(Usually a postseason ends with a loss, but this one ends with a win. Talk about how different that is for all the coaches, and what that translates to with tough personnel decisions to maintain and improve your team?)
Well first, finishing the season with the win and to come in here, I just don’t know how I’m going to handle all these positive questions. I’m totally unprepared. But this is a great time for our organization. It was special for our football team to interact with the fans yesterday. It’s been overwhelming, the fan interaction, both coming back on Monday, the parade into Lambeau, and then the event yesterday, with all the fans there. And frankly right now, we’re just starting to go through the evaluation process. The new season has begun for myself and Ted Thompson. Ted is already into the second day of his pre-Indy draft meetings, and we’re getting back to business. The assistant coaches started vacation yesterday. I’m meeting with the coordinators today and tomorrow, going through their evaluations. Just trying to transition into the new season, but it’s been a special week.
(Jordy was on crutches yesterday. What was going on there?)
He had a bursa sac injury to his knee. He’ll be fine. It won’t be a serious injury. Obviously it looked bad. It was a pretty significant injury that he fought through the fourth quarter and played with. Played very well but played injured. A lot of credit should go to
(Do you anticipate Clifton having offseason surgery on either one of those knees?)
Do I anticipate Clifton? Not right now. Not as far as what the trainers told me. I think Chad may have made it clean this year.
Collarbone, clavicle, they’re saying no surgery there. I anticipate he’ll be ready to go.
(How do you prepare for what’s coming on the labor front? If March 3 comes around and things take place, will that prevent you from doing anything beyond that as far as free agency and stuff like that?)
Really, the approach of the coaching staff in our meeting yesterday is we have to prepare for the known, and the first order of business is the draft. The way we approach our time at Indianapolis in the past, there’s a lot of downtime where you’re able to do some scheme evaluation amongst staff or among individuals, where this year we’re going to fully concentrate on the draft immediately with our coaching staff and make it a higher priority as far as their interaction with the personnel department, the reports that are needed to get done, because that’s an absolute. That’s going to happen. The second part is our scheme evaluation. We’re going to forge through that and make sure that we make all the corrections and the projections, just like we do every year, because once March rolls around, based on the information available, our scheduling is going to happen based on what happens with the labor front. But as a coaching staff, we have to be prepared. With that, we’ll make sure we’re ready for the draft and we’ll make sure our scheme evaluation is done. We’re fortunate where we played another month, so we would be starting later in the spring even if it was a normal year. So I don’t feel like we have to make a bunch of scheduling decisions immediately. But there’s work to be done, just like there is every year, just like every team is going through right now. We’re going to probably go about it the same way, as far as the targets we hit each month as a coaching staff, but just the priorities are going to move around as far as how I see that.
(When would the offseason program start, with how late you ended the season?)
Well, it depends what happens March 4. That’s the unknown I’m referring to. I can’t answer those questions until I know what happens on March 4.
(If there’s a CBA in place by then?)
We would move it back. We would not start until April.
(How about you guys as coaches? Do you guys need to recharge your own batteries as a staff, or is there just not enough time because of the draft?)
We’re going to do the best we can for time off, from a vacation standpoint, as I feel that we’ve always done as a coaching staff. You try to have so much time off each month in the offseason. We’ll probably stay true to that. Once again, we’re in uncharted territory as far as how the spring is going to lay out. The coaches are off today until the 21st of February. So that’s a significant break. We’ll go to the Combine and then they’ll have time off after the Combine, until we come back, and then we’ll have those two full weeks where we’ll work in March, work on scheme evaluation and the draft, and then the owners meeting they’ll have time off. That’s as far as I’ve gone with the coaching staff.
(Charlie mentioned the pre-game message talked about outliving your life, making a legacy. You’re going to have a street named after you. What does that mean to you and have you talked to them about which street?)
I don’t think I should be real concerned about which street. It’s an honor that they would consider doing that. But our message Saturday night, Kevin Elko was our guest speaker, and his theme was “outlive your life.” It was a great message to our football team. A very personal message to our football team. It was something that I think guys really took to heart, and on top of that with measuring the rings right after the talk and the snack, just to let them know what was ahead of them the next day. I think we’ve accomplished that. I told the football team yesterday that we’ll all be connected together for the rest of our lives. We’ll all be connected as champions. Hopefully our children will also be connected through this championship. Like I said, Lord knows we broke the record for babies around here the last two years with our players and coaching staff. Super Bowl XLV will always be special and it will definitely outlive all of our lives.
(What’s your biggest concern going into next year? Is it guys getting too full of themselves, a different chemistry, how to assimilate the injured guys coming back?)
Those themes will be all part of your process when you get to that point. I’m more concerned with the offseason, like I always am at this point. Typically in the staff meeting after the season concludes, I pretty much a have the whole season laid out for our coaching staff. That’s not the case this year. You have to make sure you have the opportunity to develop your team, particularly your young players. The players that go from Year 1 to Year 2, that’s their biggest window in my opinion for them to develop. So that maybe, not in jeopardy, but it will be a different course of action to accomplish that this year. We’re going to go about it like we always do. We’re going to focus on our scheme, focus on our system, how we can make it better, and make sure that when the players do come back that we’re ready to go for them.
(I’m sure you’ve received a lot of congratulations since you won the Super Bowl. Does any one in particular stand out congratulating you?)
I think the President of the United States would probably be the first one to acknowledge. It was great to talk to Mr. President. It was a neat conversation. He was very complimentary of our football team and what we endured as a football team. Very complimentary of
(Did he know a lot about your team?)
Yes. I would say he’s very much a sports fan. He started with, ‘This is a tough phone call for a Bears fan to make,’ but then once he got past that, he was fine. He knew a lot about our football team, and it sounded like he obviously watched the game. But yeah, he was very informed.
(You talk to a lot of coaches before you go to a Super Bowl, how they handle the structure. Do you think you’ll talk to coaches who have won Super Bowls now to see how they structure their offseason and the chance of going back, because it is so difficult?)
Yes, definitely. That’s a very natural process that you go through. When you go to the Combine, you see your peers and particularly a lot of the assistant coaches that you’ve worked with over the years, and you get their input too. The Combine is always a great time to interact with the other professionals in the National Football League. We’ll have a good plan. I’ve been given a lot of great advice before the Super Bowl that frankly I didn’t think fit into how we operate. It was great advice, and I’m sure it will be the same in our post-practice Super Bowl plans. So we’ll see.
(How do you look back at how you did handle it, with the practice schedule that first week and going down there as late as you did and the way it played itself out?)
Well, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dom Capers. He’s the first coordinator I went through the evaluations with this morning, and we take a lot of time as far as doing re-evaluations of everything we do. We’ve already started working on the anatomy of Super Bowl week for next year with Mike Eayrs, just all the things we felt we did a good job on and some of the things we feel we can improve on. Even talking with Dom, just to get his feedback, we felt that we hit the mark on our preparation. We were nervous about not going down there until we absolutely had to, because we feel we have such a great training environment here in Green Bay, and just the way our facilities laid out. Just our preparation has gone so well throughout the year, especially the way we finished the season, we felt we were really in sync, and we did not want to disrupt that. So that was part of the reason why I started the work week so late. But the other big part of it was to make sure that everybody had plenty of time just to handle their administrative responsibilities, especially it’s the first time most of us were going to a Super Bowl, make sure our families were taken care of. We had some guys that were banged up and we had just played four or five very physical football games. So I think our plan was, we definitely hit the target on going down there late, getting pretty much 90 percent of the work done before we arrived in Texas. I really liked Highland Park, the indoor facility. I thought it laid out very good for the way we practice, and I felt very good about the way the week went.
(You had all these guys on injured reserve and they’ll be back next year. Do you feel you’ll actually be a more talented team when you start the season?)
Talent. That’s such a dynamic word and component of your football team. I think it’s a great lesson for everyone in our building to learn. The most important thing is we need to be the best football team again next year. We can be maybe the most talented and best football team. But sometimes the most talented team doesn’t win. We were the best football team in the National Football League this year and lost a lot of talent due to injuries. It’s a great experience for us to learn from. It will be a great experience for us to draw from. I felt that coming out of training camp that we were a very talented team on paper. Because really at that point you can say whatever you want. I know the compliments are nice, but you don’t win championships in Week 1, 2 and 3 based on how you play, and there’s a reason why you play the full season, go into the playoffs and so forth. But yes, we have an opportunity to start the season as a very talented football team. But we have to make sure we’re the best football team, that everybody’s doing their role, doing what they’re supposed to be doing at the level they’re supposed to be doing it. Because that was a great experience to watch this group of men pull together and fight through the adversity that they needed to, and play their best football when it counted.
(Do you expect from a personal standpoint for your life to change at all, more demands on your job?)
I would hope not. I don’t want to be naïve. I’m a family man, and I’m a football coach. I live in a town, the town of Green Bay I feel respects that, and I hope it doesn’t change. I’m very comfortable here. You worry about your family more. I don’t worry about myself. You just worry about if the change is really going to affect your immediate family. That’s the only concern that I have, and I don’t see that being an issue here in Green Bay. My family, we’re very comfortable here. We want to be here, and we hope it stays the same. I still go to Starbucks every morning. Got a cup with ‘congratulations’ on it today, that was nice. But other than that, they still charged me. So everything’s staying the same.
(You’ve talked before about handling success is the biggest challenge. What does that mean now?)
It’s here. It’s right here. It will start with our whole organization, from top to bottom. It will start at the administrative level. It’s important for everybody to stay in tune with making decisions that fully operate in the best interests of winning football games, period. Because the bottom line, it’s about winning and losing. It’s important for us as a football operations department to stay true to what put us in this position, and Ted, he’s already started. They’re in their draft meetings, and nothing will change there, and it will be the same for the coaching staff. It’s going to be a challenge for us to repeat the job that we did this year. I thought our staff did a remarkable job fighting through the number of different changes in personnel that we had, and more importantly in the locker room. The competition is going to go up, like you said with the IR, new draft class, expectations. All those components are going to be very real when we come together as a football team. We’ll take it one day at a time. But that’s the challenge. Handling success to me is the biggest challenge in this business.
(How important is it to keep your staff together, and have you talked about extending guys, especially Dom? Does the CBA factor into that too?)
The CBA factors into everything. You can’t deny that it’s there. Our process, I spent the morning with Dom going through the evaluations of the staff. Shawn Slocum and I will go this afternoon. Joe Philbin and I will go tomorrow, which is normal. This is normal operation for us. Then with that, I’ll visit with Russ Ball, Jason Wied and Ted Thompson. There will be an evaluation process that goes on through there. The coaches are off. I really didn’t want to hold them here to go through the evaluation with them because it wouldn’t have probably happened to the end of the week or the weekend. I thought it was important for them to have their time off, so their evaluation process will happen on the 21st. Definitely, we feel we have an excellent staff. Continuity is important, but change happens in this business throughout. Time will answer those questions.
(Have you been approached by Ted about a contract extension?)
Time will answer those questions. That’s something possibly in the future we’ll have some answers for you, but I don’t have anything for you today.
(Do you have an idea when you might make the trip to the White House and does the CBA impact that?)
I think the CBA definitely would have an impact on that. From my understanding it is traditionally in the spring in accordance usually with a mini-camp or an OTA. But President Obama invited us to the White House and he said he was looking forward to hosting our football team there. But as far as a date, I think it’s really premature to even try to set that with what is in front of us.
(Where do you think Rodgers improved the most, especially now that he will be in a higher spotlight?)
Production-wise, Aaron has really put together three consistent seasons. I felt really Aaron improved from the beginning of the year to the end of the year of probably just trying not to do too much. When we came out of the Philadelphia game, I think we were probably, me included, a little overanxious and trying to probably do a little too much on offense. Once we settled down, he is a very disciplined player, very accurate. He is at the point in his game that the game has slowed down for him. But now people are going to study him even more that have three years of information on him. There is going to be a plan to play Aaron Rodgers, just like everybody feels they have a plan to play the top quarterbacks. So he is going to have to answer that call every week. We clearly felt that Pittsburgh was going to set their plan around Aaron, which was the case. They tried to roll the pressure at him consistently throughout the game. So we need to do a very good job as a staff so that the game is not on his shoulders 24/7, and we will do that just with the other assets that we have on offense. But Aaron’s challenge is going to be like everybody else’s. He is going to have to handle the success and his life has already changed. He has been to Disney World and David Letterman in one day. He’s going to have a lot on his plate. He’s going to be doing a lot here in the next month. He needs to enjoy it. It’s part of the success that we have had as a football team, but I have all the confidence in the world that he’ll manage that. He’s just a very consistent young man.
(Would Donald have been able to play and do you have a rundown on the other guys?)
Donald, he probably would not be able to play if we had a game this week with the ankle sprain. Jordy had the knee bursa contusion.
(Have you gotten any calls on your assistant coaches?)
I’m not going to really get into that, just because as far as if we have anything to report from our end, we’ll do that. But I have nothing to report about any of our coaches today.
(Are you ruling out any changes on the staff from your end?)
I’ll go through all of the evaluations just like we normally do, but I am just starting that. We’ll see how that goes.
(Jenkins sounded pessimistic about being back next season. Would you like to see him back?)
(Obviously you don’t know the labor situation, but if everything is shortened, are you concerned about injuries or what kind of shape guys will be in?)
Those are all things that you continue to have a process in place. We have already started conversations with our strength coaches and the communication that they will have with the players. This won’t be as new as people would think because when players leave here, most of them have a place that they go and train and we’re pretty much in tune with those types of places and the people that run those gyms and training centers and so forth. I’m not as worried about that as I think the general public probably thinks, ‘Oh my God, they are just going to go away and not be here working out.’ That won’t be the case, and everybody is in the same situation. You have a lot of players that train together, even if they are from different teams and so forth, but the players are going to get ready to play. We’ll communicate the best we can within the realm of what is going on with the CBA. There are just so many unknowns in front of us and we’ll just deal with them as they come as far as what your communication can be and what it can’t be.
(How about quarterback school and things like that?)
I talked to
(After a normal season you are evaluating what you did right and what you did wrong. After a Super Bowl season, how hard is it to figure out what you did wrong and not get enamored with the kind of season you had?)
I am not laughing at you, I am laughing with you. I want you to know. I have walked in here many days and I didn’t think I ever did anything right. There is plenty to improve on. We’re not perfect as a football team by no means just because we won the world championship. There are things that go on during the course of the year that you write down that are already on the board for discussion for next offseason. We have done that every year since I have been here. We’ll just stay true to our mantra on offense and defense and special teams and that’s less volume, more creativity. We’ll go through and go back through the grades and make sure that our plan is set for next season, but we can definitely improve.
(Were there any buttons you pushed where you thought this could go one way and maybe not work?)
I did some things that were different, but frankly, just trust your instincts. I think the No. 1 responsibility as the head coach is to have your finger on the pulse of your football team and react and respond accordingly. That’s what I felt myself and our coaching staff did. We stayed true to our operation. We didn’t change the way we prepare for games, we didn’t change the way we practice. We adjusted practice based on the health of our team. We have always done that. We had to adjust this year more than ever because of the numbers. I did a couple of things differently down the stretch. The captains, the playoff captains speaking to the team before the game, that is something that just popped in my head. I was thinking about it driving home one night and prayed on it. I didn’t know if that was the right thing to do. I was never comfortable with the level of leadership on the prior teams that I have coached here, and I thought that would be a great opportunity to try to develop leadership. I am always looking for opportunities to develop leadership, whether it is an assistant coach, whether it is a player. There was a positive response that came from that. It was risky for the head coach to give up the final message to his team before he goes out onto the field. You’ve just got to trust your instincts. I am not perfect, but the one thing I think the players truly know that they get from me, they get the truth and it comes from the heart. They know it is researched. They know our staff is very detail-oriented. We don’t ever walk into a meeting unprepared. We don’t just try new things because so and so did it last week in the game, and I think they respect that from us. There is a belief in how we operate and I think that was the biggest key for us down the stretch. I just felt we were a consistent football team all year. I never felt we were as bad as our record may have been some time or as good when we had the blowout win. I felt we were just a very consistent football team and I think that is why we ended up being the Super Bowl champions.
(Are you more comfortable delegating leadership like that?)
No one is comfortable delegating leadership, especially when you are the leader. Let’s be honest, everybody has an ego. What I have learned about egos is the ability to have discipline with your ego. It’s fun to drive the car, don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot of fun to have the big chair and the big office, but you have to do what is best for the team. If you feel you are missing something, well, how do you develop it? Just because it may not show up in a book or someone may not have done it that way in the past, I don’t think that is the right way to look at things. I knew I had a void in leadership and I needed to look for opportunities for that to develop. I think Aaron and Charles Woodson jumped through the door with the opportunity, and I am looking for more players on our team to grow in that area. Because that is what it is all about, the players play the game ultimately and that is something that I preach to them all of the time. It’s not the head coach, it’s not the coaches, we don’t play the game. We want to coach smart players here. We want smart players. I am not as interested in being noted for being a smart coach. I know I am a smart coach, but I want the smartest players, the toughest players, the most disciplined players, and you have got to give it to them. You can’t hold them back all of the time.
(Do you have plans for both a 16-game and 18-game schedule, and with all the injuries you had this year, are you in favor or the 18-game schedule?)
Well, am I in favor of? I know what the company line is, but you are talking to a guy that just barely made it through 16. You can figure that one out for yourself. I had a new training camp schedule that I was going to implement last year, but I didn’t do it because of the timing. But it’s something that I may look to do this year. But the offseason will play into that. I am always looking for ways to try to lessen the risk of injury, but also I have to make sure that the team is ready to compete and win football games. That is something I wrestle with a lot. I spend a lot of time on scheduling, I spend a lot of time crunching numbers, padded practice, non-padded practices, situational offense and defense. We’re looking at it all of the time. Our training camp schedule may be totally different this year, and we have a great training camp schedule. Our players love our training camp schedule and we have always come out of training camp I have always felt very prepared. But we need to look at things, especially if it goes to 18, there is no doubt about it. If we go to 18 games, my training camp schedule definitely will change.
(Will you be involved in the look of the ring and did you ever think you would be a jewelry designer?)
The only jewelry that I have on is what my daughter has given me and what my wife has given me. That is about as far as my interest in jewelry goes. I am the last guy to design a ring, I’ll admit that right here. I got a lot of advice from the players yesterday, so I am sure we’ll have a dynamic ring when the decision is made.
(What kind of reaction have you gotten from back in Pittsburgh?)
Very positive. Ambassador Dan Rooney, Kevin Colbert, Omar Khan, Art Rooney Sr., they came in the locker room after the game to congratulate us. I think that speaks volumes of the class of the Steelers organization, just the personal relationships. I have heard from a lot of people back there. My parents are traveling back there. We hope the house is still standing, but I think we’re OK.
(Was that Ambassador Rooney that came to talk to you before you got to the podium?)