Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron addresses the New England media during his conference call on November 5, 2008.
Q: Losing 3 of 4 after a 4-0 start, how's the mood around the team now?
DJ: Well, the mood was a lot better from everybody including myself when we went 4-0, but the fact is you've got to take every week as it's presented to you. We've got to take the 5-3 record and move on. We know this is just a huge game for us coming up.
Q: Has the tone of this game changed at all? Early in the season it looked like this might be a statement game, but now is it more about survival?
DJ: I understand the question, but I've never looked at it that way. First of all, I've never looked nine games into the season when the season starts. We truly are a group that tries to take it one week at a time. We don't necessarily divide our season into any sort of quarters or any of that stuff. We divide it into sixteenths because every one is so critical. You know every one of them. We try to prepare the same certainly, because I don't know how else you do it. If you're not preparing your best or think you're preparing your best every week, the odds are you'll never be in it for the whole year. The difference is, of course, our division: we have ancient rivalries, we know each other, we know about each other, personnel, they're familiar with us. We've been struggling in the division for a long time, so right now our division is so tightly packed that again, every game becomes very, very critical and this is a division game against a team that has dominated the division for so long.
Q: You mentioned the Patriots have dominated the division, but it seems like the Bills and other teams have closed the gap a little. What do you attribute that to?
DJ: I don't. I don't think about it in terms like that. I think about it in terms of where it is, you know, where we are right now and what we're going into, and so I haven't spent any time thinking really about why we're all grouped like we are. I like our division; I have a lot of respect for everybody in our division. I think probably like every organization, we looked at all of our players through the off season, we looked at what they did in free agency, we looked at what they did in the draft, we felt like everybody had improved. We knew it always seems to be a struggle. And it's a struggle you hope you find yourself in the middle of as opposed to kind of what it's been like for us, anyway, in the past few years kind of looking up. But I don't have any answers for why, I'm just glad we're right in the thick of it.
Q: How much, if any, does your nine game losing streak to the Patriots affect this game?
DJ: I believe that the fact that they've beaten us and beaten us soundly definitely has an effect. I'm sure it has an effect on them, too, in terms of their confidence in playing us. We just, again, we have to deal with it. We've been on the losing end and as I pointed out, badly, so we've got to try to gain a little ground on these guys. They're awfully good, you know, they're awfully good from top to bottom, organizationally, talent-wise on their team and the way they coach, they really do a good job.
Q: Is this losing streak that you've entered into part of the maturation process of a young team as it strives for a higher level?
DJ: We are young at some spots on the football team. I've said this all year, I like the character of the team; I like their work ethic. In recent weeks we've played very good opponents, very good opponents who have earned the victories over us. We've made errors in the games, errors that every coach and every team talks about: we turned the ball over too many times and we gave up too many big plays to win the football games. But I'm always proud of the way our guys fight. They stay in it. They don't lose heart. They disappoint themselves, we all get disappointed and then we go back to work and see if we can improve. We know that if we don't play our best game this week, we don't have much of a chance. We can't turn the ball over, we can't give up the big plays and think we can beat a team of this talent level and history; they have a history of winning.
Q: So you can't really say 'ok, we're young, this happens, we'll deal with it'? You have to hold them to a standard of maturity when you're starting to play at this level?
DJ: I think you point out the errors all the time, obviously, that's what coaching is. We don't accept the errors regardless of who makes them. We're a professional football team, so we expect to play at a professional level. The guys work at it. They work hard all week to get ready and as I mentioned earlier, they're so disappointed in themselves and for all of us when things happen in games. So you hold them accountable, but you don't—you can't accept it because we know we won't be able to compete for what we all want in this business if we keep turning everything over.
Q: What is Donte Whitner's status and how would his loss affect the other personnel at safety?
DJ: Donte has that shoulder, and we'll just have to wait and see through the week where that goes. Obviously we'd rather have him on the field than off the field and watching, but when somebody steps off it opens an opportunity for somebody else. We fully expect whoever plays in that spot—if Donte can't—to fill in ably. We've got to have that.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of depth and the next man up? You certainly experienced it last season and this season to a lesser extent.
DJ: We know our game. Everybody in the league suffers injuries and it's a tough game. There's lot of— probably nobody on the field is 100 percent once they start training camp and start working as hard as teams in our business work and then play as hard as they play every Sunday. There's attrition unfortunately, and we all go through it. So, yeah, the backups are critically important and the backups to the backups personnel-wise as you move through it, because obviously most of your backups are critical special teams performers and then if they've got double duty that wears them down and wears a little thin. It really does take its toll over time, but as I said, everybody's got them and they have to deal with them
Q: Can you talk about the strides Trent Edwards has made from last year?
DJ: I would say he has improved in every area, I really would. I give him a lot of credit; he's worked awfully hard in the offseason in every way: on the field, off the field, in the weight room, with his nutrition. Every way he's done everything that he can possibility do to give us the best chance to win and to give himself the best chance to win. I wouldn't say there's any one area. He was an impressive player when he came here, he's just more impressive now and he's getting better. I think he'll just keep getting better because he works awfully hard at it and it's very important to him.
Q: How do you keep the team motivated and enthusiastic when things aren't going so well?
DJ: I think the number one thing is you better have the right guys, because if you don't have the right guys it's not going to make much difference what you say to them. So they've got to be- to a large degree they've got to be self-motivated guys. They've got to be guys that really care about our football team, hopefully more or as much as they care about their own individual performance. Hopefully they're into our team just as much. I would say that we have a good group, so it makes that part of our job a little bit easier. And Marv [Levy] used to say it all the time: the way you motivate a team is to have intrinsically motivated people. There's a lot of truth in it.
Q: With some of the injuries you have now, how much can you guys draw from what you went through last year, starting over 40 guys?
DJ: I think to some degree, but I don't know that there's a lot of carry over year to year, unless you're one of those teams that's constantly winning. We're in a position where we're trying to get to consistently winning football [games]. In terms of learning how to deal with injury, obviously we had a lot of practice a year ago, but I'm not certain what it does for you. I think the main thing is what we just kind of finished talking about: the character of your team and the types of people you have. Like I said, I tip my hat to our guys; they're good guys and they work hard at it and they want it to go well for themselves and for all of us.
Q: You talked a little about looking at your team in the offseason as well as Trent Edwards. With the personnel in this division, do you go into the season knowing that you have to get good quarterback play to be competitive?
DJ: In our game, obviously the quarterback is—you can say, hopefully without hurting anyone else's feelings—the critical guy on your football team. If you have that guy—you've got to be good around him everywhere else [and] you've got to do everything else pretty well or very well—but if you have that guy, he's always going to give you and your team a chance to win because they're always going to feel like they have a chance to win. I think that attitude is critically important, so you've got to have that guy at the helm. It's just such a struggle, such a struggle if you don't.
Q: Have you seen teams bringing a little more pressure on Trent Edwards the last couple of weeks?
DJ: I would say that is probably true, but I don't know how significantly more because almost every week in our league they're going to pressure you; you get pressure. If you're a young quarterback you see a significant amount of it until you hurt it. If you consistently hurt it then obviously the defense is going to think more and more about what they're going to do and if they want to go that route against you to the extent that some of them will. So I would say that we probably have seen a little more pressure and the difference once we get into the division play is we're seeing all 34 teams. The 34 fronts pose a little different problems for us and we have to handle them a little better than we have.
Q: What are your impressions of Matt Cassel and have you seen development since he first replaced Tom Brady?
DJ: I think he's done a really good job. I'm impressed by his arm strength, impressed by the way he seems to handle the adjustments that are necessary in their scheme. He appears to be calm on the field, doesn't appear that you rattle him very easily; he's got really good size to see down the field, it appears that he's got good vision of the field. It looks like another smart personnel move and they've done a really nice job developing Matt, so I'm impressed by him.