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Butch Davis Conf. Call Transcript - 10/22

Davis: Joe Torre has pulled Roger Clemens from time to time. I think every manager has pulled a high profile starter when it wasn’t there day.



**Q: Question number one. You are a playoff team last year and there has been some inconsistency this year. What's been the difference?

BD:** I think there are two factors. One, a significant reduction to $25 million dollars of the salary cap and losing eight to ten veteran players in the process. That obviously eliminates some of the experience that you gain from the playoffs and playing well at the end of the season. You don't carry some of those guys. Losing Jamir Miller that was a Pro Bowl player for us in 2001. So you lose a little bit of leadership. You lose a little bit of experience veteran players. You lose the guys that helped make that playoff run. That's one thing. I think the other thing has been the number of injuries we have had. We've literally played musical chair on the offensive line since the fourth preseason game. Losing Ross Verba caused a domino affect that forced the staff to move three people on the offensive line. A week ago after the Raider game, losing some guys. So hopefully as we start to get maybe some of those guys back, we'll start to play a little bit more consistently. When we had those guys, the five same guys, we won three out of four games.

**Q: You bring up a sensitive point for a lot of coaches. If your offensive line isn't together, that is generally the quickest way to…

BD:** I would say, secondly only maybe to the secondary, clearly the offensive line is absolutely the most difficult to place to have to juggle your lineup. The communication aspects. Learning the guy that you are playing next to. Guys playing together. It's almost like playing the piano, both hands to have to know what the other one is doing. It's kind of that way in the offensive line. Unfortunately for us what has also compounded that is we have had to somewhat play musical chairs with the quarterback. It's been in and out, in and out, because of injuries and stuff through the first seven ball games.

**Q: Now that's a two-edge sword. The fact is you have two good quarterbacks.

BD:** You would just like for them to be well and healthy. Both of them being able to play.

**Q: What is the dynamic for a head coach that has two quarterbacks? It's always been a tough deal here over the years.

BD:** Yeah. It's reassuring from the standpoint that your team truly believes in both of these guys. They both have won games. You clearly would like to have one guy be the established guy and then the team knows week in, week out that this is the guy so that you can tailor-make game plans for this guy and his capabilities, the things that he does well. And you can continue to grow in your offense and the consistency. When you are constantly changing your offensive line and quarterback then all of a sudden you are changing the play. There is little carry over from week to week from successful plays in the previous week because maybe this guy can do this and this guy can't do this. It's obvious that, I don't think anybody in the league has ever had two guys that were clones of each other that were just spitting images that didn't make any difference.

**Q: At the end of the summer, you made an announcement that Holcomb was your quarterback. You have had to change it. Now does that change? Are you stuck with the guy with the hot hand? Or health? Or what?

BD:** Health has played the biggest role for us. Kelly [Holcomb] obviously has been injured; he has not been 100 percent since the injury. And until that health issue resolves itself there is always going to be a little bit of a shadow of a doubt as to what's the situation going to be at quarterback. Fortunately for us, Tim [Couch] having been a starter for four years prior, then he comes in and wins two really big ball games for us. Those other guys, if you had somebody that the team had no faith in and no confidence in, regardless of whether it was Kelly in relief of Tim or Tim in relief of Kelly, it gives you a chance.

**Q: What's it looking like right now?

BD:** We won't know until probably game time.

**Q: Is Kelly still improving?

BD:** Yeah. I think so. I think that he's making some strides and improving. Playing in the ball game the other day was a risk. It was probably putting him in certainly, clearly before he was 100 percent. But we felt that we needed a little bit of a spark and he delivered that. Now we have to evaluate how much of a setback did he take from that ball game.

**Q: Do have to also worry about what kind of setback mentally Tim Couch gets when he comes out of the game?

BD:** Yeah, well I think he understood though. I think at that time he knew that he just didn't have a hot hand that day. Joe Torre has pulled Roger Clemens from time to time. I think every manager has pulled a high profile starter when it wasn't there day.

**Q: Looking at the Patriots on Sunday, Coach [Bill] Belichick was saying he's look at your team and is very impressed. What do you see on the Patriots on film?

BD:** I think as a team, they may be the best team that we have played as a total. They've got dynamic weapons in all three phases. Special teams they are extraordinarily sound. They are very, very well coached. They've got dynamic returners, so that presents some special teams issues that you don't face every single week. Some weeks guys are solid and they are good, but they don't have difference makers. They don't have a Troy Brown that can consistently rip off big runs or give you good field position. Defensively, they have an array of talented players, guys that are Pro Bowl guys. Richard Seymour is clearly playing at an extraordinarily high level. He is one of the league's up-and-coming, superstars in the defensive line. A wealth of linebackers. Good guys in the secondary. Offensively, they've got guys who can certainly…I'm impressed with the way that [Tom] Brady throws the ball. I think that our first exposure to him was two years ago, and at that time they were in the midst of a Super Bowl run, there wasn't a lot of track record. That was my first exposure. But watching him over the last few years, he is such an accurate thrower. He has excellent velocity. Moves around the pocket well. He has very, very good poise and presence in the pocket. I think they are a very complete team.

**Q: Given all of the injuries that they've had, are you surprised that they are 5-2 and they have beaten Tennessee and New York and Miami in succession?

BD:** I don't follow early in the year, the first two or three weeks, we don't usually watch the immediate opponent until the last couple of weeks. So I know that they have had some injuries and stuff, but the super, marquee guys, [Troy] Brown and the quarterback and a lot of those guys, Ty Law, those are guys that for the most part are there week in and week out.

**Q: How do you guard against when you are getting two quarterbacks who are getting playing time and having to switch back and forth, how do you go against players in the locker room taking sides?

BD:** I think any issues in your locker room, regardless of whether it is a quarterback situation or anything, whether it is playing time or anything else, you have got to have guys of great character and guys that really don't care ego wise about things. They just want the team to win. They could care less as to how big a piece of pie is there for them and who's playing. I think that they both respect these guys. I think that in the two years that I've been here as the head coach, they've seen the value of having two talented guys. I think a lot of it too comes directly from those two individuals. You guys don't know either of those guys very well, but they are just really good guys. It's not about them; it's about the team. It's about the winning. They've never tried to divide the team. They've never gone in and pouted. They've just accepted the situations as they've unfolded because of injury. I think if they were a different type of person then we would probably have some issues.

**Q: You have had so excruciatingly close loses in the last couple of years. This year, I think five or your seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less. This year, you have won some of those games. How do you get a team to have confidence in itself to win those close games? Do some of those close losses maybe drain a little of that confidence?

BD:** No, I think the flip side of that. I think that we've got an extraordinarily young football team, and they are trying to learn how to play in the National Football League. They recognize the fact that we talk about, not only ourselves, but it is statistically proven that 62 percent of the games in this league year in and year out come down to the last five minutes of the ball game. Sometimes it is one- and two- and three-point victories and sometimes it is 10. But the 10 didn't become 10 until the last couple of minutes of a ball game. Every game is hard fought, very, very close. You have to play the full 60 minutes. I think some of the dramatic wins that we have won, last year against the Jets and against Jacksonville and against Tennessee and we had some knock down drag-outs just to get into the playoffs and to beat Atlanta, going into the last five, six minutes of the ball game, the game was clearly in question as to who was going to win the ball game. I think when you win some of those, the team starts to understand the dynamics and subsequently you keep playing and you keep competing. And then you figure out the results when the game is over, how successful and how unsuccessful you were.

**Q: Two-part question about William Green. What did you see of him at BC that made him a first round pick for you? And has he brought to your team what you expected?

BD:** Yes, I actually believe that he has brought to our team what we did expect. In college, you saw him. A young gifted running back. A guy that stature wise was going to be well suited to play in Cleveland. I think that there are some running backs, who are very gifted, who are very talented, that maybe playing in Cleveland eight games every year potentially. More than half of them, in the division we play in, you go to Cincinnati, you go to Pittsburgh, you go to Baltimore. Our division games are probably going to probably be in muddy, cold, wet, sleet, rainy, snow type of days. You know how physical it is. When he fully matures he is probably going to be 200 pounds, he is probably 214, 215 right now. He is a big, physical running back. He's got speed and he's got force. He's gaining confidence. Last year, the success that he enjoyed at the end of the season. He was on track to have his third consecutive 100-yard game this past week. At halftime, he had 60 something yards. If he doesn't get his shoulder injured and is able to finish the game and we are in the game and can run the ball, he is probably going to have his third one again. He's doing a good job. Like all kids early out of college, it is a double edge sword. They leave early, the NFL is attractive. They obviously wants to get the National Football League. They aren't the finish product. I don't know where many of them that come out as juniors are the finished product. He has worked very hard this year. I think he is a more complete player this year than he was a year ago. He's better in blitz and pass protection. He's better at running routes and catching the ball. At Boston College, they didn't throw the ball very much to him. So that was a dimension that was certainly missing in his game a year ago. I think in training camp and everything he has done a much better job of that. I think over the next couple of years, he'll continue to improve. I don't think he is anywhere close to being the finished product yet.

**Q: What kind of player was Chris Akins?

BD:** He was truly one of the most gifted special teams guys in the league. Chris, along with several of the other guys that I had mentioned, were part of the unfortunate. When you walk in in January and you are $25 million over the salary cap, this league doesn't give you much of a grace period. They say by March you've got to lose $25 million worth of players. Chris would have been a guy that we would have loved to have brought back. But unfortunately because of the salary of a vested veteran, an experienced veteran guy, we just were unable to bring him back.

**Q: On the offensive line, you have had a lot of guys in and out. One of the guys that has been in there regularly lately has been Paul Zukauskas. Can you just talk briefly about him?

BD:** Yeah. He has grown into being a very, very solid and a very good offensive lineman. I think the more he plays…he has had some smattering of starts, last year a couple of times and was our sixth or seventh guy. And this year with some injuries, and through his own play, he has elevated himself into a good, starting right offensive guard. He's gotten bigger and stronger. He is a 315-pound guy. He works really, really hard in the weight room. And I think as young as he is, he is going to grow into being a really good player. He's very smart. He's got terrific competitiveness. The things that he doesn't have are the things that he is in the process of getting and that's game experience of going in and battling and winning some wars and losing some and fighting back and getting better every week.

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