Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, October 14, 2009.
Q: Can you give us a feel for what has contributed to the tough start?
JF: Well, I mean certainly we are disappointed. We had the first three....obviously we look at the first three games as being games where we were one play away from reversing the outcome and it didn't happen. And then we did not play well at Jacksonville and last week we played for a half and things slipped away against a good Colts team. So we're trying to heal up and just stay the course and practice and just try and improve as a team. Hopefully the wins will come.
Q: One thing that people have focused on is the struggle you guys have had stopping the pass. How have you seen that with the loss of Albert Haynesworth?
JF: I don't believe it's been the fact that Albert's not here. We're still getting pressure, we're still handling the run, and we've got a good rotation going inside. Yes, you're going to miss good players like Albert, but we've got a good rotation inside, so I wouldn't attribute it to the fact that he's not here. It's been an unfortunate combination of things where we've had either some difficulty in communication or somebody's eyes were wandering or just little things. And then of course we've been without Cortland [Finnegan] and Vinny Fuller. Vinny's an integral part of our nickel package. But we expect his return here in the next couple of weeks. So really if it was one thing in particular, we'd fix it. It's just been a combination of things and we're just trying to grow through it.
Q: Where do things stand quarterback wise? Will Kerry Collins start in this game, or are you considering other options?
JF: Yes. I've not waivered off of that. After the game I indicated that Kerry is our starter. I put Vince [Young] in because when you get behind and get ahead, it makes sense to get your backups some playing time and that was the reason. It was not a move, per say; it was just simply that. So Kerry returns as our starter.
Q: How have you noticed teams defending Chris Johnson, who obviously leads the league in total yards from scrimmage? We've seen a couple huge plays from him. Are you getting different looks from opponents on how they're trying to contain him?
JF: Yeah, you'll see that each week. They understand that if he gets the ball in his hands, he's a missed tackle away from going the distance, so people are more aware of it. You see more zone defense than you do man-to-man. And of course people are going to be concerned about his whereabouts on third down.
Q: How would you describe the feeling on your team with the emotional swings that you've been through and not yet breaking through? How would you describe the character of the team?
JF: They're handling it well, if that's at all possible. We deal with it. We put the loss in perspective, and move on and come back and bring energy to work on Wednesday. And they practice well, they prepare hard and they believe each week that we're going to get turned around and that's really all you can do. The only thing I can ask more of them is just a little bit more production on the field on Sunday, but off the field, on the practice field, in the classrooms, they're doing their jobs.
Q: If I could ask you to put your hat of the competition committee co-chair on: I saw Chris Mortensen had something where the committee was considering looking at influence of players on officials' calls, and I just wanted to see if you could comment on that and if that was accurate?
JF: Well, I can't comment because I'm not aware of the report.
Q: It was a tweet.
JF: That's a cartoon character as far as I'm concerned.
Q: If I remember correctly, when you guys drafted Chris Johnson there was some criticism about another running back and you had a pretty steady situation there. How did you know that he would be the type of guy that he is and that you would be able to use him?
JF: Well, we saw so much tape. It was obvious to us when you start evaluating a player like that. In Chris's case, you know this is not a track guy playing football; this is a football player with track speed. He just...we just felt like his understanding, his ability - flexibility - to change positions and do different things, his vision...It was just that we felt like he was going to really excel at this level. We were fortunate; he had a great rookie year and thus far he's off to a great start. We just need to get him some more help and we need to play better around him.
Q: In terms of what you see from the Patriots, you haven't played them in a couple seasons. How different do they look offensively and defensively?
JF: Well, they're always a well-coached team and they're always going to have something unique week to week, whether it's subtle or significant, but there're unique plans. Tom [Brady] is playing very, very well right now. I know they're probably frustrated with their numbers, but he's playing well. He's moving in the pocket, making accurate throws. They're an elite team right now and defensively they're very, very solid and stout, well-coached. They don't give up big plays. The formula is there and it's continuing.
Q: You were 5-0 at this point last year and now you're 0-5. Can you kind of surmise the difference between what's happened the two years?
JF: Well, no. I mean, last year we got off to a good start and winning kind of breeds winning. We had games last year that in the start were close that we won. We had an overtime game that we won and it was just one of those things. You have to win close games. I think it's obvious. It's apparent. It's the same thing we said throughout the offseason. You can't just pick up where you left off. You just can't assume that because you had a successful season that you're going to repeat. You have to do it over again. Again, I point to the first three games. I think we've got two sets of games, two sets of losses. Three games that we could have won and didn't for whatever reason. And then we've got two that we didn't play particularly well. You have to let go of the past and dwell on today and bring a mindset to work and to the game that is a winning mindset. And that's how you get out of it.
Q: How would one win against a team like the Patriots on the road kind of change your perspective and more importantly, your team's perspective going forward?
JF: Well, this team believes they're a good football team. We just haven't played well together - as of yet - well enough to win a game. Certainly, a win against anybody right now would be good for us.
Q: Since winning breeds winning, and assuming losing breeds losing, how do you combat that?
JF: Well I think that's a different assumption. I'll make the case that I can prove to you that it's a lot harder to be 0-5 than it is 5-0. I mean that's evident. I don't believe losing breeds losing. It depends. If you've got injuries and you have an inability to matchup personnel wise or you've got a club that just can't matchup, then it's hard to win games, but I feel like we've got a good football team and the wins are going to come.
Q: When you experience a stretch like this, are you concerned about the team becoming dispirited at any point during the game with any success the opponent might have against you? Is the tipping point such that you might become more vulnerable more easily?
JF: No, I don't think so. I mean, I've got enough veteran players on this team. We've got quite a few players that have won a lot of games here and won a lot of games elsewhere. Your focus as a head coach, I think, has to go toward your younger players: the first year players and the second year players that only know [and] understand winning. Then you have to put it in perspective and try to keep perspective. The difference between winning and losing - it's a mental exercise, but again, I think it's important to realize and that our players realize, what's happened the last five weeks isn't going to have any bearing on what happens the next 11.
Q: You drafted a local kid, Ryan Durand, and he ended up on your practice squad. Can you talk about his development?
JF: Yeah, we were real pleased. He had a productive camp - real good offseason. [He] had played quite a bit in the preseason and was productive. We feel like he's got a chance to become a good football player. Fortunately for him, he's got a great mentor and [offensive line coach] Mike Munchak does a great job developing young players.