Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 29, 2009.
Q: The offense functioned better on Sunday than it has in a while. To what would you attribute that?
NC: Yeah, I think the execution was probably as good as it's been all year. If you look at different things we did, there were not many negative plays. I think we had 62 plays and there were only three negative-yardage plays and one of them came at the end of the game. So when you have positive plays that put yourself in manageable situations, then you're able to go ahead and execute. I think collectively we ran the ball well. We blocked well. We threw it well. The receivers ran good routes; they got open. Multiple people caught the ball. There was good distribution in the passing game. Collectively, there were a lot of people that were doing the right things. I wouldn't say that the play calls were that much different. I think it just came down to the execution and we eliminated a lot of the negative plays that may have shown up in weeks past.
Q: How has the process been replacing a play caller and in particular replacing Josh McDaniels?
NC: I think there's a lot that goes into it. You go back to the camps back in May and you start to put together your installation. You put in the offense and there are a lot of coaches that have been around for here a long time, a lot of good coaches. So in the end, the plays are going to get called and I think there's a lot of work that goes into it and the more repetition and the more work you get with the players and the more the players work with the staff. It's inevitable with the way the league works that you are going to lose coaches. You're going to lose players. There's a process you go through in the offseason, so it's ongoing. It continues through the summer, through the fall and then through the season, and you just continue to work at it. We've been fortunate. Like I said, we have a lot of good coaches on this staff, some of whom have been around for a long time. We have confidence in our coaches. We have confidence in our players and in the end it comes down to executing and really everybody being on the same page. Sunday was a pretty good illustration of that.
Q: Is there any truth to an offense having an 'identity' or is that more superficial for the fans and media?
NC: Each game is its own entity. You have an idea of, 'OK, here are the things that this defense does.' Then you install the plan. Once you get into the game, you really don't know how that particular game is going to unfold. So you start to develop...each game you go into it and say, 'OK, here's what we think is going to happen.' It might turn out to be something different. Maybe you have more heavy packages or maybe you spread a team out or maybe this is a little more successful. Our philosophy has always been that we are a week-to-week game plan team. Once you get into those first few series, you kind of have an idea of what's going to work, what's not going to work. You call the game accordingly based on how you feel at that point. Our job, in the end, is to score points and just to be consistent [and] to execute the plays that are called. However that unfolds, that's how it unfolds.
Q: What are some of the nuances that go into play calling and how much do we not see that goes into the decision-making behind what plays are called?
NC: I've never called plays so I can't speak to that. In the end, there's always communication and the plays are going to get called in some capacity and someone is going to communicate those to the quarterback. As far as...I've never done it, so it'd be hard for me to speak on that, but there are a lot of things that go into it - during the week on the practice field. It comes down to communication. Without ever having been in that position, it's hard for me to comment on play calling and some of those specific things as it relates to that.
Q: Would you consider Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing a good vote for AP Rookie of the Year and how do you view Cushing as a fit in what the Patriots do?
NC: Sure, I think there are probably a lot of candidates. A lot of guys have played well, whether it's been [Buffalo Bills safety Jairus] Byrd or [Washington Redskins linebacker Brian] Orakpo or Cushing. Brian was a versatile player at USC. They moved him around a little bit. He played on the line of scrimmage. He played off the line of scrimmage, but he was athletic. He ran well. He was strong. They rushed him a little bit, which Houston puts him on the edge to rush him a little bit. He's been a productive player for them. Their two linebackers, him and DeMeco Ryans - that's a pretty good pair of young linebackers. We evaluated Brian. You saw the production. He was a consistent player. There're a lot of things to like about him. He's played well and he's probably one of many candidates that deserve a vote on your ballot.
Q: With the way that Tully Banta-Cain has emerged as a pass-rushing threat, does that make it easier for you going into the offseason looking for another pass-rusher?
NC: In all fairness, to look that far ahead into the offseason would be sort of not fair on our part. Since Tully's been here, he's just been a very consistent player. It's come up in the past that there's a difference [between] what he was here in previous years relative to what he did in San Francisco. Tully's been - since day one when he got here back in February and March - he's been consistent. He's really worked at it. He has had opportunities in games and he's been effective rushing the passer along with Derrick [Burgess] and some of the other guys on the edge. I think we're worried right now with how he's going to rush against Houston and into the playoffs and we'll worry about some of the other things as far as the offseason is concerned once the season is over. Tully has certainly had a good year for us and we are glad to have him here.