Q: The last time we talked to you your team was trying to find itself. Apparently you discovered it?
HE: Well I don't know if we discovered it, we are still trying to find ourselves in certain areas. But it has been fun thus far, it really has.
Q: You find yourself in first place, you had a bye week and you find yourself playing a team that is probably as improved as your team is?
HE: Absolutely. They've done really a great job of really believing in each other and you can see the way they play. They play with a lot of confidence on both sides of the football and you can't say enough of how they've kind of meshed together as coaches and players.
Q: Your team has had three head coaches in three years and that can cause problems. How did you overcome that anxiety level that so many veteran players get and become a contender?
HE: Well, I think consistency and I think players really want consistency and constant communication on basically what we were trying to do and what we were going to try to accomplish and really never wavering from that. Through the bad times, when it seemed, in certain games and really never panicking, really never changing things all of a sudden and doing things abruptly where we've been going along this way since March 20th and all of a sudden now you do something different coach? I think the more they were around me in all those situations they understood how I was going to deal with it and I think it helped them to buy in quicker.
Q: You put in a new offense and a new defense and in some cases, teams like Washington have trouble adjusting. You win games ugly, that Carolina game was like pulling teeth?
HE: Oh, no doubt about it and the same thing occurs. You went down there to play Carolina and they had lost a tough game and were really competitive and lost some games late. We go down there and we are moving the ball pretty well offensively, but we turn it over and that's really not characteristic of what we really like to do offensively. But we turn it over and I am looking at the score watching how the game is unfolding and the good thing about it was our defense was playing pretty good and that really kept us in the game. Then all of a sudden we created a turnover at the end and we're able to win the game. That kind of helped us though because we went through a game where a lot of people felt that you know maybe you should beat this team by more points than we beat them by, but to me the key was we went on the road and really after losing a game and going down there and found a way to win a game. Once we did that I think we gained a little confidence by doing that.
Q: Now you are a 22 in the turnover ratio?
Q: You have done a lot of good things without a lot of splash. You just keep winning and I guess often times that is the sign of a very good team, they just grind it out one way or another and you have done so?
HE: Exactly and I think it is one of those deals where really the players have really kind of really bought in to what we are trying to do and knowing that you can't get everything done your first couple weeks at the job. It's going to take time. It took time for our players to really understand our coaches and for our coaches to understand the strengths of some of our players on both sides of the ball. I think we've gone through this at a pace where we've kind of grown together and we understand each other now and I think that brings a lot of cohesion to your football team.
Q: Coaches always want to get to December in contention. How do you approach it as a coach and former player, is December a catalyst to the success or failure of a football team?
HE: Well I just think what you have to do is you can't make the game bigger than what it really is in these later months. I think all games are important and I think you can't put so much pressure on players on how you conduct yourself or what you do where all of a sudden they react in a negative way. They react and all of a sudden they want to do a little bit more than they are capable of doing and I think that happens to you at times. Then all of a sudden you don't function as well and I think that's what we are trying to guard against now and that's what I am trying to make them understand is that every game is important and if you win another one, the next one is more important. That is kind of how I function at this part of the year.
Q: Tell me about Vinny Testaverde's development during the season under your new offense?
HE: What I think Vinny has done is he's really set his ego aside and put in on the side of the door and says you know what I am going to do whatever I have to do to really make this offense work. I think a lot of guys had to put their ego away. Obviously it is a little different offense than it was last year where they threw the ball a lot, where now it is more run orientated. We have an excellent runner, obviously. I think Vinny understands that. The receivers understand that and it doesn't mean that we don't like throwing the football, we do but we don't want to get into that where all of a sudden at the end of the game you say you know what Curtis Martin probably didn't touch the ball enough.
Q: Not only that, but your running backs are also your receivers. You also have one of the more productive tight ends in the league?
HE: He was a young player last year and I think now he's understanding his role in what we do and he's getting better and I think that helps you too. As you go through the season you are also trying to develop young football players. I think that is very important. You can't lose track of that. I think that's what we are trying to do here. We draft the players. We are giving them some playing time, some opportunities to do some things and I think for the future that is going to help us.
Q: When you played the Patriots the first time it was Drew Bledsoe you prepared for?
Q: You saw a little glimpse of [Tom] Brady, but who new what he was going to be like?
Q: Well now you know what he is like. What kind of problems does he present?
HE: Well I think the thing he does and what they have done as a staff is they've really kind of built the things he can do really well around him and he doesn't try to really do anything else. He understands his role in that offense and he does a nice job. He makes good decisions with the football, basically. I think what's really helped him a lot and their team is their ability to run the football. I mean now, Antowain [Smith], he's running the ball. All of a sudden they are not one handed. They're a balanced offense now and they have capabilities of making some big plays in passing game, which earlier they probably hadn't done.
Q: Could you empathize with Belichick and the quarterback decision that he had to make?
HE: Yeah it's really tough and I think his decision, and if you do this I think it's probably the best way to handle it. I know it's the way I would handle things is you always consider the team first. And that's probably the main focus on how the team is going to function, how the team felt and really what state, where in the team at at this point in the season? And I think it was one of those situations where he said, 'I am going to make the decision and I am going to go to sleep on it and it's best for the team.' And then that's what he's tried to do.
Q: Whatever happened to the idea that you don't lose your job due to injury? Has the league philosophy on that changed?
HE: I don't know if it has changed so much in the fact that I think at that position now, it used to be a guarded position, the quarterback position in this league for a long, long time. But I think now because of all things that happen and the things that you don't like happening to quarterbacks at times, you have to be ready to make changes. I think now, it used to be maybe 10 years ago you never even thought about taking the quarterback out of the game in the third quarter if he wasn't having a good game. Where now, a lot of coaches, hey you don't have a problem doing that because you figure that he's a part of the team and if he's not functioning real well and hurting the team then you've got to bring somebody else in there to function better.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your offensive line because the player personnel guy who drafted many of them is now here and seems to be drafting similar guys with toughness and an edge to them?
HE: Well I think you make a good point and really they're really kind of underrated guys as far as when you put them on the scale and you run them and you make them work out in the gym shorts. You know you probably look at them and go wow. But I think what they understand is that they have toughness. They are a very, very precise unit. They understand their abilities. I think our offensive line coach has done a great job of really mentoring those guys and doing things that they can do well. I mean you know we do some things with our offensive line that other offensive lines don't want to do because they are pretty athletic in space. I mean obviously our center is a good player in space. He can move and block linebackers in space and we do those things in our run game. I think what we did is when we got here the first thing we did is we really didn't change the run game. We kept it pretty much intact on the things that Curtis [Martin] liked and what these guys could do well and I think it's helped all of them.
Q: One of the games within the game will be Matt Light for his second time against [John] Abraham. It is probably one of the interesting match ups between these two teams for the foreseeable future?
HE: Oh absolutely and they are two good, young players and I think that's going to be fun for them and the history of their careers if they continue to play the way they are playing. I mean it's going to be a nice match up every time they play each other.
Q: You got your opportunity to be a head coach. Is it what you expected? People are talking about you and Butch Davis for coach of the year, is it falling into place like you had hoped it would?
HE: I think the thing I hoped for the most was that I was going to do it with class and dignity and do something that reflected the National Football League in a positive way and really get the players to understand the importance of that it is really a privilege to play and to coach in this league. Everything else kind of takes care of itself if you handle it that way and you try to live your life that way. I think if your players understand that you are trying to do the right thing then they're going to try to do the right thing. All that other stuff really doesn't matter too much to me. I just want to win games, get the players better and that's really my goal.
Q: Having played the Patriots and watching film of them would you say they've evolved into a pretty physically demanding and punishing type of team?
HE: Absolutely. They are very physical. They are very physical on both sides of the football and that's something that you like in your football team. You want to be physical, that way you know every week you've got an opportunity to win a game. I mean when you are physical that's something…you can't coach it, you can't buy it. It's how players play and that's how they play. I think they've done a nice job of really creating an atmosphere of bringing those type of players in.
Q: The fact that you referred to less job security at the quarterback position, is that a reflection of a greater and greater urgency to win?
HE: Well, yeah that's a little bit of a reflection, but I also think that there are times now where you need a jump start in a game and you just figure that this other guy we have over here brings a little something different. So I think now coaches are more apt if you need a change, if you need a spark, you do it and you don't worry about if the guy's feelings are hurt or not. I think quarterbacks understand that too.
Q: Bill Belichick said that looking at these two teams as compared to the first meeting that there is a lot of new personnel. Have you noticed the same thing? How does that change your preparation if at all?
HE: Well I don't know if it changes the preparation so much. I think what it does is you understand that now both teams are kind of built into what they want to do with their players and they use their players in that function. This is what this guy can do well and this is all we are going to ask him to do. I think both teams have kind of found out about their football teams during the course of the year and I think that's why both teams have improved. I think we've both improved in the fact that we've gotten our players a little bit better. They obviously understand the systems a little bit better and that helps you and winning always helps you, if you can win.
Q: Is New England dramatically different without Drew [Bledsoe] or is it just…?
HE: I think the thing that they've done probably the best is they've established the running game. You know they are more consistent running the football and when you can do that that helps everything. It helps your passing game. It helps what you do. It helps you become a physical football team all of a sudden as an offense because you are feeling like you can run the ball. I mean and when you can do that, hey all of a sudden it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.
Q: Wherever Drew ends up, is the respect for him around the league such that he's sort of just acknowledged to be one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league?
HE: Absolutely and one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league. I mean there ain't no doubt about it. I knew that last year when we came up there and played them with Tampa. I mean the opening game I think we played them and we got after him and I can remember him in the fourth quarter still standing up there throwing passes and just…he's a tough football player and an excellent quarterback in this league.
Q: Did you wonder how he was still standing in that game because you guys did physically beat on him?
HE: Yeah and he's just a mentally tough guy. He's a great competitor and he's an outstanding quarterback, he really is. I mean you want quarterbacks like that on your football team, there's no doubt about it.
Q: Do you still look at him as a franchise quarterback?
HE: Oh yeah, I think he can still play. Yeah, there's no doubt about it