Hat tip to D. Orlando Ledbetter for transcribing these.
OPENING STATEMENT: Here we are again. Oviously a lot has happened throughout this season . . . quite honestly I'm very much looking forward to jumping
into the building this football team in Atlanta and working very closely with our new head coach Dan Quinn. I'm really, really excited about the budding
relationship there. We spent a lot of time that over the last couple of weeks really honing in on our team as well as some of the prospects or
potential prospects in free agency and the draft.
Q: Have you heard anything about the sound investigation from the NFL?
A: No updates on any decisions at this point.
Q: Are you worried about losing a draft pick?
A: Obviously, if it affects football operations and a draft pick, that's some thing that we'll have to focus on and deal with that. That's not minimizing the financial impact if something like that comes about. We are just waiting patiently.
Q: How has the roster evaluation been with coach Quinn?
A: We're still very much firmly entrenched in that. We are focused on going through our entire roster and then juxtaposing it with the draft class and free agency class. We have not made any concrete decisions as of yet, as far as our releases. After we get through this process here at the combine and back into Atlanta we'll have a much clearer idea about what we are going to do with our current free agency class and the roster that is currently in place.
Q: Have you all meet with some of the agents here?
A: We've talked to representatives for people on our team. Obviously, free agency hasn't opened yet, so we're not in that process. We've spent a lot of time internally with our coaching staff. As you can imagine, when you have a new coaching staff and with things changing, it really opens up for some really interesting conversation for the direction and the style of football player that we are going to have on this team in Atlanta
Q: Would be a perfect scenario in your need-line crosses with the talent-line at the top of this draft?
A: Need and talent. We are really excited about the potential of picks at the eighth overall pick. That's a great situation for us. I think it gives us an opportunity to pick at a number of positions.We've said and I've said in the past, we have some holes in the roster, but we also very good football players. We have a number of them at the killer position in tact right now that we are excited about building around. I can't stress enough. I know that Dan and his staff are excited about what we are going to be building around. To be picking up in the top end of the draft is again, very encouraging for this staff.
Q: What has to change in the scouting as you all are looking for different players?
A: The first thing in the process was to sit down with Dan and his coordinators as well as with Scott Pioli and his scouting staff and discuss the scheme that we are going to be playing. The nuances of the schemes and the nuances of the football players. We all know that by watching Dan and his defense up in Seattle, this is a really interesting element to them and the fiery, play free and play fast personality. I think that's going to be a really big part of us moving forward with putting together the team. We've discussed that a lot and we've had, interestingly enough,
this is the first time that we've had an opportunity to do this, brought in the coordinators with some of the position coaches and really drilled down on, again, the players they are looking for. The style of players they are looking for, all the way down to some of the fined tuned elements of certain players' games and certain positions. I think that's vital, especially when you starting a new team. You make sure that we're not just out there picking the best team of the best so-called football player. If they don't fit in to this defense or this offense, we may not be getting the most out of the talent that we are going after.
Everyone has been very encouraged. I will tell you that the scouring staff is really excited about having an opportunity to sit down . . . .you can imagine the energy in the room when you have the scouts in there, who have just been hanging off the end of their seats trying to figure out what the next step is as far as acquiring talent. Then you have a new coaching staff, which is armed with a lot of enthusiasm and passion. It's been fun watching how they are really working together. That's a big thing for us going into the future. We are very focused going forward that there is a synergy coaching and personnel. That's vital for us moving forward.
Q: On the restructured front office?
A: I feel very confident with the way the new structure is set up. One of things that we talked about even prior to hiring Dan was the idea of making this a much of a equal partnership setting between the head coach and the general manager. With Arthur obviously being on top of the structure. As Arthur has mentioned, respectfully and appropriately, he'll be involved. But he provides the keys to the football operation side of the building,
he's going to make Dan and myself to make the decisions as far as personnel, the 53-man, drafting, free agency, and everything else that is sort of under the football operations umbrella. We are very confident that we are going to set really well . . . as far as equal ground. I think with the split of different responsibilities that we've talked about, talking about the 53-man (roster). I'm really excited to work with Dan Quinn on this. Dan is a very adapt football man. He has a really good understanding of evaluating personnel and for him to have 53, 46 and the practice squad is
vital for the success of this organization. I think with us as a personal staff, myself, Scoutt Pioli and the rest of our scouting staff, we'll be able to work with Dan and provide him with all of the information that he needs. In the very end, when it comes down to cutting that team we will be doing that together. I have no doubt in my mind that it's going to be a very collaborative effort. I think it's going to be very smooth and understanding.
In the end, a head coach, it's his responsibility to make sure that he has giving the nuances of his scheme and what he wants is vital to the success of the football team.
Q: Does Blank settle the dispute?
A: If there is a disagreement in the end on the 53 (man roster), there is no question about it, that is under the head coach's responsibility. It's up to him to make the decision in the very end if we are at logger heads. Both, he and I, have talked about this at length. What we both believe is that if we are completely at a disagreement, where ever it may be and we can't convince each other it the following days and meetings, then normally, you might want to move away from that player if it's a personnel matter. If we can't and if there is a disagreement on it and Dan sees fit that is best for the scheme and the organization, for building the football team, that comes down to the head coaches decision.
Q: Seeing how the coach had control while you were in New England help in this new set up?
A: I think, deep down, that most of us in this role understand that a rarely, when I look back on my seven years as a general manager. I don't believe I had one major disagreement when it came to personnel. I understood what the coach was looking forward. I understood that they were lines and I understand
that in the very end, you have to defer to a head coach whether if it's in their contract or not, it really to me, has nothing to do with it. This to me, again, is about making sure you have this equal-footing partnership and that we understand what is best for the organization.
Yes, seeing how it worked in New England was important. But again, I'm not concerned about disagreements (around) building this football team. Again, I'm really, really fired up from the two weeks that we worked together and discussed players, as well as discussing them with the scouting staff and becoming more aware of what we're looking for. Again, that's going to be vital.
Q: Could you talk about analytics, using gps monitors and other new items that help football operations?
A: This is an evolving league in so many ways. It's about productivity and understanding what is important. Where the coaches are and the coaches that are open-minded and the organizations that are open to using analytics, using bio-mechanical assessments, all of the new evolving elements of athletic performance and sports science supplemented very well with a coach who is very open minded you can use that. We are very fortunate to have someone like Dan, who's very open and into that. He took part in that up in Seattle and he's been very impressed with what we have in place so far. We've talked a lot about how we are going to continue to build in that area.
Q: What do you do after collecting all of the data?
A: The data can be overwhelming. What I think is really important is that and I think back to this football staff, they understand that if you inundate them with too much and muddy the waters so to speak, then it becomes a little bit of over analysis. . . . I understand and Dan understands the important of supplementing (information).
Q: Who are some of the candidates to have their contract restructured?
A: We have some big decisions to make. We have some financial decisions to make and I think that's important. ...we are going to have to sit down and figure out where we are potentially we are freeing up money and what's in the best interest of the organization to stay put. That's going to take place after the combine is when we are going to make those decisions.
Q: (Inaudible: Something on Josh McDaniels)
A: Josh McDaniels, I have a great deal of respect for him, not only him as person and a football coach, also his intelligence level and his creativity. There are so many things. I have no doubt in my mind that Josh McDaniels will be a head coach in this league again. I think that he can be a very successful head coach in this league. Our decision to continue to go out in the process and eventually hire Dan is something that we felt was best for this organization. We are incredibly excited about Dan. With Josh, I wish him all of the luck. . . . I think he's going to do great things in the league.
OPENING STATEMENT: It's been an incredibly exciting time since I was interviewed just a few week ago. Since that time, having a partnership with Thomas has been everything that I hoped it would be. As we got started, it was time to go through evaluating the roster. Being here in Indy in the next part of that process and getting a chance to go look at these guys and see who has the stuff to be a part of that. In the opening press conference I talked about playing fast and physical. As we get started this week those are the guys we are looking for. The guys who can compete. The guys who can finish. As we starting into this process, I'm so proud to be here at this combine and watch these guys, to see who has the stuff that we're looking forward.
Q: Where are you all at with the roster evaluations?
A: The biggest part was getting to learn the players here. So that process with Thomas and I, let's put the tape on and go watch the guys as we were going through it. After that, it onto here to get ready for this part, both in free agency and the draft. It's been a big process, but going through it with Thomas has been good. It's been exciting to watch tape together and to learn the guys has been the biggest part for me.
Q: Do you have any pass rushers on your roster and much does that area need to be enhanced?
A: You guys know me, in terms of affecting the quarterback. That's one of the things that's near and dear to me. There are a number of guys on our roster that I can't wait to work with and continue to develop. As we go through the combine and through free agency, we'll get a vision of who else can be a part of this team and add to that. When you look at a guy, you're trying to picture things that he can do. I was fired up about the guys on the current roster. Then we'll add into whether if it's in the draft or free agency, all of the unique stuff that a guy has, we'll try to use it in the future.
Q: Did anybody jump out at you when you are watching the team on film?
A: Not necessarily any one person. . . .just when you first watched it, you go these are some things that you could see that we could get better with a number of things. That's why I'm so excited to get started.
Q: Did watching how Seattle operated affect your decision to seek control of the roster?
A: I was a big factor. I saw how closely connected that John (Schneider) and Pete (Carroll) are. So, I thought if I had the opportunity that I could have a partnership with the guy that I wanted to be aligned with in all of the personnel decisions and do it together. When Thomas and I first met, it was one of those times when you met somebody and you thought, this could work. This is what I'm looking for. Now, that we've started over the last few weeks, we've been in lock-step together. The line between his office and mine's, the carpet has ben worn out for sure.
Q: When did you make the decision to bring in Kyle Shanahan?
A: When we found out that he was available we reached out to him. He does a great job of attacking. He's got great balance. He can run it and pass it. When I went through the process last year, he was one of the guys I was connected with, but it didn't happen. I was so fortunate this year that when he was available that we could connect again.
Q: How do you land Raheem Morris?
A: Raheem is a really unique guy. I actually coached him in college. That's where our relationship begin. We've remained close every since that team. He is an unbelievable teacher. He's one of the best coaches that I've seen on the grass. Really, as an assistant coach, that's where you make your mark. How far can your develop the guy? How you coach them and drill them to get them right. For me to have an opportunity to have him here, I couldn't be more thrilled.
Q: What will his role be as passing game coordinator?
A: He's going to help support (defensive coordinator) Richard (Smith) and well as Marquand (Manual). We had a similar structure with Rocky Seto working as the pass game coordinator in Seattle. He'll be in charge of specific situations, like third down, two minutes and a number of different areas. He's such a unique guy. When that connected happened, it fired me up.
Q: (On Devonta Freeman)
A: My first impression of him is that you can feel the quickness. In our outside-zone-system, I feel like this is taylor made for a guy who can really explode off the edge. I love this guy's competitive spirit. I remember it all the way back with him coming out of Florida State. The mind set and the attitude that he brings. I have high hopes for him. I can't wait to get started with him.
Q: (Scheme question)
A: That's where the scheme will start. From there, it's how well can you learn the guys to feature them and put them in the very best spot for them. That's what the process is right now, to learn these guys . . . It's not really what we play, but how we play. The attitude and the style. That's one of the things I can't wait to connect with these guys.
Q: Did you see anyone like Michael Bennett in your evaluation?
A: I don't think there is any one like Michael Bennett. He's such a unique guy. . . . that kind of versatility is what we are looking for. Here's a (defensive) end who can also play defensive tackle. We are looking at linebackers who we can add as pass rushers and defensive tackles who can move inside and play nose. That type of versatility. We are going to push that in every way we can. There are going to be corners who play nickel. There are going to be safeties that will go down to play outside (linebacker). All of the guys, we are going to try and find out what type of versatility that they have and try and feature them every way that we can.
Q: Does it help that you know Dante Fowler from your days at Florida?
A: He's a terrific player. I've known him all the way through, growing up. He has that kind of versatility. He can play down. He can play inside or outside. That's the way they tried to feature him there.
Q: What did you learn from recruiting in college that could help you in the pros?
A: One of the fun parts, whether if it's recruiting or going through the draft process, when you look at player and look at what that vision is of what that player can become. Sometimes, the player don't even know that. How good you can become? They don't even know. So, it's our job to pull it out of them or draw it out of them. It's very rewarding for me to see that Dante (Fowler) be the player that he maybe would have been three or four years ago. Now, it's
up to him to continue it, take the next step and develop it. One of the most fun parts in coaching is finding guys, see what they can become and see it play out in front of you. I've seen it first hand in Seattle for the first time with the two safeties with Earl (Thomas) and Kam (Chancellor), from where they were in their first year to what they have become. That vision of what they could be come was awesome.
Q: How important was it to keep Terry Robiskie on your staff?
A: Terry has been a perfect coach in the league for a long time. When I knew that we had an opportunity to possibly connect and work together, he was one of the very first guys that I wanted to reach out to. I have a high regard for what he does and how he does it. He's a huge part of what we are doing moving forward.
Q: Are you worried about Matt Ryan have another quarterbacks coach?
A: I haven't talk to him about that specifically, but what I have talked to him about is just that you feel that challenge that he has. He wants to be great. He wants to push and he wants to keep getting better and fine that edge. Those are the things that most fire me up about him. You can feel that in the conversations right off the bat with them. I couldn't be more fired up to work with Matt as well.
Q: How doe Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford fit in your defense?
A: They absolutely fit and the first part of the makeup is the competitiveness. That's where Robert and Desmond totally have it, they can step and kick, stay on guys, with that mindset and attitude to keep playing down after down. At corner, it's a special spot. We love guys that have length and when they do, we have to future them in that way when they play on the line of scrimmage. Both of those two guys, certainly fit into the profile and we can't want to get started with them.
Q: Why is versatility so important to your defense?
A: I think it's real important to have that versatility because often times, you nickel defense might play as many as 500 or 550 snaps in a year of your 1,000 or 1,100 snaps. When you have guys who can play on first and second down and then kick down to play another position on third down, that kind of versatility just adds all kind of value to your team. . . .we are in the process of finding all of the unique guys on the roster and who else we can add to it. Let's find all of the things they do well and try to feature them.
Q: Do you have to guard against changing after becoming a head coach?
A: One of the real things that I made sure of is to stay true to yourself in terms of the attitude and the style of what you want to do. That part has been great. It's been an absolute blast over the last couple of weeks. Getting connected with the staff and the players. ... Just staying true to who you are is the real message.
Q: Are you going to call the defense?
A: I haven't gone all the way through that yet. I'm certainly going to be involved on the defensive side. Whether if Richard calls it or I call it, we are going to move on that road as we go. The biggest part right now is finding all the unique stuff that goes along with the players.
Q: How do you plan to fill the Leo position?
A: I think just pass rushers in general, always finding ways to affect the quarterback. Sometimes, it's outside with the guys who cover so well. Sometimes, you blitz them and do it. But having multiple pass rushers, who can keep attacking and trying to get the quarterback to move is always at the front of our thinking. . . .that spot is a unique one. We'll find some guys that can do it.
Q: Are you comfortable with the restructured front office?
A; The one that was most important to me, I knew that if I could partner up with a guy we could keep trying to connect and keep trying to evaluate and push to find ways to get better, and so, basically when I met Thomas, I felt, this is a guy who I can partner up with. It's good to have that connect that way. It was awesome. . . .It's going to be a total partnership as we go through the whole thing. I couldn't be more fired up to connect with him.