HE: How are we doing?
Q: Herm, how are you?
HE: I am doing well, thank you.
Q: Herm, I know things got a little rocky for you earlier in the season based on the fact that you lost a ton of guys in the offseason, but it seems like you might be hitting your stride the last four weeks—three wins, all at home and against some good teams.
HE: We are playing better, obviously. We have a little bit of flow going and we are gaining some confidence back. It was a rough start, but that is how it is. I thought the team that has handled it the best so far has been New England. They have done a great job—the staff and the players—they were hurt early too and they are getting some guys back. What you really like about what they have done is that they found ways to win games—the close games. That is what you have to do in this league, you have to win the close ones. If you can win the close ones early, it gives you confidence later on in the year.
Q: Herm you have played Indianapolis, you have played the Titans—you beat the Titans. That is a real accomplishment. You have played the Patriots. Those are three outstanding teams that will be in the playoffs. Where do the Patriots stack up in that trio?
HE: Right there with them. I think they are all a little bit different obviously. You look at the Titans and they are pretty well balanced. They have a great quarterback and some skill guys on the perimeters and they do a great job that way. Indianapolis, obviously Peyton [Manning] is having one of his better years, they have a great offense and obviously New England, they do it in a great way. They do it in the right way, as far as I am concerned. They are getting everything they can get out of all their players. They are playing tremendously in all three phases—special teams, defense, offense—and they have found all three ways to win games and I think that is the unique thing about the way they play and how they are playing.
Q: Would you be surprised if any one of those three represents the AFC? All have the potential to do so.
HE: They really do. They are all playing well and they are playing with confidence and they are having fun. That is what you have to do this time of year. They are not playing with pressure on their back. They are just playing and winning tight games, and good teams do that.
Q: One thing about your club is that, since you have been around, there is a lot of respect for the Jets. They are a scary team, I do not care whether you are down or up or where you have been. The respect between the two teams seems to be very legitimate and somewhat unique in terms of how series go.
HE: It really is. Obviously our players respect their guys, they know that you are going to have to put your work gloves on when you are playing New England because they are going to play you hard, they are going to play you tough. I think our players respect that. Obviously we respect their coaches—I respect Bill and the staff. They have done a great job. If you watch what they have done over the last three years, it is really an outstanding job. We enjoy playing them. It is a feisty game. It is always a tough game, tough sledding for both teams. Obviously it is fun to play it.
Q: I talked to Chad [Pennington] earlier, and obviously he would have loved to be in the position where you guys could be going into this game for the playoffs, but he is also saying at the same time that it is still important that you guys go 8-8 and not have a losing season. That is a goal. Plus, if you can take a couple of teams down with you—
HE: I think anytime toward the end, if you are going to be a good team and your aspirations are toward that, in the last two years we have done a good job of finishing in the stretch and knowing that, if you are going to be one of those playoff teams in contention every year, you have to win in the months of November and December. Obviously when you play a divisional opponent, it is very important that you win in your division. Obviously New England beat us up there in Week Three. It is going to be a tough game for us. They have done a lot of good things since then and we have to play very very hard and not beat ourselves and try to beat these guys.
Q: I remember you as a player, and I get a sense that you have a great deal of respect for this game of professional football.
HE: Absolutely. I think it is one that I have been associated with for 25 years. It is all I know. It is really all I want to do. I think the way we conduct ourselves as players and coaches is very very important. I think we all know that there are certain things we do that certain people emulate, and the thing that we always have to understand is that we are the model. We are the model of sportsmanship and how we do things.
Q: So the Joe Horn thing did not sit well with you?
HE: I just think anytime you cross that line—and there is a line. It is a hidden line, and I think players know it and coaches know it. It has been that way. It was that way when I was in the league. When you cross that line, all of a sudden the attention focuses on a particular individual and not on the team. All of a sudden, a week after that incident takes place we are still talking about it, and I do not think that is real good. I think the thing we should be talking about now in the National Football League are the teams that have that winning record and the teams still trying to get in the playoffs and talking about how exciting—at the end of the month these last two games for a lot of teams are very important.
Q: A subject matter that I do not think ever gets tired to us up here who remember him at the beginning is Curtis Martin. There was a lot of loose talk the first time around when we played you guys that he may have too many hits. Well we found out how slick he is with 1100 yards.
HE: You are talking about a guy obviously at nine years who has gone over 1000 yards every year. You are talking about him quietly moving his way up in the record books. Hopefully he is going to step up to that podium one day and get inducted into the Hall of Fame. You guys know what type of individual he is from when he was up there in New England. He has not changed here in New York. Obviously he had a great day for us last Sunday.
Q: So you see him as a definite Hall of Fame candidate?
HE: I do. He has my vote. 9000 yards in nine years, that is pretty good. He is going past a lot of different guys.
Q: And he had a game the other day that was huge. How much snow was on the field?
HE: It was unbelievable. You needed the four-wheeler to go through that stuff.
Q: And he had 174 yards.
HE: 174 yards. Unbelievable.
Q: To what do you attribute Chad's accuracy as a passer? Last year he led the league, his first full year as a starter. Does that surprise you? What do you attribute that to?
HE: That is one of his talents. That is one of the things he brings to the table—he is very accurate. I think when he gets in the rhythm he becomes even more accurate. He is that type of player. He is a rhythm passer, obviously. He does a great job in the play action game. He is not afraid to take the little dump-off pass. That keeps him in rhythm. Good rhythm throwers know that, 'hey I can hit a bunch of small ones and stay in rhythm and eventually I will have the opportunity to hit a big one.' When he does, all of a sudden you can make a big play. He understands the process. He understands his strengths and he plays to them.
Q: Would you say that he is similar in that regard to [Tom] Brady?
HE: I think Brady maybe has a little stronger arm. He is having a great year too. He is very accurate. They have made a lot of big plays in their passing game this year.
Q: How difficult is it to defend a quarterback who is accurate and who will not let you off the hook with a bad throw?
HE: Very difficult. For Brady, what he does very well, he buys himself time in the pocket. He can move around and slide around back there and make some throws on the run, so he is doubly dangerous.
Q: They have had to prepare for a different quarterback now for the second year in a row. They faced Vinny [Testaverde] early in the year last year and this year, and Pennington late. Is it tough for a team to adjust to that?
HE: I do not think so. I think New England does a great job of knowing what they want to do. They are going to have a plan on what you do offensively and they are going to execute that plan. I do not think they worry too much about the quarterback that much. I think they understand his style, obviously. They played against Chad last year.
Q: Can you teach a quarterback to be more accurate?
HE: We all profess to be that way. I think offenses help him to be that way. In some offenses accuracy is not important. It's [more] bigger plays. The natural progression is that when you are throwing short passes, it obviously gets you in rhythm and makes you more accurate. When you are throwing down the field more, your accuracy is probably not going to be as good