does he see more double teams than some of the other guys?
BB: I think the double teams on the offensive line, it's a little bit, it's the term I've never really understood to be honest with you. I've heard people talk about it, and I'm not really sure that I understand what that is. Basically, we just do some simple math, normally if you have a running play you got two backs in the backfield and you have seven blockers. There's six guys on the line of scrimmage and there's one on their backs, so that's seven people blocking. Defensively, you're either going to have seven or eight guys that they need to block, so they can let one go, or bring the receiver in to block one, or whatever, but lets just call it seven on seven. How many double teams can they have? Three guys get double teamed, they're going to let the other four guys make the tackle. The double teaming and all that, like I say, I don't really understand that, I don't understand how six guys can block three and nobody blocks the other four guys.
Q: You can chip a guy . . .
BB: It's all combination blocks that's right. So the guard and the tackle block the tackle and the linebacker, the center and the guard block the tackle and the linebacker. Or the tackle, or the end and the fullback block the end and safety or the end and the safety, or the linebacker and the safety. There's always combination blocks in there, you know if you strictly do one-on-one blocking, if the defense stunts, then I'm trying to go this way, and the guy goes that way, and even if I block him I pick off one of my teammates who's trying to work in my direction. So, there's always combination blocking, and all the double-team blocks and all that, I don't really understand what all those double-team blocks are. Occasionally two guys start off on the defensive lineman, but if they stay on him full-time, they just don't have enough people to block the linebackers, they just can't do it. So, those double-teams, and I've heard that, defensive lineman getting double-teamed, and triple-teamed, that's another one I'm not really familiar with. That's not really what's happening, the combination blocks are on the line every play. Now in pass protection, that's a little bit different story. The match on that is different, there's usually five pass protectors on the offensive line, generally there's four rushers, unless you're blitzing. The either one of the linemen takes those blitzers, or one of the back or tight ends takes them and it's still five on four. You break it down that way, there's an extra blocker, who's that blocker doubling, who's he helping. Could be helping one of the inside guys, could be helping an end, there's a lot of different ways to do it, but you do have an extra guy. Offensively if they don't blitz, if they blitz, you need him to pick up the blitz, if they don't blitz, then you can take that extra guy and allocate him wherever you want to do it. Whether you want to assign him to a certain player because he's a good player, or whether the scheme dictates that we're three on two and they're two on two over here, or we're four on three, and they're three on two, however you want to do it. I don't understand those double teams, it's just like in punt protection. I've never understood how they can get three guys in one gap, what happened on that blocked punt? Well, there was two guys in my gap, well how can there be two guys in your gap, then there was another guy here, another guy here, and another guy there, that's usually somebody not seeing it the way that it actually happened.
Q: Back to Richard Seymour. After the whistle, he had one (penalty) in the last game, I think last year he had one or two. Is that a tough thing? Do you want him to be aggressive but yet…
BB: No. We don't want to hit anybody after the whistle. Not anybody. That is what the whistle is for. We don't want to hit them out of bounds. And it's clear that the officials are going to call that closely and strictly. That's why we have whistles and that's why we have white lines on the sidelines. When a guy runs out of bounds or when the quarterback slides or when the whistle blows, that's it. That's the end of the play.
Q: Is it frustrating that Richard keeps going after the whistle?
BB: Well he hasn't had that many penalties. Every penalty is a bad penalty. I mean look, I have talked to the players about this plenty of times too. We come in after the game and every guy says 'well coach, you know I'm sorry I only had one penalty.' Well we've got 40 penalties. We'll set NFL records halfway through the season on penalties if that is the way you look at it. One penalty is too many. It's too many. We can't have that 'well I false started one time.' If everybody false starts you just can't play like that. So, one is too many. We're not excusing one. We're not excusing 12 or however many we had last week. We don't want to hit after the whistle. We don't want to hit the quarterback late. We don't want to hit the guys who run out of bounds. We don't want to hit them when they slide. And we don't want to hit them after the whistle and that's clear-cut. There's no if, and, or but about that. When a player is out there and he hears the whistle, he stops. A guy goes out of bounds, he needs to know where he is. That is just awareness on the field. You can't excuse it. If we had one of those every game, we would have 200 yards a year just on that stuff. You can't afford it.
Q: Earlier in the year when Troy was healthy, Deion Branch seemed to be doing more of the kick returns. Are you taking him off of that just to manage his playing time a little bit with Troy out and being hobbled a little bit?
BB: A little bit of a combination of that. In a couple of games, like the San Diego game was one, where he was getting a pretty good load there offensively in addition to the return game. But also, we feel confident with the guys we've got back there with (Patrick) Pass and Kevin (Faulk); they can return them. Hopefully we can get good productive plays out of everybody.
Q: Is Troy going to get any work on punt return this week?
BB: I think we're getting closer on that. He's working back there. I think we'll make the determination there around game time, again, as to how much of a load we are going to put on him in terms of the punts, receiving, the field goal rush, all the things he does. He's involved in a lot of things.
Q: Are there going to be any personnel changes? Grouping changes?
BB: Well I get asked about the starting lineup thing every week and I'll give the same answer that we always talk about. A lot of who we start the game with, depends on what that play happens to be. We have several different groups on offense. We have some groups on defense. Defensively part of that depends on who they have in the game. Who is going the start the game on defense? If they are in two tight ends and two backs it will be a different group than if they started three or four wide receivers, I can tell you that right now. Those starting lineups, again that is another one. I think it's a little bit over emphasized because it does vary, particularly in our case. From a personnel standpoint, we'll do the same things we do every week. We'll try to play the players that we think give us the best chance to win the game. Does that mean that the same players are inactive every week? No. There is some play there. And again some of those decisions are later in the week decisions. They are really made after Thursday practice to be honest with you. I'm sure there will be some changes from the last game as I said. Will (Rohan) Davey be playing middle linebacker? I mean, I don't think you're going to see anything like that. We'll try to do what we can do to get a more productive team out there than what we've had the past couple of weeks.
Q: Where does Shannon Sharpe rank in terms of tight ends that you have seen over the last 15-20 years?
BB: He's right up there. He's pretty good. There's one thing about Sharpe that is really underrated is his blocking. He is an excellent blocker. Now he is not a real big guy. He's not one of those 260-pound tight ends but he has exceptional quickness. He is very quick off the ball. He's got long arms and he can get position on his linebackers or defensive ends in some cases and use his natural strength and his quickness and his long arms to kind of hold them at bay until the play can get to the point of attack. He is not the kind of guy that is going to blow you 10 yards off the ball, but he is the type of blocker and the type of athlete and competitor that can get into the block and stay with the block and tie the guy up long enough so that the runner can get through there. So, he's a very effective blocker. Not in the Jonathan Ogden sense. But in terms of effectiveness, he's very good. And of course I think what he does in the passing speaks for itself. I mean he had a 80-yard touchdown last week. He had an 80-yard touchdown with the Ravens in a critical playoff game. So he has got the speed to split the defense and go the distance. He is also, obviously, a clutch receiver that they will throw to on third down and short possession situations or in the red area or on the goal line where you need a guy to go up there and make a tough catch in close quarters. He's got a lot of all the skills that you are looking for from a tight end. They split him out. They use him at times like a wide receiver. So that presents another problem for the defense in terms of, for example, normally linebackers aren't used to covering tight ends out in split position. Normally they are in closer to the formation. So that changes some of your matchups potentially. Defensively, how you want to cover them when they split up and put them in motion and all those kind of things. He's pretty good and he does a lot of things well. But I think his blocking is definitely underrated.
Q: What makes their offense so difficult to defend? Is it the versatility of players like that?
BB: Well, it starts with Shanahan. Every time we have played them, whether that was when he was the 49ers, when I was with the Jets, whether I am here, and when I was here last time. The thing that Mike does is he does a good job of understanding what you are doing defensively, what your adjustments are and then how to attack those adjustments. Again I think it is best expressed by when you're standing there on the sideline in the first quarter or early in the second quarter, when you can start to see the game plan develop and you're saying 'okay, I see what he is doing, I see what he is after and it's a problem.' He is hoping to catch you in one thing and maybe he doesn't catch you in it at time, so you might get away with one because you weren't in the match up that he was expecting. But when he catches you in that, which eventually he will throughout the course of the game at some point, you know what he is after and you don't really want to be there. He does a real good job of that. The scheming and how he attacks you defensively, he does a very good job. But offensively they have versatile players. The backs can catch. The quarterback has a little bit of mobility. The tight ends can catch and block. The receivers can catch and block. So they use their receivers in the running game. They use their backs and tight ends in the passing game. Everybody does a little bit of everything. The quarterback is mobile enough to run bootlegs and fall out and move the pocket and put some pressure on you that way. So they really do a good job with hitting you on all fronts from a personnel standpoint. Then, from a coaching standpoint, they do a real good job of trying to attack your weaknesses. The running game, again, I think goes a lot to the coaching. It goes to Shanahan, to Alex Gibbs. Again, no matter who the back is, every back out there gains a ton of yards. Over the years, go back 10 years and all they're all running for a whole bunch of yards. It doesn't make a difference who it is. I'm not saying that they're not good backs. I just think there is a pattern there. It's been the same coaches, been a lot of different backs and some different linemen, but you have the same coaches doing it then you have to give them a lot of credit too.
Q: So when you have to wait until, like you said, watch his game plan unfold, and you are trying to scheme during the week against tape that isn't really going to matter come game time, what gives there? When you're a schemer and he is a schemer? Who wins, if anybody, the advantage there when you never know what the other one is going to do going into the game? Because you can't even watch the tape from the last three or four weeks. I mean you can watch it but you can't really base what you are going to do on it.
BB: Well, I don't know if I would go quite that far. They have a basic offense. They're going to run the same plays. How they run them, how they get to them and where they are forcing you to be by a certain looks is where they present the problem. They probably run one running play over half the time. But I would say well over half the time. So it's not like, 'I wonder if they are going to run the stretch play this week.' They're going to run the stretch play and they're going to run it a lot. Now is it going to be out of two backs? Is it going to be out of one back? Is it going to be out of the slot? Is it going to be out of three wide receivers? Is it going to be out of two tight ends? Is it going to be to the weak side? The strong side? Is the tight end going to motion now? There's 20 questions and they're going to run the stretch. So there are certain things. Are they going to bootleg? Mark it down. They're going to bootleg. They're going to boot in the game. Guarantee it. Probably a bunch of times. Same thing. Which formations? Off of which action? How many receivers? Wide side? Short side? Left, Right? Crossing patterns, throw backs, screens? So they have enough of the repertoire there to keep you honest in enough ways to do it so that you can't zero into it. Yet to them a lot of it is the same. A lot it is the same play. Sure. You can't say 'okay fellas this week all of you 11 guys are going to be doing different things on this play.' 'For you nine guys it's the same thing.' 'For you two guys, its like this but it's like another defensive we play.' So they can relate it to something else, the other nine guys 'you do what you always do.' 'But this week because it's Shannon Sharpe' or this week 'because of Ed McCaffrey or Rod Smith' or this week 'because of Kordell Stewart' or whoever it is, 'you guys are going to be a little bit different.' Everybody else, 'you play it the way you've been playing it'
Q: Is this why the notion of scripting plays kind of came into being? You talked about adjustments.
BB: Well sure that's a big part of that. That's going back for 20 years now when Bill Walsh started doing it in San Francisco. You run your script to number one, see what the adjustments are. Number two is 'here's 15 plays that we want to get called.' I mean we've got to call something. We've got to snap the ball and run something. What do we want to run? Well we want to run inside or we want to throw the ball out in the flat or we want to attack this corner. We want to run at this defensive end because he is a passer. Whatever the thing is. So they pick out their 15 plays and within it, they accomplish the goals that they want to accomplish with those plays. Whether it's attacking certain personnel. Whether it's getting in some formation or personnel group to see how you're going to play it. So forth and so on. Then once you get to the end of the first quarter, mid-way into the second quarter, then you can sometimes start to see what the patterns are that are going to develop. And sometimes they do stuff in the first 15 plays that they aren't going to do the rest of the game. They just throw it in there to throw you off balance and think 'oh, okay. It looks like we're going to get a bunch of four wides. Then they run two plays four wide and then you don't see it the rest of the game. That's kind of their way of letting you know, that they're going to mess with you. They're going to make you worry about it and you're not going to see it again. But you have got to spend time adjusting it.
Q: Between the two coaching staffs is the game really kind of on after that? First, they put out their scheme, you put your scheme out, you smash the two into each other and then when the adjustments come is that when the game is on between the two coaching staffs?
BB: Sure. If you are in it; if you are still in the game. Denver has done such a good job at jumping out on top in the first quarter. I mean they have out-scored their opponents by, I don't know, 7-1 or whatever it is. And that is historically what they have done. And that again, goes all the way back to the 49ers and Bill Walsh those teams they get on top early, they score early. A lot of times, it's not 0-0 in the second quarter. Or it's not 7-7. You're looking at, you know, the game may already be starting to turn in their favor a little bit. Again looking back to their '97-'98 years, the numbers were unbelievable. They were ahead in the first quarter. They were ahead at halftime 16 out of 19 games or however many they played. So it started fast and then it got out of control and then they just run out the clock. A big part of playing a team like that is to be able to get through the script.
Q: Do you do that, script plays?
BB: We do.
Q: You guys are not deadlocked into those 15 plays. Is that the way San Francisco used to do it?
BB: Anytime you sc